India’s small towns are now the breeding ground for powerful ideas and startups that are able to leverage the reach of digital technologies, and scale nationally and globally. Distances have shrunk and seasonal restrictions have disappeared. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp in particular have played a key role in helping small town small businesses experience exponential growth, something that couldn’t have been possible a few years ago.
When a traditional wool business in Amritsar went online
Pranav Malhotra is the Managing Director of Pashtush India, a traditional shawls and pashmina business in Amritsar that showcases the power of online enablers such as Facebook. Malhotra’s family has been in the woolen yarn business for generations, and Pranav was inclined to take the business forward but with a strong purpose of ensuring better livelihoods for artisans.
By the nature of the material, sale of wool is restricted to winter months. It is also restricted to mostly the northern parts of India. But the emergence of the digital landscape changed all that. Access to the global market has also meant that Pashtush has managed to tap into the Australian, New Zealand and Latin American markets, where the winter months coincide with India’s summer months. Suddenly from being a business that was active for just three months a year, it has become a 365 day business, growing steadily, and helping artisans earn a livelihood in the process.
In 2017, Pashtush went online, selling their products through their own website. At the same time, Malhotra, aware of the power and reach of online platforms, created his presence on Facebook and Instagram, which provided him visibility and recognition across various segments of buyers. Now, with well designed pages on social media and a sleek, user-friendly online shopfront, Pashtush has buyers in more than 120 countries.
How a floral waste business from Kanpur bloomed
Starting from the thought of seeing a clean Ganga at Kanpur, Phool founder Ankit Agarwal has turned a vicious cycle of dumped floral waste into the Ganges into a business that converts them into incense sticks. Phool, six years after inception, recycles close to 8.5 tons of flowers from Ganges, and sells a range of devotional and lifestyle products online, with an international clientele, with much of it happening, as founder Agarwal says, through Instagram.
Through this endeavour, Phool has also provided employment to dozens of women who are part of the entire process of collection and manufactuing. Phool is a business that has benefited from digital connectivity, growing 20-fold in a matter of three years.
An organic personal care brand from Coimbatore has gone global
Another shining example of a small town business thriving is Juicy Chemistry, a company that is based in Coimbatore. Started by Pritesh and Megha Asher, the company had its roots in an intense desire to create truly organic personal care products. Initially, they lacked the budgets to create a website, so they created a Facebook page instead, which in a way provided them a double fillip.
It gave them the combination of a web presence and rapid multinational reach through personalized advertising. They now have a website, and clients in more than 30 countries. Today, they have dedicated Instagram handles for the countries they operate in, ensuring clear and direct communication with their consumers across geographies.
While the digital and online age has been instrumental in the way enterprise has changed and grown, social media platforms have been pivotal in the growth of small town small businesses such as Pashtush, Juicy Chemistry, and Phool, expanding their reach and scope.