Since its launch last January, WhatsApp Business has helped many small and lesser-known brands reach a wider audience and scale up quickly, reports Neha Alawadhi.
WhatsApp has over 400 million users in India, and its ease of use makes it a near ubiquitous app in a country that has seen deep internet penetration, thanks to falling internet data rates.
What that means is it has become the go-to platform for many small businesses for whom WhatsApp's wide acceptance among users equals a captive audience waiting to be tapped.
Globally, the Facebook-owned app has over 1.4 billion users.
WhatsApp recognises the potential.
WhatsApp Business was launched in January last year to take advantage of precisely this opportunity.
Since its launch, WhatsApp Business has helped many small and lesser-known brands reach a wider audience and scale up quickly.
Take doorstep scrap pick-up service The Kabadiwala, which uses the WhatsApp Business account to reach out to potential customers.
Co-founder Anurag Asati says the business has seen a 40 per cent increase in transactions once it started using the WhatsApp Business app.
Though The Kabadiwala has its own app, many users, he says, find it easier to communicate through WhatsApp which enjoys a sort of natural affinity among them.
The start-up uses different features of the WhatsApp Business app mainly to broadcast, send automated replies, get message statistics and for document sharing and communicating with customers for pick-ups.
About 60 per cent of its pick-up requests now come through WhatsApp Business.
Another brand that has used WhatsApp Business with great success is Earthy Tales, an organic food store founded by Deepak Sabharwal and Narinder Sondhi.
The brand works with farmers and also tries to educate potential customers and fence-sitters about the harmful effects of chemical-laden food.
The company started operations using WhatsApp and Facebook before moving to a functional website and delivery app.
All its farmer partners are still connected to it through WhatsApp.
They use the app to take orders, update delivery status, receive farm pictures, and share live updates to their customers using the Broadcast List feature.
Earthy Tales also trains farmers through the app by sending tips on organic farming.
The company claims its income has seen a 3X jump, thanks to WhatsApp Business.
Sabharwal says the app helped it build great rapport among its clientele in the early stages.
A WhatsApp Business account is similar in look and feel to a regular WhatsApp account for a customer.
WhatsApp Business is free to download and runs on Android and iOS.
Once a business downloads the WhatsApp Business app, all it has to do is provide a phone number different from its personal account, add a photo that represents their business, business address, category, hours, email address, website, and a brief description.
This is the information WhatsApp users will see when they look at a business profile.
The Business app is free to use for small businesses, while a WhatsApp for Business API charges larger businesses for reaching out to customers.
As and when payments get integrated into WhatsApp, the monetisation strategy for the messaging app will become clearer.
As of now, WhatsApp wants more and more small businesses to use the platform in addition to their offline or online campaigns for more personalised interaction with the end customer.
While the initial interface where customers discover a product or service may be another platform such as Facebook, Instagram or the brand's website, moving a transaction to WhatsApp makes it easier for the brand to communicate with the customer.