Even before the pandemic struck, social networking sites were sources of income for Gen-Z and millennials alike
The world today is no longer as vast as it once was – especially if you are young – because with the growth of science, we now have a vista of endless possibilities open to us. The Internet has made life condense into a pinprick, really – everything, ranging from food to clothes to entertainment, seems to be just one click away – provided you know where to look for it, of course. And we’re not just talking about company giants such as Amazon or Zomato or Netflix here. For young entrepreneurs, a lot of time must be spent into making their businesses grow to certain levels of success, and it is social networking sites and blogs such as Facebook, Wordpress, YouTube, and, what seems to be the most popular, Instagram, that have set young business minds churning, helping them spread and grow, and reach other youngsters like themselves.
I am an undergraduate myself, and many of my friends run small businesses on similar such social media platforms. Teesta makes and sells bookmarks on Instagram. “They’re for people who want to spice up their paperbacks and make them a little prettier,” she smiles, going on to tell me how it is vital – especially in these pandemic-struck times – for young people to earn as much as they can. “Business isn’t always excellent, and mine is still a very small account. It takes quite some time to make a good, sturdy bookmark that is also pleasing to the eye – but sadly, since people are more often than not forced to stay indoors these days, many have shifted to more mobile versions of books. E-books and pdfs are all the rage, especially now – and people who still buy hard copies don’t really want to indulge in buying bookmarks as well, it seems.”
Similar grievances are expressed by Shritama, who says there are more cons than there are pros to small businesses trying to make it big online. “Instagram algorithms are very bad,” she chides. “Most of us are just trying to get a platform that will reach people, but the algorithm will still ask you to purchase advertising rights. Now, if I had the money to pay for so many ad pop-ups, do you think I would even be a broke college student in the first place?” Shritama, who is known for doodles that sell freely on t-shirts and mugs, does say that the pandemic, while making certain aspects of business easier, has had not had a very positive impact on small-scale businesses as a whole. “Sales have dropped by a lot. But at least I don’t have to physically go to customers anymore! All transactions and conversations are carried out online now,” she tells me, smiling from ear to ear.
Tania, who indulges in a variety of products ranging from handmade jewellery to customised clay items and resin art, says that social media, with all its glitter and sparkle, is not always gold and goodly. “Clients can be uncooperative sometimes,” she says ruefully, recounting instances to me when people have scammed her and not paid for their products when the time was right. “Effort goes to naught that way. With some experience up my sleeve now, I think it’s safer to accept an advance from the customer before you actually provide them with their commission or whatever it is that they want to buy. Authentic clients will never deceive you, and scammers will run away at once!”
While it is true that the pandemic has hit small businesses the worst, taking away a majority of patrons who might have frequented their online platform handles, it is also true, Covid or no Covid, that it is social networks that have built many businesses up from the ground. The Bite That Spoon Café at Santoshpur, Kolkata owes its popularity vastly to social media and the global impact of worldwide music sensation BTS. “To be honest, we didn’t really expect to become so popular. We started very small on Instagram. But music and food always unite us all,” laughs one of the staff members who did not wish to be named, admitting that most of their clientele keenly follow the café’s social media handles for any and all interesting updates. “Even during the pandemic, when people are mostly ordering in and the café sits bare, we receive quite a number of orders and get lots of traction on social networking sites.”
Aishani, who runs a poetry account on Instagram, has a wonderful story of rags to riches to share. “One fine morning, I woke up and saw that a website had approached me, asking me to contribute to their site as a content writer! The best part is, they pay,” she tells me happily. “They said they liked my work, and wanted me to clear an eligibility test first, which I did. And now I’m a freelance blogger!” Apart from all the conveniences of earning from the digital world, Aishani now gets to explore and gain insight on various topics that only add more colour and quality to her work. “What’s more, I can simply sit in my room all day and earn, doing what I love the most,” she tells me.
After weighing all the pros and cons together, I believe it might be safe to conclude that the Internet, with its enormous prospects of possibility and potential, has made business, life, and business life comparatively easy. While the pandemic has reduced much of our budding aptitude, it is social media and its many attractive appeals that youngsters like myself turn to at the first opportunity that they can.