How Meesho is empowering women to be economically independent in these uncertain times

Vidid Aatrey of Meesho shared his journey at the first edition of Facebook Fuel For India, a two-day virtual event on December 15 and 16 that curated and showcased powerful stories of change, resilience, entrepreneurship, and hope from across the country

India has a thriving startup culture, with the last few years witnessing powerful ideas and innovative business models originate out of the country; Ideas that have the potential to transform the social and economic landscape of India. Among these is the story of Meesho.

Vidit Aatrey, founder and CEO of Meesho, started the company with his co-founder Sanjeev Barnwal with the dream of helping micro and small businesses across India to move online and leverage the power of digital technologies.

In the last five years, Meesho has enabled 10 million entrepreneurs, mostly women, to create their own professional identity, grow their businesses, and become flag bearers of change in their communities. As a social-selling platform, a large part of Meesho’s growth has come on the back of the Facebook family of apps.

Aatrey joined the inaugural Facebook Fuel for India virtual event on Dec 15th to share more on Meesho’s journey in a chat with David Fischer, the Chief Revenue Officer at Facebook.

In his conversation, David Fischer said, “One of the things that drives us every day at Facebook is the work that we’re able to do to enable economic opportunities for businesses, both large and small. Every day we see amazing examples of businesses interacting with people and communities on our apps to spark new ideas, fuel entrepreneurship, and create greater economic value not just for themselves but for the whole country.”

Meesho: Leveraging technology to empower 10 million entrepreneurs

When Meesho entered the market, they noticed that women from across India, especially home-based entrepreneurs, were seeking new ways to not just grow their businesses but also to create a new professional identity for themselves. Most women were already using Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp to connect with their customers, and Meesho brought all these insights together to create a strong business model.

“When we started Meesho, we realised that a large number of women aspire to have a professional identity. But for any business, you need money on day one to start, something which is not easily accessible in India. By solving this problem for tens of thousands of women, we are enabling them to be entrepreneurs, and make a name for themselves,” Aatrey told Fischer.

Today, Meesho has grown to enable resellers, small and medium businesses (SMBs), and micro-entrepreneurs across India to connect with potential buyers using social media. It has successfully created an alternate distribution channel by empowering homemakers, young mothers, aspiring entrepreneurs, students, and teachers to launch, build, and promote their online business - and all of this without any investment.

“We wanted to give every small business in India their own online store. We realised that most of the sellers already used tools such as Facebook and Whatsapp. So we started training them to use the platform. Today, millions of users are using Meesho to sell their products across several categories,” Aatrey told Fischer during their conversation.

Ray of hope in the pandemic

The pandemic brought things to a standstill and adversely affected millions of entrepreneurs. Meesho looked at the key challenges being faced by its entrepreneur community, such as access to capital and funds, and tried to solve them. Meesho also capitalized on new opportunities by asking the entrepreneurs to make masks that Meesho bought, providing a steady stream of revenue for them in times of need.

“This year was the toughest the company has faced, and it was even tougher for our women entrepreneurs. In the first few months of the lockdown, we started offering small-ticket loans to them; we also reduced our commission massively on the platform,” Vidit told David.

After the restrictions were lifted, business picked up quickly as a result of digital acceleration with Meesho entrepreneurs witnessing 20%-30% more business compared to pre-pandemic times.

Vidit feels that digital helps solve key social barriers for women, helping them seamlessly sell from their home and other locations, and it will be critical to bringing more women online over the next few years.

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