A Study on the use of Whatsapp for E-Commerce by Women Entrepreneurs with Special Reference to Women Clothing and Accessories


Sathya P*, Manoj Prabhakar S

Department of Visual Communication, Faculty of Science and Humanities, SRM University, Kattankulathur – 603203, Tamilnadu, India.

*Corresponding Author Email: sathya.comm@gmail.com



Social media is a great tool of interaction and its multi-utility feature leads it to perform an important role in the lives of people around the world. The dominance of social networking platform has been changed and become mobile, interactive, personalised and multi-channelled. This revolution affects the very basic structure of societies. The fast moving busy nature of human life acts as a catalyst for the social media to have its deep roots. Usage of these social networks for commercial purposes is rapidly increasing especially among women. Most women in our society have stepped into the e-commerce for the nature of the medium and the comfortable time period they can work with. Since they venture into retail business, it is popularly termed as e-tailing make them to earn their living and be independent. The purpose of this study is to explore the vision of women who are e-tailing, and how they are getting gratified with the medium. In addition, this study aims to identify the problems they face, be it personal or official. Thus this study uses qualitative method as research design. An in-depth interview with 10 women whatsapp e-tailers along with a focus group discussion were made and results were discussed using thematic analysis to verify the objectives of the study.


KEYWORDS: E-Commerce, Entrepreneurship, Social networks, Whatsapp, Women entrepreneurs.




The concept of empowerment flows from the power. Empowerment of women means that raising women to be economically independent, self-reliant, have positive esteem to enable them to face any difficulty and allowing them to participate in development activities. The empowered women must be able to participate in the process of decision making also.


Social media could enhance women’s participation in economic and political life, and encourages them to improvise their self expression and promote social change. This is a strong belief that has risen up in the society. Anyways, women face difficulties in real life that stops women from participating in social media and experiencing the impact it has on their lives. Other kinds of constraints which are highly significant are the social constraints. Those include family and society barriers and stereotypes placed on women especially in the places where female users operate (Tomlin, 2012). Whatsapp is much ahead in the pack of apps. And with more than 50 million monthly active users in our country, the consumer behaviour on this app is quite significant to look at. Women spend more time on apps, including Whatsapp. Women are spending more time on online apps, about 46 minutes in a day, while men are supposed to be spending an average of 25 minutes on online apps daily. Out of the total time spent by women on apps, 70% is spent only on instant messaging or chat apps, including Google Talk, Whatsapp, WeChat, etc.


An important finding about women on Whatsapp is that women not only spend more time on Whatsapp, they are also a great target receiver of brand relations through this medium. One of the researches in the virtual medium found out that about 71% of women, compared to only 18% of men, will 'like' or follow a brand on the social media especially on apps like facebook, Whatsapp, etc. However, when interacting with brands is concerned, women are savvier on social platforms. They also more like to consume and share information more frequently on social networks than men, who rather prefer to check news or sports websites for information and further updates. Zafar Rais, CEO, MindShift Interactive, says, "Whatsapp is part of our daily mode of communication and has revamped our outlook towards texting. It's not surprising that Whatsapp has comfortably lead the line in India, with more than 50 million active users coming from urban and rural areas. A preliminary research conducted throws light on the insight that women are more receptive to brand relations through social media platforms than men. Therefore, it's very much needed for brands to target on women to understand the social networks' virtue and adapt accordingly. With one of our television clients, we used the route of opt-in Whatsapp conversations which resulted in a higher outreach and sustained conversations. The platform is personal and must be treated in a similar manner when adopting a strategic route for a brand."


Another key insight on women's behaviour on Whatsapp is that they are more interactive and responsive in group conversations than men. This provides a great opportunity for brands targeting women to engage them at an enormous range with relevant and smart content. However, the important thing to keep in mind is the difference between engaging and intrusive content. As Rais figured out, Whatsapp is certainly a very personal medium and hence, interacting with clients on this medium must first be initiated by seeking their prior permission in the right way and then ensuring relevance of content. It is always necessary to keep the message short to ensure if the consumer does not lose interest and listens to your entire message.



1.    To verify the motivational factors for women to use social media as business tool.

2.    To identify how women promotes their business.

3.    To verify whether the competitiveness and its seriousness in the business

4.    To check whether women face any problem in their business using social networks.


1. What is the purpose of the women entrepreneurs to use social networks for e-commerce?

2. What are their promotional strategies?

3. How competitive is this e-commerce for women?

4. What are the disadvantages faced by women entrepreneurs?

5. What are the futuristic plans of these entrepreneurs?



This section highlights on the relevance of the chosen topic for the research as there are very few studies have been conducted in this area. This might shed light as to why women use Whatsapp as a medium of business, the advantages they have over the medium and accessibility to reach out to the target group in real time.


