During the pandemic, many small businesses had to close down due to financial losses or zero profitability. Many people lost their jobs as well. Over 122 million people in India lost their jobs in April, according to estimates by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. Around 75% of them were small traders and wage-labourers. However, what thrived were small Instagram businesses that came up during the lockdown.
One such business owner is Rasha, a 24-year-old of the Instagram shop, Clayed by Rasha. She is based in Mangalore and delivers her products all over India. She started her business back in February 2021 when Covid-19 cases in India were relatively less. She sells handmade polymer clay earrings.
Rasha said that back in 2021, she was in the UAE, working in the IT field when the pandemic hit. It was during the lockdown that she started making various paintings and selling them online. She got really inspired by the Tik-Tok application at that time. “As I was scrolling, I saw so many artists making earrings out of clay and I found it amazing. I was so eager to try it out, too. All the videos of other small businesses were so inspiring. In January 2020, I came to India and started gathering supplies and working my way through this field and honestly, I am in love with it,” she said.
Her business has been profitable till now, even though she has had her share of ups and downs. Her business was hit badly by the pandemic when delivery services and transportation of materials were delayed. “I stopped selling altogether, during the second wave as I didn’t have any supplies to work with. Even now, ever since the lockdown, the effects can be felt,” she said.
When asked how her business contributes to climate change, she said that she uses bubble wrap and three-ply corrugated boxes for delivery. She believes that her hobby can turn into profession if the response of people continues to be good.
Another business venture that started during the lockdown is Cute Clay store run by Navya Nanda, 21, who operates out of Delhi. Her shop sells resin, polymer clay and beaded accessories. “My business would have never existed had it not been for the pandemic. It allowed me to pursue my interests,” she said. Having extra time on her hands motivated her to take up her hobbby as a part-time gig.
However, during the lockdown, her business was affected negatively since the spending capacity of people was low, as was the general morale. But, it has since picked up pace since. With the earnings of her small business, she was able to contribute to Covid-19 relief as well.
Her business also works towards being sustainable. “We use paper as far as possible, and only recycled bubble wrap. Resin and clay itself isn’t entirely biodegradable so that’s something we’re working on to improve or find alternatives. Other than that, we try to work on minimising waste in terms of packing,” she said.
Navya added that she would like to continue her business post pandemic, but she does not think she’ll be able to focus on it once college starts in-person. “Additionally, being the only person doing everything, in order to expand I’d have to employ and train people and I don’t think I have the time and resources to do that,” she said.
On the other hand, Jinisha Jain, 20, from Mumbai started her business Bake Me Crazy in September 2020. She sells baked goods and cakes. During the lockdown, when there were no bakeries open, “it inspired me to open up my own bakery as the only option for birthday cakes was to try homemade recipes. So that is how the business began,” she said.
Her business has been profitable but not by a high margin, like all starting businesses. The only advantage of the pandemic was that since bakeries shut down, all the people around her who knew her came for orders. Being a small business owner is not easy, but she tries to donate 20% of her income every three months to do her part for societal change. She said that she is also studying side-by-side, so she will have to take breaks from her business. But she does see herself running it for a long term.
Creative businesses have no limits. This is exemplified by Seimonee Fernandes’s small business that she started during the lockdown. Hers is a content agency called Disco & Pretzel. “We have various services for brands right from branding to photoshoots and video shoots,” Seimonee said.
She came up with this idea with her business partner. They both share similar skills and thought of this idea while working. “We realised there was a niche market for good quality content as everyone is focusing on marketing and sales far more now,” she said.
Working from home, Seimonee said, helped in supporting her clients easily. And the kind of work they would have got if things were normal would be comparatively lesser. “We are able to focus our attention working from home and can do work efficiently,” she added. This is her full-time job now and she hopes they are able to break even with profits coming their way.