How WhatsApp is Helping these Startups to Generate Business Lead

When used effectively, the instant messaging service can be a lead generation as well as a client acquisition and retention tool

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Four years ago, Jangkar Bawono, a college student in Indonesia, began working with local craftsmen to create leather shoes for friends. Their unique designs were such an instant hit that Bawono started a leather shoe business. Since October 2015, Portblue has become an established brand in the Southeast Asian country, and has also created regular job opportunities for artisans in Surabaya in Indonesia's East Java province.

"We operate without a specialised marketing team. We focus on just one app: WhatsApp," says the 20-something entrepreneur. "Almost all of our customers have and use WhatsApp. Hence, we felt it was better to focus on an app that's used by most people." And the strategy worked. The company's sales grew 70 per cent each year, and a threemember team in 2015 became a company of 50 employees.

In Pics: Portblue founder Jangkar Bawono


The Business Plan
Since its launch in January last year, WhatsApp Business has become a popular free-to-download app among local businesses to communicate with customers, generate leads and make profits. There are more than three million people actively using WhatsApp Business app, many of which are in Asia.

The Android app, released initially in six markets (India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Britain and the US) and now globally, gives small businesses a formal presence on WhatsApp and offers tools that make messaging with customers more efficient, such as greetings (for introduction) and away messages (to inform companies that the customer is busy), and messaging statistics that offer simple metrics like the number of messages read to see what's working. "It works because most Indonesians choose to interact via WhatsApp. Indonesia's love for WhatsApp is well known. Hootsuite's 2018 "We Are Social" report shows that WhatsApp outranks Facebook and Facebook Messenger apps in terms of monthly active users in the country. That's why 90 per cent of small and mid-sized businesses think that WhatsApp helps them communicate with customers.

Local Learning
Ruli Setiawan says eight of the 10 orders at Rully Silver, a 30-year-old jewellery brand which has an office in Indonesia's popular Silver City (Kotagede), are made through WhatsApp. Rully Silver was established in 1989 as a business-to-business company that supplied crafts to Bali, Jakarta, and Europe. The business then collapsed. "In 2010, I took over and started doing direct selling to end users by changing all business concepts and finally became a B2C (business-to-consumer) company," says Setiawan. It was then that he started using WhatsApp, and now he's switched to WhatsApp Business.

"We used to use classified ads as a way for us to market our products and we directed the sales to the native (built-in) messaging app. The problem was, the smartphone had too many contacts, issues, or broke, we then were no longer able to run the business anymore," Setiawan recalls. For now, he's happy with WhatsApp. He claims to have witnessed a growth of 200 per cent in business. Says Setiawan, "Sometimes WhatsApp also becomes the validator if a business is a real one or a scam."