Riding on social media

Riding on social media

VIRTUAL VENTURES

Riding on social media

There’s a spurt of women entrepreneurs in the country. And many of them are piggybacking on the social media wave. Sangeeta Praveen profiles their adventures

Sanam would never have foreseen that a horrific accident, which left her wheel-chair bound as a young teenager, would years later, pave the way for running her own exciting and off beat business venture, that of pet sitting!

The idea, Sanam says came from Shirin Merchant of “Canines Can Care”, who had helped source a care dog called Magic for her. She started her venture in 2002 but it only really took off in a big way four years later when she got her own dedicated website www.perfectpooch.co.in, and also started a page on Facebook. Sanam’s husband has quit his full time job in a recruitment firm to help her run this business venture.

Today, social networking drives businesses, and women, being natural innovators, are putting the power of the social media to full use. More and more of them are starting to think differently.

They are no longer willing to look at run-of-the-mill options for a career. A lot of them are converting their interests and hobbies into a full time profession. Says Benaazir of MoodSwings jewellery, “I started off with making earrings for myself with glass and wooden beads. My friends found my creations appealing. That’s when I started gifting them my earrings for special occasions. Slowly, I sold a couple of pieces and then finally got into jewellery making as a profession”.

Why are so many women turning entrepreneurs, today? The reasons are many — the disappearance of joint families, increasing unemployment rates and a higher cost of living being just a few of them. Moreover, with digital aids like Facebook, Twitter, Ebay, Shopo, Craftsvilla, Craigslist  etc. women are now able to build a business from home and create unique work schedules.

Sumitra of the immensely successful WOW — Women on Wanderlust — affirms, “WOW  was born seven years ago when I  created a small website (with the help of my son, who was in school then)  and organised two tours for women to Leh Ladakh.”

Women possess strong communication skills and high social intelligence which enable them to use social media effectively. Riddhika Jesrani who designs jewellery states emphatically, “After I put up a page on Facebook about my jewellery, my business saw an increase of almost 70 per cent. Today, I update my page everyday and I love the ability to connect with my customers multiple times without them having to take time off and visit me at my work area. When I take custom made orders, it becomes easier for me to get an idea of their dress sense, complexion, length of neck etc. through the pictures that they send me. All this information helps me when I have to design an exclusive piece of jewellery for them.”

Social media advantage

Social media is also used extensively to create cost effective strategies. In fact, most of them are not just cost effective, they are free. Social media is the connecting medium that binds people together and it is up to the entrepreneur to devise an interesting and eye catching marketing strategy which will boost business. As Anaka of Brass Tacks, a clothing boutique from Chennai says, “I don’t use Twitter too much because of the character constraints. I prefer Facebook as it not only allows me to put up pictures of every garment I create but also allows me to tell the unique story behind a particular garment”.

A lot of women entrepreneurs do not command the kind of budgets that would enable them to place a media advertisement. But that today, is not a deterrent at all thanks to the reach of social media. In seven years time, Riddhika is now retailing in 12 outlets across the country and even has an international presence in Muscat and New York!

In today’s world of mobile payments and busy lifestyles, people are increasingly taking to online shopping. A lot of business ventures offer special discounts to customers who place orders online and also have orders delivered free of cost within the country.
Manisha and her sister, Vaishali, got into a business venture which revives the art of traditional games across the world. In this day of play stations, the sisters are working with artisans and making board games with entirely eco friendly material. The venture is called KEC Green Games and Manisha says, “This year on Earth Day, we gave our customers who ordered through Shopo a 15 per cent discount and sales are coming in faster than anticipated”.

A study by Marketing Sherpa shows that 87 per cent of people will trust a friends’s recommendation over a critic’s review and one such conversation will have the impact of 200 television advertisements! Now translate this into a Facebook interaction and we will see that one ‘like’ by a person will be visible to all friends of that person. So, is it bouquets all the way for using social media to further a business, or are there brickbats too? Benaazir says, “The biggest disadvantage is that of plagiarism but there is not much we can do to prevent it. However, I don’t worry about it too much because the amount of gain that I derive from using social media far outweighs this one drawback”.

So when you are starting a page to promote your business on social media, focus on creating a splash, add friends continuously, join groups that may be of interest to your business, list and invite friends for any upcoming event and basically try and reach out to as many users of that social domain as you can.

Sanam of perfectpooch.com has gone a step further and has a public page on Facebook for furthering her business but she has also created a closed group page for existing customers where she puts up pictures of their pets while they are in her care. Customers can view their pets online and can even pass on instructions or messages to their pets through Facebook.

Sumitra from WOW started her Facebook page around three years ago and now also has a professionally managed website. She talks with quiet pride on how she gave up her career as a journalist to make her living out of her passion to travel. Today, ‘Women on Wanderlust’ operates from two offices — one in New Delhi, one in Bangalore and interestingly, can now afford to advertise on Facebook by paying  USD 20 per day.

They have eight full time employees and four part timers. They now do six tours a year to Leh Ladakh and 30 tours worldwide. They have also for the first time, done two trips to Kashmir recently. And when she put up some pictures of the trip on Facebook, there was a comment from the Jammu & Kashmir Tourism Department, saying “We are glad that you enjoyed your stay at Srinagar. We look forward to hosting you again :)”. That was the icing on the cake.

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