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WhatsApp Helps Small Businesses Get Back on Their Feet After the Pandemic

How business support organizations in Brazil and Peru used this digital tool to build entrepreneur communities and capacity
Photo of entrepreneur and child in shop.

Closed curtains, empty streets and padlocks on shop doors. The pandemic changed the lives of entrepreneurs around the world. With social isolation and government restrictions, many small businesses were affected, causing some to go out of business and even go bankrupt. Aware of the importance of the survival of small businesses for local economies, Aliança Empreendedora in Brazil and Fundación Capital in Peru, in partnership with Mastercard's Center for Inclusive Growth, identified digital solutions that could increase the resilience and recovery of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Both found that WhatsApp can play a vital role in getting important information to small business owners, as well as in increasing the productivity of their businesses.  

Why WhatsApp?

In the throes of the public health crisis, both teams carried out initial diagnostics to understand how microenterprises were adapting to the pandemic. Aliança Empreendedora found that many MSMEs used WhatsApp to maintain communication with their customers and to continue selling. Fundación Capital also observed that MSMEs relied more and more on WhatsApp for delivery service and to continue operating in the crisis. WhatsApp had other advantages as well: 

  • Entrepreneurs did not have to install a new app because they already had Whatsapp on their phones. 
  • Telephone operators in Brazil and Peru allowed unlimited use of WhatsApp for up to one month, after a small recharge or purchase of mobile data.  
  • The entrepreneurs used WhatsApp frequently. 

WhatsApp groups promote peer-to-peer learning and support networks

As part of its project, Together for Small Businesses (2020-2021), Aliança Empreendedora devised a methodology based on the creation of WhatsApp groups, with an agile messaging campaign to provide practical knowledge in various areas including innovation, online digital sales, dealing with suppliers, finances in emergency situations, formalization, partnerships and networking, credit and business planning. Thus, a community of mutual support and peer-to-peer learning provided practical tips, as well as group interaction and support in a time of intense social isolation.   

Taking Aliança Empreendedora's experience as a reference, Fundación Capital adapted the WhatsApp strategy and content to the needs and interests of micro-entrepreneurs in Peru. Learning content focused on the adoption of digital tools to increase the productivity of small businesses, online marketing and promotion, digitization of processes, administration and financial health, credit and suppliers and sourcing from e-commerce platforms. It also promoted the fanpage Super Emprendimientos Digitales, which guides entrepreneurs in the digitalization process and provides advice on business management and administration.

A day in the learning community
In the morning, WhatsApp administrators send out messages so that entrepreneurs can review them during the day. In the afternoon, groups are opened and a business advisor encourages the exchange of experiences and answers questions. The facilitator also engages participants through business challenges or practical exercises that require entrepreneurs to apply new learning content to their own businesses. This methodology is executed during five-day periods. On the evening of the last day, a virtual class is held and individual mentoring provided to those who submitted challenges. 

What we learned about WhatsApp’s role

WhatsApp can play an important role in promoting greater impact of programs for MSMEs, especially when it is used as a complementary training tool alongside more in-depth training methods.  It can promote important behavior changes toward digitalization that improve business productivity and financial health. Through implementing these programs, we also learned that:

  • WhatsApp group participation should be voluntary to ensure that those that are in the group are active and genuinely want to learn.    
  • The WhatsApp strategy is low-cost and scalable, making it possible to reach communities in far-flung, rural areas.
  • Participants value being able to review a wide range of content on their own time. This autonomous method of learning is balanced with the opportunity to have their personal questions answered by the WhatsApp facilitator. 
  • WhatsApp groups allow people to feel supported by a community and by a person dedicated to advising their business. In the case of Brazil, many participants decided to keep in touch with each other.
  • Whatsapp groups were extremely successful among women users.  

 Snapshot of Whatsapp Group Results: 

Snapshot of WhatsApp group results


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Swati Dudhale , India
16 August 2022

Actually it works sucssessfully we implemented it in pune maharashtra.

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