Designing WhatsApp for small business owners in India

Small Business owners in India need a channel to connect with local customers that are important to them

Kartik Rao
Dec 29, 2017 · 5 min read

The Problem

Millions of local shop owners, restaurants, and home service providers want to reach out to a larger number of people to grow their business.

These are small businesses operated either individually or by less than 10 people. A bunch of customers buy products/services from these businesses. So they need a better way to:

  1. Engage with their customers
  2. Sell and manage product/service deliveries
  3. Target specific customer audience
  4. Show products/services availability

Though WhatsApp recently announced that it is coming up for business, it’s still a mystery that how it will be used for the small businesses?

So I decided to design this concept imagining how WhatsApp could be tailored for small businesses.

Introducing WhatsApp for Small Business

A small concept showing how technology is set to revolutionize the world of small business owners in India opening many doors of opportunities to build greater engagement with their customers and attracting new prospects.

How will this work for business owners?

Consider the case of Mahesh (a local vegetable vendor in Mumbai) taking orders via WhatsApp. He just needs to promote his WhatsApp number and inform his customers to visit his profile to view available vegetable items and then place an order.

Business Owner’s usage flow

How will this work for customers?

A customer needs to have a WhatsApp number of the business. He will initiate a WhatsApp chat on this number. He gets to explore the available items with the business along with pricing details and other description.

Customer usage flow

Why did I choose to design for small business owners in India?

Let us see what these small business owners are currently doing.

How are the customers responding to these approaches adopted by small business owners?

Why to chose WhatsApp for digitally empowering small business owners?

WhatsApp is undoubtedly one of the most used products in India.

Here’s how a typical day of an Indian user look like

No points for guessing that the day begins and ends with checking WhatsApp messages. (Source)

Source: BCG consumer immersion survey 2016

How will this improve a local food delivery service?

Below is the demonstration of how a local small restaurant could make use of WhatsApp for Business.

1. A restaurant will register using its contact number

  • Add all the required details name, description, location, business category, and offered products/services

2. Maintain food items they offer

  • Add/edit/update all the food items that is available on the menu
  • Include necessary details — name of the food item, photos, description, price, and availability.

3. Customers will explore the food items that the restaurant has to offer

  • See the food items updated by the restaurant
  • Place an order for the food items
  • Share location for delivery purpose

4. Restaurant will receive the order and will send confirmation

Few other features that I explored

Closing Thoughts

So this was my small attempt towards imagining how WhatsApp could be used by small businesses in India. This design reduces the learnability curve needed to learn the new app, since people are already familiar with the usage of WhatsApp. I believe we should think of ways to get into the users’ existing behaviour and habits rather than always creating new apps and platforms.

Thanks for reading!

Note: I’m not associated with WhatsApp Business in any way. I did this because I like solving people problems. I strongly feel a concept like this is worth exploring.

Thanks to Kunal Bodke, Sandeep Jagtap, Pushkar Joshi, and Vedang Narkar for valuable suggestions.

Also published at

Got anything to add? Please share your comments below.

Kartik Rao

Written by

Product Designer @Google | Formerly @Verily | Twitter @KarttikRao |

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