If it hadn’t adopted new technology the way it did, Freshokartz, a Jaipur-based e-commerce marketplace for fruits and vegetables that directly procures produce from farms, would have counted itself among the many casualties of the overnight lockdown.
“Our company’s nature of work is to meet farmers in person and resolve their farming issues,” founder and CEO Rajendra Lora told indianexpress.com, adding how at the beginning of the lockdown it became almost impossible to reach out to the farmers because of the restrictions on inter-state travel.
While it had been using WhatsApp to keep in touch with its farmer community for a few months, Lora said it was only during the lockdown that the company started using the messaging platfom extensively. “It worked wonders,” Lora said over a phone call, adding: “Our farmers tell us that this is a far more effective means of communication.” While the farmers were happy, the new form of communication also helped save him money and time.
“Everything happens over the messaging platform now. We are effectively providing the required advice to all our farmers via WhatsApp. Our team also receives confirmation orders over WhatsApp,” he explained, adding he was keen to use WhatsApp as a “permanent solution” going forward with bots in languages to communicate with farmers.
WhatsApp’s India head Abhijit Bose acknowledges the “strong role” the messaging platform could play “in driving economic value for micro and small businesses across India”. In the email statement, he sad the “current lockdown has really magnified the critical need for businesses to have a digital presence with fast and easy tools to stay connected with their customers in a personal way”.
There were others who tried to leverage the 400 million plus users of the platform during the lockdown. CabDost, a social technology startup providing tax filing and financial advisory services to the unorganised taxi sector, used WhatsApp during the lockdown to reach out to drivers, and listed 180 registrations with refunds totalling Rs 2 lakh.
Founder and CEO Yamuna Sastry claimed more than 50,000 individuals in the gig workforce connect with them via WhatsApp for financial advice since the very beginning. “We tried other options like ShareChat, Telegram, and a few other SAAS products, but nothing was close to a user-friendly and secure environment for us to work, like WhatsApp,” said Sastry, adding that the messaging platform works best because it is simple and almost ubiquitous.
Expanding the possibilities of what it can do, Freshokartz’s WhatsApp chatbots are soon expected to help collect basic crop details from farmers, disease symptoms and get the best possible advise for a cure. “In the long term, our aim is to develop a solution where farmers can send in a photo of their crop on WhatsApp and we will be able to reply with the solution,” Lora said.