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    Thanks to social media and the pandemic, these women-led small businesses have reached the masses like never before

    While we may curse the COVID-19 pandemic as much as we can, there is no denying that it has helped us in so many uncountable ways. First and foremost, it brought families much closer, something that was either lost or forgotten during the normal days, and then it pushed us to bring out our creative side. People have indulged in doing things that they love or have been wanting to do since the past so many years but their 9 to 5 jobs did not give them enough time to do it. Khyati Sharma, who runs a small business called The Curio Cottage (TCC), agrees to it and shared that it was during the pandemic she realised that her corporate job was not giving her any joy and that's when she decided to become her own boss and pursued her long-forgotten dream.

    Talking about her dream venture, The Curio Cottage, which sells home decor items, said, "We registered the company on 1st October, 2020. The idea has been with me since college, just forgotten along the way, till I realised that my corporate job isn't giving me any joy. That's when TCC started."

    Sujata Bhatheja, who owns EthnicNaaari, a one-stop page for home and furnishing needs that started in June 2020, said, "I worked in the recruitments and generalist HR domains for more than 13 years from 2006 till early 2020. The pandemic impacted both our personal as well as professional life. I realised life was short and it is up to us to make the best use of our time here on our beautiful planet. This is when I put a full stop to my professional career and remembered Ganesh Ji as I started my micro-enterprise, my Laghu Udyog titled EthnicNaaari (EN) from my home. I wanted to create a platform where the traditional creations made by local artisans from all over India could be shown to the whole world. I felt as if my soul wanted to connect with the soul of India by helping in the revival of our centuries-old crafts and traditions."

    "I started alone. I would be so confident and upbeat one day and filled with despair and self-doubt the next day. But I trudged along. I was soon joined by some beautiful and hard-working women in my team. I started by showcasing and selling bedsheets made with original Rajasthani block prints. Later various other products like bedcovers, curtains and sarees were added to the collection," she added.

    Geeti Biswas too left her corporate job to help her mom Sunanda Biswas with their business Geetanjali Boutique, which sells authentic handpainted clothing items. Her mom started this in 1995 but it was only in 2018 that Geeti joined her mom 2018. She said, "This is when Geetanjali Boutique got commercialized. I built a business page on social media, Instagram and Facebook, and soon we started getting online  orders from various parts of the country. Today we have a website of our own and clients from all over the world have been added to our list of happy patrons."

    The Jhola Store, run by Natasha Oliver Swamy, is a fairly new venture which started in December 2020. She said, "At first, I started with bags. I had taken few bags for myself and thought that I should portray these traditional bags to others as well. That's why the name 'The Jhola Store'."

    A banker by profession, Aparna Ramchandran, started with making customised decor items for her family and friends just for fun, but it was not until December 2019 that she realised the business potential her concept has and she started Milestones. "I am not a trained artist and I was just doing it for fun. But then a couple of my friends told me that I should make a Facebook page because it was hard for them to explain to anyone what I do. So I did that, but even then it was mostly customised work. In December 2019 after a small exhibition I did, people not only bought my products but also my idea and that's when I thought it can be made into a full-fledged business," she said.

    How did social media and the pandemic help?

    Khyati from The Curio Cottage: Prior to the pandemic we were selling in exhibitions and online. The exhibitions have stopped now which has affected the sales volume. But the response online has picked up marginally. Now, we are only selling on Instagram, so social media has been our bread and butter. And I'm really happy since 99% of my customers are repeat and have shown tremendous interest and faith in our products.

    Sujata from EthnicNaaari: Since we started our business during the pandemic only, we do not have an experience of the times when the world was not touched by the pandemic. However, I would like to mention that the restrictions resulting from the pandemic which forced everyone to stay at home has indirectly helped online businesses as people are spending more time on their phones and shopping online. Micro enterprises like ours have very limited resources and we can’t afford to spend much to reach customers. This is where social media helps. It allows us to reach the target audience, i.e. our customer base without spending a lot. For the customers also, the social media is a helpful medium as they can interact with the sellers from the comfort and safety of their homes without ever having to step out. The customer can find us, engage with us and finally shop with us on social media platforms like Instagram. Then we deliver the orders of our valuable customers to their homes all across India in a perfectly seamless and hassle-free manner. I am happy that EthnicNaaari has been able to reach so many people in a very short time. The love and admiration we have received from our customers is the biggest reward and the reason I happily work so hard every day.

    Geeti from Geetanjali Boutique: Last year in 2020, during the first lockdown when everything was shut, we designed and launched our new website and it has helped us tremendously in servicing old and acquiring new customers. We also conducted several successful online workshops on Madhubani Art. The time that we got also helped us in channelizing our energy in introducing new products and innovative way of launching them. Social media has helped us a lot. It has given us an authenticity, better reach to new audience and more interaction with our current client base. Also, we love the fact that we can be so innovative and creative while launching our new products. In January, we launched our handmade sarees through dance marketing using the 'Reels' option on Instagram. The entire collection got sold out and we got so much love and appreciation from our customers. The more you interact with your customers the more they reach out to you and it is linked to more sales.

    Natasha from The Jhola Store: The pandemic really helped me as I could focus on this business even though I had my finish my studies. Social media is the biggest opportunity and platform to grow the business. It creates alot of awareness and I'm very happy with the way my business has grown.

    Aparna from Milestones: In December 2019 I did an exhibition at a co-working space and it was a huge success. I was contacted by the others of the same brand to conduct an exhibition and the plan was to finish it off by mid 2020, and then do it in cities like Chennai, Mumbai and Hyderabad. But then the pandemic struck us in March and I couldn't execute my plans. During my exhibitions people would ask me where they can check out my collection so that they can consult with their spouses and families and I would direct them to my social media pages or WhatsApp, so it was during the lockdown that I finally created my website. Being a non-techie, it was a difficult feat, but I did it and I was so proud of myself. So it became easy for my followers to access my entire collection. Social media was a blessing to me during that time because it was easy to showcase my products and then direct people to my website to buy them. And yes, in some way the pandemic really helped because I created a website and the feedback is also good.





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