Small businesses in India are embracing digital, but in their own ways

|July 21, 2017 0

Soma Tah

In a world that is going digital fast, small businesses now know that they can’t afford to be oblivious to the shift that is happening around.

A recently released report, ‘Digital Desh Drive 3.0’ by local discovery platform, NowFloats says that even hyperlocal businesses feel online discovery is crucial and hence, are willing to spend on boosting online presence or on business websites to drive commerce and to boost customer interactions.


We got to know about two different stories that tell how hyperlocal businesses in Karnataka are embracing digital in their own unique ways.


My fishermen send me pictures of special fish from the sea” -Sattar Poka, Boat Owner 

Sattar, a fish-trader from Karwar is using WhatsApp to trade fishes. When Sattar’s boats are out at sea- the fishermen, sometimes, spot special fishes whose market value they do not know. They catch one or two and if, and when, they find network, they send the picture of the catch to Sattar via WhatsApp. If Sattar finds the fish to be of any value, he directs them to catch more. He often posts the picture on the WhatsApp group of his prospective clients so that they can gauge the size and freshness of the fish. This way he ensures that the fishermen do not end up wasting cargo space on the trawlers with useless fish.

I started the business in 2009 by selling 2-3 sarees/month. Now I do orders of even 300/month.

“I started the business in 2009 by selling 2-3 sarees/month. Now I do orders of even 300/month”- Amrut Bijjal, Entrepreneur

Amrut, another local, saw the value in the handmade sarees and started a Facebook page for selling them. He plans to start his own e-commerce platform soon. Although development is not a problem, he says that he can’t afford the cataloguing of the products with models. Interestingly, he has made it easy for his customers to find him by naming previously unnamed roads and places in Ilkal on Google Map Maker. Now you can find him in his house on ‘Bijjal Road’ which runs perpendicular to the ‘Old Municipality Road’!

There are more such stories and the insights are far more interesting.

While the tendency to go online is prevalent among B2C businesses, many are not too keen to make an online shift for high cost, intermittent power and connectivity as well as logistic issues. Updating and maintenance of websites, responding to high volume of queries and reviews on social media are also a burdening task for them.

But as and when the customers start interacting with them online, they will not be able to turn a blind eye for long.

We spoke to NowFloats Co-Founder and CEO, Jasminder Singh Gulati to know more.


In the journey from Digital Desh Drive 2.0 to Digital Desh Drive 3.0, how has the online presence of local businesses in India grown so far? Could you give us a comparative analysis?

We deeply know that India is incredibly diverse- each place has a unique system and our research, stories, data and hypothesis establish the economic value chain clearly.

We go ‘Inside the Internet of India’ to reveal how small businesses are going digital across Tier 2  and 3 cities in India and showcase stories that are extension of deep data and insights we generate via the anti-surveys we host, where we no longer ask scripted questions. We try to live their lives, instead. We listen. We observe. We understand.

We found that 95 percent of the businesses have a smartphone and use local languages. Another interesting story is that while websites are considered expertise intensive and expensive, Whatsapp has become the new salesforce for small businesses.

The Digital Desh 2.0 Drive Book has deeply inspiring stories of how merchants across the central India are adopting Digital tools and are self-learning, while the Digital Desh 3.0 Drive Book (Inside The Internet Of Karnataka), reveals a lot about fisheries, to agriculture and handlooms.

Amongst the many interesting data pointers, a key highlight is the Handlooms industry, that went through a downward spiral. The past 3 years since the introduction of internet in this sector, the Karnataka Handloom industry has seen a solid jump again.

Can you tell us about a few major takeaways from the report?

The primary objective of our drive was to gauge the influence of technology and internet on the lives of the people there; bring back their stories to the mainstream market and ideate ways of enhancing their experience. However, we dug deeper into the matter for the book. We heard stories of people from across various regions, and having segregated them industry wise, detailing their most prefered language in technology, apps, websites, etc. to understand what’s working and what’s not, in those remote areas. Some key takeaways are:

-You don’t need to be literate to be Digitally Literate

-Communities are creating Whatsapp groups; Whatsapp is not creating communities

-SMEs and young entrepreneurs are engaging themselves in self-learning with Google search and other tools

How do you think the availability of Google my business, social media, discovery platforms will help to boost the online presence of small businesses in India?

Google search and other social media platforms are a major boost for small businesses.

At NowFloats, we have been championing online discovery for small businesses for over half a decade and the numbers from the NowFloats ecosystem show the rise of online discovery for small businesses. Today, 5.3million location tagged and market relevant business updates are on NowFloats. 11 million of the 96 million consumers searching for a local business are drawn to a NowFloats customer. Around 519K product SKUs are available on the NowFloats platform updated via the RIA prompt(a NowFloats technology). We also launched ‘kitsune’, a drag and drop system for developers to build a webform in minutes and deploy it within 10 minutes.

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