How Pakistanis are using Facebook is a TechJuice exclusive. The aim is to show the world that Facebook, or any social media platform for that matter, isn’t just for connecting people and can be used in various positive ways.
Around five years back Rabya Faisal started a service that allowed people to get exclusive, homemade cakes. Redolence started as Rabya’s personal account which Facebook later converted to a Fan Page. Initially, Redolence catered to a niche market. In fact, their first logo was, “We are not for everyone.”, a little extreme but given the fact that home-baked goods hadn’t acquired the massive popularity that they enjoy nowadays, it was fair.
Pakistan Startup Report reveals that almost 14.4 Million Pakistanis use Facebook. That is a huge number and when you think of it from a business perspective, represents a huge market that startups and businesses alike can access without being hindered by geography. It is encouraging that in Pakistan, there are many people who are utilizing Facebook for a better purpose, for example, to earn their living via home operated bakeries. People like Rabya were the pioneers in this field.
Down the road, Rabya has learnt a lot. One of the pioneers in home-made cakes in Lahore, Redolence’s baking speaking for itself. Of course it doesn’t hurt that there are more than 30K supportive fans of the page who love to make their special occasions extra special by adding beautiful custom-made cakes from Redolence. Initially, however, it wasn’t so easy.
Creating a Facebook page and starting a business that relies on basic interaction between customers and sellers seems easy enough. However, in reality it comes with its own sets of problems.
Rabya had to deal with the problem of unreliable clients.
“People would book their cakes and never show up. Initially we charged nothing in advance, now to safeguard our interests we charge 50-100% in advance.” – Rabya Faisal of Redolence
However despite the problems, Redolence has not only grown on Facebook but also frequently advertises with popular magazines like GT and Bridal Magazines. She is all set to take her business to the next level and will be opening a bakery soon.
Another venture is an online Cupcake shop, Mini Treats. Owned and run by Ali Nasir Mirza, a LUMS MBA, Mini Treats started as a small scale venture that initially sold to only friends and family. With the growth and popularity of Facebook, Mini Treats shifted to Facebook and was able to finally communicate with the masses and get distinct benefits of operating through Facebook, capturing niche clientele from the huge Pakistani Facebook market mentioned above.
“90% of our audience comes through Facebook. We are not only able to efficiently navigate through orders but can also get feedback, identify our potential market and target the right audience.”
Unlike Redolence, Mini Treats uses the popular Cash on Delivery model but despite that fact that it is relatively easier and simpler both for the consumer and the seller, even Ali has complaints about customers who order a cake and then fail to collect it when the vendor arrives to deliver the cake.
Like Redolence and Mini Treats, there are several other bakeries that are operating on Facebook. Over the time, the trend to open a business online has seen a steep increase.
“The entry barrier for Facebook businesses is very low. Absolutely anyone can make a page and start a business.” Ali Nasir of Mini Treats
However, in this case the low entry barrier is not necessarily a good thing. Many businesses use unfair means such getting fake Facebook likes to help their Page. It is generally known that a page’s Facebook likes do help determine its popularity.
“It is funny really, a page that is barely two days old sometimes has more Facebook likes than we have acquired in two years. But in the long run, Facebook reviews and the quality of the products do help differentiate between the good bakeries and the not-so-good ones.” Ali Nasir of Mini Treats
Yet another small scale venture is, Cake a Wish by Farheen Zeeshan who came up with the idea of a baking workshop. Now, she has students which include housewives, young students and even occasional grannies, all willing to learn the baking secrets from the very best. However, Farheen, has to be careful regarding the security, thanks to the fake IDs that people use on Facebook.
“People can be weird. Once, a male called me up for a workshop that was to be held in Islamabad and asked if he could don a burqa and join the workshop. I got so freaked out that I moved the workshop to a public place so that we could have better security in case of such an incident.”- Farheen of Cake a Wish
Farheen is all set to expand her business to a baking supply chain as it makes perfect sense. Her students, for one, can become easy customers of the business and then along with the workshops, this business can grow to bring more prosperity.
Online bakeries operating through Facebook have been doing well. The lure of home baked, high quality product with more customization has managed to bring many customers on board. In fact the number of people who now prefer cakes customized to perfection have grown recently which is more good news for Facebook bakeries. However, at the same time Facebook’s recent attempt to change how pages work is badly affecting these Facebook bakery pages. Almost all the people interviewed pointed out that they weren’t satisfied with the changes as it was deterring them from reaching their audience. Eventually, some of them may even give up and look towards other social media platforms to connect to their customers. Others might still retail their current clients and stop expanding. Regardless of what happens next, these businesses and many others have been able to launch, advertise, successfully sell products and earn via Facebook, a deed which deserves applause.
Facebook, a mere social media platform, has become a place that supports hundreds of homes that are engaged in businesses through Facebook pages and Stores. Apart from the opportunities available for working in these home-based bakeries, cash-for-delivery culture has grown and there are dedicated services like Road Runner trying to cater to the demand, creating more employment. In a country where there is a general lack of jobs, mismatch of supply and demand in labor and restriction of many women detaining them from working in offices, Facebook is a platform that becomes a perfect opportunity. Given talent, hard work and a little luck, you can start a business and start earning, something which is very hard to do in the real world.
What do you use Online Social Networks for? Do you know of an inspirational start-up story that grew with the help of Facebook? Tell us about and we might feature it in our next story!