Stefania Kalogeraki and Marina Papadaki (2010) stated in their article, Mobile phones have been spreading in the world faster than prior communication technologies (i.e., the television, the Internet). The adoption of the device has become even more popular among teenagers and used as a mean of accessibility, micro-coordination, security and emancipation. Mobile phones are direct communicative tools between teenagers and peer groups, parents and children; therefore the device enhances social interactions and bonding with peers and family.     


Alex S. Taylor and Richard Harper (2003), reveals that young people use mobile phone content and the phones themselves to participate in the practices of gift exchange. While viewing the mobile phone usage this way, the paper suggests numerous possibilities for future phone-based applications and supporting hardwares.


Karen Church and Rodrigo de Oliveira (2013), highlighted Whatsapp allow mobile users to send real-time text messages to individuals or groups of friends at no cost. Whatsapp offers utilities such as no cost, sense of community and immediacy, SMS is still considered to be more reliable, privacy preserving technology for mobile communication.


Liu et.al. (2015), confirmed in their research that interdependent people are more relation-oriented in building their trust than independent people. Implications for online information-sharing management and the interface design were provided.


Shanmuga Priya S, and Dr. Sakthi (2015) stated in their study that social media is a resource that could be tapped and made the optimum use out of it. Along with the technological advancement skills, that the today’s Generation youngsters posses a great revolution could be made in the arena of cyber world in the promotion of the economic status of women and the nation at large.

Oke, Dorcas.F (2013) concluded in their study that there is a strong positive relationship between social network and business growth/success of an entrepreneur, especially for women in small scale tailoring business in Ado Ekiti in south western part of Nigeria. The study further shows that family /friends shared the largest part of the social network of the group.


Ezmieralda Melissa et.al., (2013), verified that social media entrepreneurship works well for women in Indonesia due to its unique characteristics that include: mobility and flexibility, social capital gained through social media interactions, the unequal distribution of products in Indonesian cities, the lack of time on the part of customers to visit physical shops and the confidence and satisfaction experienced by women as a result of this enterprise.


Eunice Mukolwe, and Dr. Jacqueline Korir (2016) highlighted in their study that social media gives women entrepreneurs an opportunity to connect in a very personal and meaningful way with their customers. This allows you them to respond quickly to customer support issues, share and praise compliments about their business, and provide offers to people who are going out of their way to show their business support. Social media that allows consumers to participate and propagate their views, this can act both as an advantage and a challenge.



In order to provide a foundation for understanding the usage of social media for business by women, Qualitative research method were employed for this study and data were collected by using In depth interview with 10 nos., along with one focus group discussion. For interpreting the data, thematic descriptive analysis was used.



Interviews were conducted in person, transcribed, and then coded using thematic analysis. The interview questions were structured to learn about respondent’s usage of social media for their small scale business and factors related to it. The major themes that emerged from the subject’s responses include the number of years in social marketing, preference for social networks, motivational factors that made them start their business, threats involved, reach, promotional activities undertaken, competition levels, advantages and disadvantages of the medium, levels of confidence and satisfaction, and futuristic plans in developing the business.


Longevity in Social marketing:

When the individuals were asked about their experience in their business, all responded that it ranged from 2 to 10 years. Initially they had started their clothing and accessories sales in small scale amongst their friends and neighbourhood and later utilised the social networks for better reach and accessibility.


The respondents had started their entrepreneurial activities with their friends and neighbours as their customers. As the demand increased, they had to find a medium for a better business. One of the respondents (Vedhavalli, 42) expressed that: “I have a great interest in jewellery making. I used to make my own accessories and sometimes customise the jewellery as per my costume. My friends and relatives started asking about the unique collections and wanted it for themselves. This is how I started my business in small scale. Now I sell women’s clothing and accessories of wider range. As the years gone by, I have learned the requirements of my customer and supply goods accordingly.”


While another respondent (Monah, 38) said that: “I was a house wife ten years back. To utilize my time efficiently and for financial stability, I started with selling women clothing. Now I am quite successful with my advent.”


