Taslima Khan April 3, 2012
Compare Bhalla, with 25-year-old Shefali Agarwal, who runs the one-year-old start-up Easy Fix, a small company that provides plumbing, electricians and carpenters on call. EasyFix has grown from serving one customer a day 12 months ago to more than 40 customers a day now. Agarwal, 25, neither felt the need nor had the budget to spend a crore on television advertisements. From the start, her business has been on Facebook, where she spends Rs 1,500 a day on advertisements.
SME owners like Bhalla can no longer afford to remain offline in a country with more than 120 million internet users and 46 million Facebook users. So executives at Facebook have decided to help. In partnership with industry body FICCI, or Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Facebook has launched its Global Small and Medium Business Boost programme that will offer free advertising and will conduct training sessions on social media marketing in FICCI conferences on SMEs.
In a recent release, Marne Levine, Global Vice President of Global Public Policy at Facebook said, "As we've seen in the United States and Europe, social media is generating growth in the economy, creating new jobs and redefining how businesses interact with their customers. It is this experience and insight that we would now like to bring to India through our partnership with FICCI."
Facebook is cheap but powerful. It gives small businesses the option to choose their target audience - certain age groups, married or single people, housewives or students - something above more targeted than what media like television or radio offer. SMEs can use Facebook to engage with customers, understand customer behaviour, build their image and a lot more.
Sanjay Bhatia, Chairman, MSME Committee at FICCI says, "Social media marketing is picking up, largely led by the younger generation both in the manufacturing and service sectors." For Indian SMEs , who are usually wary of taking up any extra costs, free advertising will be a huge incentive for them to get started on Facebook.
According to an estimate by Google India, there are over 8 million SMBs in India who can benefit from the internet but only 5 per cent, or 400,000, have a website. The search giant is not behind in offering freebies to SMEs. Its GIBO, or India Get Your Business Online, programme was launched four months ago and allows businesses a free website and hosting services - the first step in going online.
"We plan to get 500,000 businesses online through this and within four months of launch we've already published over 50,000 websites for small and medium businesses across India," said Nikhil Rungta, Country Marketing Head, Google India.
Reaching out to over 1000 SMBs every day, Google also runs the Google Engage program which runs two call centres for SMBs to help them understand how online advertising works. The programme offers support in several languages, including English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam.