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Instagram businesses witness demand dip by 80% during lockdown

Keeping businesses afloat a challenge for many

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NEW DELHI: Since its inception, Instagram Business has been creating a pool of myriad opportunities for local and home-grown businesses to flourish. With its impactful visual presence, availability to micro-tag, and easy discoverability, the platform has led many businesses to set a unique benchmark. However, the ongoing lockdown necessitated by the Covid2019 crisis has impacted these businesses massively. 

According to insiders, there has been a dip of around 70-80 per cent in sales queries in the past two months given consumer sentiments and unavailability of raw materials plus proper distribution channels. 

Kriti Chaudhary who runs online clothing and accessories platform @sanskritikvastrashala tells Indiantelevision.com, “We have witnessed an 80 per cent dip in queries online. Another major crisis is with artisans as there no supply of raw materials because of restrictions on movement. Even if there are a few clients who are still interested in buying our stuff, we are not taking any new orders.” 

Niharika Chaudhary, who owns and manages @peeli.dori selling sustainable Indian handloom online and has got actresses like Shweta Tripathi and Sumona Chakravarti wearing her pieces, also shares, “There are 70 per cent lesser orders and we have stopped dispatching stuff completely. The dip in revenues is massive as people are very apprehensive about ordering online.”

Shivani Singh of @theartbox.in reveals that she used to register a sale of Rs 3-4 lakh monthly before the lockdown and has been able to deliver only two to three orders in the past two months. She is using this time to keep her followers engaged by posting tutorials and making new stuff and designs with available resources like resin. 

Tanya Jain, who recently left her job to start her home-bakery, which she promotes on Instagram by the name of @kitschyn, adds that there is a lot of uncertainty about the business now. “I order Belgian chocolates for my cooking, which is impossible to import now. Also, even if someone orders, I can’t be delivering the food as I relied mostly on pickups or my driver going out. Now, we are in a containment zone and it is impossible to get people coming and picking stuff.” 

Sakshi Uppal and Samarth Anand, who manage online clothing store @titli, said that they were in the process of launching a website to extend the business by the end of April, which has been halted now. 

Anand, who also manages the finance and photography for the page, notes that sourcing of raw materials has been a major problem and they haven’t been able to create new designs, which was a USP for them. 

Uppal, who also attends a lot of fairs and exhibitions like The Little Flea to extend her sales, adds that she is expecting that part of the business to be further hit. She used to get around 70 per cent of her orders online and relied on pop-up shops at exhibitions for the rest 30 per cent. 

@MousseStruck partner Sahil Vora, who sells mousse and other desserts online shared that sales from Instagram, which used to be at least 15-20 every day, have dipped to zero. The platform also uses food aggregator platforms of Zomato and Swiggy for ordering and delivery, which, too, have noticed a sizeable dip because of the lockdown. 

“Out of our 13 outlets across Mumbai, we are running only one now with limited manpower. The sales are just 20 per cent of what we used to manage to do before the lockdown,” he shares.

Vora adds that food businesses particularly are facing a lot of problem because of the contagious nature of the virus and people being very cautious about what they are purchasing. 

“Another big factor that is troubling us is the uncertainty around it. It would have been better if the government had given us a set time frame, say everything will start moving in the next three months. Then, we would have planned better, created leaner operations, paid staff accordingly. But now because there is no clarity, most of the businesses are forced to take harsh unprecedented decisions without any warning,” he says.

Apart from dipping sales, the lack of access to raw materials and no support in end-point deliveries, another thing that is bothering these small business owners is how to keep paying their artisans and other team members. 

Chaudhary says that many of her artisans are from poor backgrounds and live in remote areas. Right now, she is making sure that she pays them on time understanding that they live on a hand-to-mouth basis. “But if it (revenue problems) continue, I might not be able to keep the business afloat for more than three to four months.”

Singh says that while she paid the team for the month of March, she hasn’t been able to pay for the last month. “They haven’t even asked because there was no work to do in April. My operating account is out of cash and it will take us some time to get back.”

To keep paying their staff, Vora and his partner have started controlling additional expenditures like marketing and CRM. They also launched gift cards for their customers who are not able to avail their services now, where they purchase a gift card now and redeem after the lockdown is lifted.

While Uppal has already announced some discounts, even on her top-selling pieces to keep the sales going, Kriti Chaudhary believes she won’t be able to do that. In fact, she assumes that the prices will likely go up as the raw material is going to be costly after the lockdown and so will be the artisan fee. 

All of them showed mixed sentiments towards the post-lockdown world though. While most of them believe that sales will improve, they agree that the consumer is going to be more apprehensive about what to buy. 

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