Reason for social networks:

The reason for preferring social networks, the respondents mostly gave similar response. The common opinion of the respondents is that: “Social networks are easy to access and reach out to people effectively. Using groups in whatsapp or facebook page, I can send images of the products to the consumers at once and based on the response, sales can be done. Sending images to each and every individual customer will consume lot of mobile data and practically not possible. Hence this group/page is very much convenient. A group well maintained for customers and wholesalers separately.”


The above verse is been accepted by all the respondents. While another respondent added her opinion about controlling the group, she said that: “In whatsapp group I can add only whom I know so that I am not landing up in any sort of problems whereas facebook page is not so. Restrictions can be made but not as in a whatsapp group. With the people who are interested about the products I sell, business could be run effectively.”


Motivational factors:

When asked what motivated them to use social network as a business tool, they shared the general opinion that:

“Social networks give enough space for family and other personal commitments. To earn well and support my i

Other few respondents said: “There is no support for me from anyone for this business. So I have to overcome the entire barrier by myself to support my family financially and to satisfy my kids’ needs, so I started using social networks which do not need any investment but good reach.”

Threats involved:

All the respondents replied negatively for personal threats whereas in terms of business, there are lot of things discussed:

“Members in the group, gets all the information and spreads it to others as if they are doing a business by themselves.


When we have some personal commitments, we cannot concentrate on the customer’s requirements or orders.


Availability of goods is to be checked then and there for maintaining credibility among customers. ”


Apart from the above common version, one respondent added that:

“I have never felt that I have threats because I always provide quality products and hence my customers are always by my side. Even during festival occasion they shop clothing and accessories from me.”



All the respondents fairly gave similar response for this question. All of them accepted that their business has got exceptionally good reach among their customers. New customers are also approaching to get added in the group.


One respondent gave an answer with different perspective. She said addition to the above; she adds that:

“Unlike any other shops or retailers, customers can reach out to me at any time and check for the updates. The recent collections, unique patterns, and availability of goods at the time they ask for makes more people approach me.”


Promotional activities:

When it comes to promotional activity, the respondents replied that: “Putting stalls in apartments and in common places is one way of promotions. I may not sell lots of goods but gain good contacts.”


One completely divergent thought from another respondent was that: “There are no better responses for putting up stalls in common places. Instead more sales can be made possible by providing offers in the groups.”



When asked about the competition they have in using social networks for business, there was a diversified responses from the respondents. Out of 10, 7 respondents felt that the competition is too much as so many people involved in e-commerce in small scale, while the other three denies it.



“Members in the group get the collections from me and resends to other group with some more margins. Sometimes group contacts are taken without concerned permission and used by someone else for further business of theirs.”


Another respondent who had a different opinion in terms of the competitiveness was:

“As lot of people into this business, profit levels have reduced a lot. I always have to upgrade myself for most recent trends and unique products for maintaining my customer relationship and match up to their expectation.”


One respondent feels that competition is not so great. She substantiates it by saying:

“I have a strong network of people who is following my updates. Even though there are lot of people into this business, my collections and its uniqueness have a great hold on my customers. The quality for the price is unmatchable. Hence I don’t consider the competition from other sources.”



All respondents agreed that reach is a greater advantage. Communicating to large number of people at once is possible with these networks.


One respondent explained that “I am able to support my family financially with no greater pains like hiring a shop and maintaining it, etc. As I have no time to work in any place for financial stability, I have adopted this medium.”


While another respondent replied that: “It is possible to work whenever I find time after my household works. It makes more time for my family and I am able to concentrate on my children and their dreams.”



There are few disadvantages quoted by the respondents. They are mentioned as follows:

1.    Lack of concentration on family members

2.    Network problems while travelling or raining season affects the business.

3.    Payments from some customers may delay or sometimes they never pay for goods.

4.    Facebook page is open access to all and hence people misuses it. Passive audience are more and responses from people are very rare.

5.    Negative feedbacks from any customer in these groups and pages, affects the overall image of the business.

6.    Posts and updates during night times and following it up are a distress.




Futuristic plans:

There is variety of responses received for this aspect. Some respondents wanted to improvise and develop the business while some feel self sufficient and feel like maintaining the same with good standards and customer relationship.


One respondent answered that:

“I am planning to open a boutique by converting a room in my house as shop. I do not want to hire a shop as the expenses will be high to meet and require man power to take care of it.”


While another respondent said that:

“I am planning to develop a mobile application in near future. I also have plans to learn more about facebook page maintenance with some safety features so that spamming is avoided.”



