Here’s how Facebook aims to strengthen the small and medium business ecosystem in India
In an exclusive conversation with SMBStory, Archana Vohra, Director, Small and Medium Businesses, Facebook India, reveals how the social media giant is working to boost the SMB sector, why it decided to collaborate with VC funds, and how it is investing in skilling and training entrepreneurs.Palak Agarwal
Micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are a significant growth driver in India. They have the potential to increase its share of contribution to GDP from the current 8 percent to about 15 percent by the year 2020.
The fact that the Indian government is stressing on the revival of these traditional industries was seen in Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget 2019, which aimed to strengthen MSMEs by making them digitally active and providing access to hassle-free finance.
Social media giant Facebook also aims to help SMBs in India grow. Facebook India recently announced an industry-first initiative of collaborating with Venture Capital (VC) funds to accelerate the growth of SMBs they invest in. As a part of this programme, Facebook will work with VC funds with the aim of skilling and mentoring brands by sharing insights on best practices, proven solutions, playbooks, and vertical insights among other key learnings.
In an exclusive interaction with SMBStory, Archana Vohra, Director, Small and Medium Businesses at Facebook India, offered insights on how Facebook is giving a boost to small and medium businesses by connecting them to their target customers.
Edited excerpts of the interview:
SMBStory: How is Facebook helping SMBs in India grow?
Archana Vohra: Across the globe, we support approximately 90 million SMBs. And in India, we are exceptionally committed to giving a boost to the SMB ecosystem.
There are two sets of SMBs in India: there are a fraction that know how to do business online, but the level of understanding is really small. And there are some SMB's that haven't come online at all, and don't understand the online world completely. For the first set of people who are already online, we have launched various programmes recently. This includes the VC brand incubator that helps Facebook partner with VCs and, in turn, help micro-business entrepreneurs skill, mentor, and train.
Small businesses and startups are cash-strapped, and keeping this in mind we also organise various workshops where leaders from Facebook extend solutions that can enable them to grow and scale their business.
Facebook recently also launched the SheLeadsTech programme exclusively to encourage women entrepreneurs. The programme has enabled 600 women entrepreneurs access to tools, mentorship, and resources to help overcome barriers, and build a successful business in technology.
Now, for those SMBs that are not digitally active, we have a three-layered approach. We have a boost programme that we launched in India last year; here, we guide them on coming online and how it will help their business grow. The second programme is blueprint training, and involves complete digital marketing training online and in classroom. The third is the Facebook for Business website, which is intense on tutorials and self-help; it even tackles basic queries like how to create a Facebook page.
By helping SMBs grow, we are solving the problem of reach, frequency, scaling up, and RoI.
SMBS: People are sceptical about “boosting” on Facebook and feel that the cost of these advertisements is high. They fear they will not get a return on the amount they spend. How do you address these issues?
AV: Many of our customers begin advertising with us with the same set of key concerns as you’ve mentioned: can one scale using Facebook, can one start their business on Facebook and more importantly, once they grow, can they truly have a global impact. However when one says that, can I come in and get likes- it isn’t the only way to measure impact on the advertising platform. We use a lot of training to enable customers to understand what it is that they’re looking to achieve with their business.
If an entrepreneur wants business reach, frequency, or to double down on the depth of business, there are certain tools we provide for that. If one wants to look at app installs or something more specific, for example, opening a Page in an app, those are the kinds of trainings and tutorials that we provide for them. There may be challenges with understanding the platform, but the solution to that is training and skilling at each level.
SMBS: What about Facebook guidelines on the type of content suitable for ads? Text or video?
AV: Facebook never nudges one product over the other. It’s very structured, for example, when you’re in the process of creating an ad, it asks you to define your campaign objective. I think our purpose is to enable the SMB community and to help one to grow. How you grow is a lever that is in your hand. If one of our SMB customers believes that video or Instagram is the strategy to double down on, or if they’re an ecommerce platform and they want to put up an entire catalogue or use dynamic ads as a process, they should be using that. No matter what the campaign objectives are, we ensure valuable return on investment.
SMBS: How many SMBs have you helped as part of your VC programme?
AV: For the initiative, we had brands from ecommerce, Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG). We had 25 different brands in the room. We kept the audience a little small because the idea is to empower and equal them.
SMBS: How does Facebook plan to support SMBs in the future?
AV: There is a lot to do in the future. We will double down on training, mentoring, and skilling entrepreneurs. We will focus on enabling people to come online and also help them with driving business growth.
The government is focusing on Startup India and expecting around 50,000 startups by 2024. Even we are committed to boosting the startup ecosystem, and we will continue to drive it in various ways.
Wherever we can drive the larger growth of SMBs, be it through a partnership, government relationship or skilling, Facebook will keep investing in these spaces. We have invested in Meesho that helps in reaching out to a large number of resellers and homemakers in one platform that has enabled SMBs to grow. So, wherever we see an opportunity to strengthen SMBs, we are happy to invest.