• Guest Blogger

Supporting small business owners in India through this online flea market.

Purva Shethji writes about UNSEEN an online flea market by Platform For Artists in this piece.

Not long ago, I was chatting with my friend and we were discussing the number of small businesses that are starting up. Be it a teenager who loves crafting trying to monetise a hobby or a 60 year old finally learning to show the world something they have been doing all their life. There are no bars or boundaries to adhere.

The confidence individuals have gained in order to take a leap of faith, trust their instincts and turn their hobby into a passion project that may or may not show results, this sheer confidence is commendable. Every other day scrolling through the phone we come across new ventures by our family and friends. An idea is always brewing, it’s a matter of time that it gets noticed and the confidence and drive to create more and better is regained.

Recently in the past few years due to Instagram and it’s wide user base, it’s easier to showcase anything and everything. Back in the day to sell something either we had to open a physical shop or set up a professional website in order to get going. Most of our family businesses started that way, without digital media to promote and advertise.

Present day, all of that hassle is just a click away, the seeds are planted by making an Instagram account; creating, uploading, sharing, gaining followers, shoutouts, features etc. Because of which a small section of audience would say that ‘anyone and everyone out there wants to start a business without credibility and experience’, but only a few understand how courageous it is to pursue something that you are passionate about and put all your faith in it, respect to all those small business owners out there.

On the other hand, 'Artists Supporting Artists', it’s not just something that trends and fades out, it is here to stay. Artists put their heart and soul into the content they create, even if the post gains zero comments and just about 5% likes and nominal reach, if there is one person out there who left an appreciative DM the creator does a five second dance party in their head. It is saddening that we live in a world where the worth of our work thrives on likes, comments and shares, we thrive for validation. But in a world so competitive where the need to turn dreams into reality is the call we take and hustle everyday in order to reach the milestone, it has become a way of life.

Small businesses have been a part of the fabric since long, it came into limelight when Instagram launched 'Support Small Business' sticker earlier this year, when COVID-19 pandemic was taking a toll on every possible source of livelihood.

The photo sharing platform has been a base to sell goods on a small scale for quite some time and recently more so. Almost every business irrespective of its scale has an Instagram page dedicated to showcase their services out to the world.

Considering the present scenario and the loss especially the entrepreneurs who just started their ventures are facing due to low sales, they launched a 'Support Small Business' sticker. The aim was to make the businesses reach new customers. People could share the sticker by tagging the brands and entrepreneurs they love and make them reach a wider audience.

When the sticker was launched, everyone was tagging multiple brands, showing support to the people they know have been affected by the pandemic. The end goal was to highlight brands and business owners in order to grow and support them with an intention as basic as their survival.

But is just sharing the sticker enough? Are we consciously buying from them or switching to amazon immediately after browsing through one of their Instagram pages?

Yes, I agree the big e-commerce sites provide cheaper rates and quick delivery. Honestly, I and many more like me have been guilty of this. At the same time drooling over Instagram pages and websites of favourite illustrators and artists, wanting every damn thing because it looks a) adorable, b) aesthetically pleasing, and the most important c) because we know that it has been created with love and passion, we know that if we buy from them the money is directly going to the creator and it will brighten up their day. Usually it is a one man/woman army creating, packaging and standing in long queues to get it delivered. We know, we know it all and understand but choose to ignore.

But are we acting consciously in order to bring a change in habits?

Despite having these feelings we are skeptical while checking out and confirming the order. Why? What is stopping us?

We got to understand that these small businesses and passion projects carry within itself the ability to become a massive brand name one fine day. They may have an amazon listing or a store at the mall, but in order for that to happen we need to take baby steps now by supporting them in every way we possibly can. Sharing and tagging is not enough for them to survive, not only now but ever. Taking actions towards it by changing our shopping habits is a step forward.

And taking serious action against the crisis are Pawan Rochwani and Kshitija Sarda, for whom the only aim was “to bring action in the entire #VocalForLocal and #SupportSmallBusiness hashtags on the internet”. By curating UNSEEN, an online flea market, with 30 small business owners and artists, as an open air flea market vibe is not possible now because of the pandemic and of course monsoon, grab these vibes online (because that is where we live now) in the form of a virtual event; they have opened those doors for all artists and even audiences from all over the world.

Here is what can be done

Instead of playing clickbait with the usual e-commerce sites, maybe try logging on to a different web address this time when you are looking for decorations for Ganesh Puja, beautiful gifts for your loved ones, or something just for yourself to get the retail therapy. You will find a lot of options at UNSEEN, an online flea market.

In an episode of the podcast When We Met, Pawan Rochwani talks about creating a micro influencing network where people with not thousands and lakhs of followers but the ones with nominal number of followers come together as a community to support and promote each other. As an artist or a creator we very well know how far support goes. You can checkout the podcast When We Met by Platform For Artists on this link

We really want to help the artists during this pandemic but not by creating a crowdfunding campaign or starting a charity but by bringing in real money in their pocket by supporting their small business. - Pawan Rochwani
Empowering artists is extremely important, so they can support themselves and each other in the future. - Kshitija Sarda

It's not like the pandemic has put a full stop on shopping, be honest, we have waited for online sales to fill the carts, be it during a pandemic or not, surely the budget for luxury shopping is cut down by a bit, but not gone to zero balance.

So this time pitch in a few bucks extra, and instead of buying 2 unnecessary items from Amazon buy 1 product from a small business owner, you have no clue what a small purchase from these incredibly talented entrepreneurs can make them feel like.

Be kind. Be supportive. Be a conscious shopper. Be #VocalForLocalwithPFA

You can click here to support the thirty small business owners who are part of UNSEEN an online flea market by Platform For Artists. We will be doing this online flea market once again to support homegrown businesses during the Diwali 2020 and Christmas 2020 period as well, so if you want to register as a small business owner and be a part of the next project, head to the link in our Instagram bio @platformforartists


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