When the world shut down, the Internet remained open: Sandeep Bhushan, director, Global Marketing Solutions, Facebook India

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May 06, 2021 2:00 AM

From auto brands to smartphone brands, all have had to rely on virtual formats and experiences to drive new product launches.

SANDEEP BHUSHAN, Director & Head, Global Marketing Solutions, Facebook IndiaSandeep Bhushan, Director & Head, Global Marketing Solutions, Facebook India

The biggest trend during these pandemic times is around the adoption of digital by small businesses. According to Sandeep Bhushan, director & head, Global Marketing Solutions, Facebook India, there are more than 200 million small businesses that use the Facebook family of apps every month. A signi-ficant share of these are in India. For instance, there are more than 15 million WhatsApp Business app users in India. “We are committed to the economic recovery of India by supporting small businesses to bounce back and grow. We have sharpened our focus on digital skilling to ensure seamless learning and support in these times,” he tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interview. Excerpts:

Looking back at the past year, how have businesses leveraged digital in order to scale and grow, and how do you see this trend evolving going forward?
Our study with Boston Consulting Group last year showed that digital influence across key categories had increased by 25% in just three months after the pandemic. The study also showed that these shifts are structural and will last beyond the pandemic. For instance, 90% of apparel buyers and 80% of consumer product goods buyers who have bought online during the pandemic are likely to continue.

We are now in a ‘post-digital’ world where deep adoption across every segment of society, and innovation across every aspect of digital interaction are creating fundamentally new opportunities for businesses. A Facebook and IPSOS survey released in January 2021 showed 86% of Indians surveyed saying social media allowed them to deepen their relationship with brands in 2020. The important role of discovery in shopping journeys has now moved from retail browsing to social media interactions, and businesses are increasingly building inspiration as an important part of their digital consumer interaction.

How have brands used various technologies like AR/VR for virtual launches, consumer engagement?
From auto brands to smartphone brands, all have had to rely on virtual formats and experiences to drive new product launches. To support the virtual launches, we’ve brought together our host capabilities in the form of a virtual launch toolkit. AR forms an integral part of the toolkit along with influencers, interactive ads, and messenger bots. Vivo, for instance, worked with Spark AR, Facebook’s augmented reality studio, to launch the V19 smartphone.

How are large businesses digitising their value chain, which is causing a digital revolution among smaller retailers?
Over the last one year, we have worked with some of the largest brands to help them deepen the digitisation across their value chains by bringing the smallest unit of their business, such as offline retailers and dealers, online. We partnered with Maruti Suzuki to train their dealers across 1000+ outlets across India to build an online presence. This initiative was started in 2018 and accelerated over the last one year. Similarly, we partnered Samsung to train their retailers to become discoverable to their local communities by building a presence on the Facebook family of apps.

How do you help small businesses overcome challenges posed by the pandemic?
Understanding that small businesses are under deep financial stress, last year we announced a $4.3 million small business grant across five cities in India. We’ve sharpened our focus on digital skilling to ensure seamless learning and support in these times. Our flagship programme for skilling young businesses ‘Boost with Facebook’ went virtual in the first weeks of the pandemic, and is now being delivered through Facebook Lives. We also launched an SMB Guide in Hindi and English that reached out to 9 million small businesses, and is helping them establish a digital presence.

Can you share some insights and trends pertaining to small businesses?
Given that small businesses contribute 30% to India’s GDP, digital can help unlock massive growth opportunities for them. Our joint report with the World Bank and OECD on small businesses revealed by the end of 2020, almost a third of small businesses on Facebook India had increased their digital sales. The report showed more than half of small businesses make at least a quarter of their sales digitally, which is significant as India has 60 million-plus small businesses.

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