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Villagers get access to internet, now doing business using WhatsApp, Facebook and Amazon

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Villagers get access to internet, now doing business using WhatsApp, Facebook and Amazon

When asked if they were aware of WhatsApp for Business, a separate app that Facebook introduced for small business owners, these entrepreneurs say they were not yet aware of it.

Have internet, will find ways to do business. This seems to be the motto, and the right one it must be said, in Indian villages where people are now using the internet to find new ways to do and grow business. The initial spark, the first contact with the tech for many of these people, came from Google, which in partnership with Tata Trust, is offering Internet Saathi programme in hundreds of Indian villages. The programme has introduced many villagers to smartphones, tablets, and 3G connectivity. It has also helped them discover WhatsApp, Facebook and Amazon. While rest of the world uses these services for good morning messages, in several Indian villages people use them as tools to grow business.

Take for example Laxmi Bagdi from Ajmer, Rajasthan. Talking on behalf of his mother Laxmi, Anand Bagdi, says that the Internet has helped grow their handicraft business. He is still studying in a college but at the same time, he also runs his handicrafts business from a phone. He was taught to use a phone and introduced to the internet by his sister and mother who's a member of Google's Internet Saathi programme. Anand gets most of the ideas for handicrafts products from the internet and then uses WhatsApp as a medium for taking orders. "I've been working for the past one and half years at my local shop. But recently I started using WhatsApp for taking orders and payments through Paytm and Netbanking. Business has improved a lot," said Anand.

Now, Anand is working to build his own website so that he can reach out to an even bigger consumer base. Anand says that ever since he moved the business online there has been a massive increase in profit. "From the time I started taking orders via WhatsApp my business has seen a growth of around 30 per cent, which was unexpected," he added. "By taking the business online, I've started getting orders from other states as well, which wasn't the case when it was limited to an offline shop."

Like Anand, Rohini Sandeep Sethi from Patan, Maharashtra, is another entrepreneur who is used internet diligently. She has used apps and internet to expand her honey business.

Rohini is in honey business -- her brand is called Forest Honey -- since the last five years, but it is only after she became a part of the Google Internet Saathi programme that she learnt how she can use internet to conduct her business. "In the first three years of my business there was no profit, I started gaining profit only after internet taught me the importance of labelling and marketing a product," Rohini said.

In the future, Rohini plans to sell Forest Honey on Amazon to cater to more consumers. She already has a Facebook page, where she documents how Forest Honey is packaged and produced, and she also uses WhatsApp to take orders. "Google, Facebook and WhatsApp have changed the way I do business. By using internet I get new ideas on how to make my product attractive to the buyers. It also teaches me the importance of marketing," Rohini said.

These are just two examples, there are many such entrepreneurs from rural India who have just been introduced to internet and are now using the platform to expand their small business by reaching out to more consumers. Most of these entrepreneurs educate themselves with the help of Google and grow their business with the help of WhatsApp and Facebook.

For now though, WhatsApp is popular but not WhatsApp for Business. When asked if they were aware of WhatsApp for Business, a separate app that Facebook introduced for small business owners, these entrepreneurs say they were not yet aware of it. And they were not particularly looking forward to it. For now they are very happy with the way the standard WhatsApp app is helping them expand their business.