This chapter summarizes and presents the findings from the ten interviews with women entrepreneurs, on their usage of social networks for women clothing and accessories. Participants provided valuable information regarding external issues and internal conflict that impact the way they promote and sell the goods. The next chapter will discuss these findings and implications of this data.



The purpose of this study is to how women utilize social networks as a business tool. In addition this study attempts to find out how women use develop their business and gratify themselves by the group conversations easily. The interview had open-ended questions to acquire the knowledge about the participant’s idea on their business goals and their usage of the medium and other factors that motivate them to use it.


The results in this study shows that it is consistent with the literature review that states that women spend more time in Whatsapp and their social interaction is immense and their bonding with peers and relatives are considerable (Stefania Kalogeraki and Marina Papadaki, 2010). In addition to that, the study proves it to be consistent with Alex S. Taylor and Richard Harper (2003), content sharing through mobile phones are considered to be bliss.


According to an article in The Economic Times, small scale entrepreneurs are flourishing using Whatsapp. The awareness of the scope and availability of small scale business through Whatsapp has leaded these women to establish themselves in a better way.


The study is consistent with the results of the study from Liu, J. et. Al. (2015), which says mobile applications are used to build in their trust and relationship. It is because of the trust and relationship they have developed over years, these women are able to run their small scale business in a much effective manner.



The results of this study show that social network is a tool of entrepreneurship for women. They are able to bridge the gap and are able to stay connected with peers and family members effectively and run the business also. Additionally it is also a tool of empowerment for women as they gain more confidence and satisfied in meeting their needs. Group conversation is a major advantage of Whatsapp for women to have dealings with people who are at distant places and sell goods to them as well. But when it comes to the issues of competition, they need to adopt some strategies to sustain and be successful. All these factors clearly indicate that social media is a boon for women entrepreneurs.



1.     Alex S. Taylor and Richard Harper (2003). The Gift of the Gab? A Design Oriented Sociology of Young People’s Use of Mobiles. Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Pg. No. 267.

2.     Denzil Ferreira, et.al.,(2014). Contextual Experience Sampling of Mobile Application Micro-Usage. Mobile HCI 2014, Sept. 23–26, 2014.

3.     Johnson Yeboah and George Dominic Ewur (2014). The Impact of Whatsapp Messenger Usage on Students Performance in Tertiary Institutions in Ghana. Journal of Education and Practice, Vol.5, No.6, 2014

4.     Karen Church and Rodrigo de Oliveira (2013). What’s up with WhatsApp? Comparing Mobile Instant Messaging Behaviors with Traditional SMS. Conference proceedings of MOBILE HCI 2013 – Collaboration and Communication.

5.     Liu, J., Rau, P.-L.P.http://www.scopus.com/static/images/s.gif , Wendler, N., Trust and online information-sharing in close relationships: a cross-cultural perspective. www.scopus.com (2015).

6.     Louise Barkhuus and Valerie E. Polichar (2011). Empowerment through seamfulness: smartphones in everyday life. Pers Ubiquit Comput (2011).

7.     Malavika Sangghvi (2014). A sense of belonging on WhatsApp - The social media allows you to belong to a community by sharing conversations. Retrieved from http://www.business- standard.com/article/beyond-business/a sense-of belonging-on whatsapp114120501331_1.html

8.     Pallavi Srivastava (2014). Craze of WhatsApp Increasing Among Women. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.in/Craze-Of-WhatsApp-Increasing-Amongwomen/articleshow/39671007.cms

9.     Shanmuga Priya S, Dr. Sakthi (May 2015). Social media a tool for economic empowerment of women. International Journal of Applied Research. Volume 1 Issue 5, 2015.

10.   Small entrepreneurs use WhatsApp as a tool to establish personal rapport with customers (September 2, 2014). Retrieved from http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com /2014-09-02/news/53480091_1_whatsapp-text message-new-customers

11.   Stefania Kalogeraki and Marina Papadaki (2010). The impact of social media on teenagers’socialization. The International journal of Interdisciplinary social sciences.

12.   Oke, Dorcas.F (2013). The Effect of Social Network on women Entrepreneurs in Nigeria: A case study of Ado- Ekiti Small scale Enterprise. International Journal of Education and Research. Volume 1. Issue 11








Received on 24.10.2017       Modified on 30.12.2017

Accepted on 28.01.2018      ©A&V Publications All right reserved

Res.  J. Humanities and Social Sciences. 2018; 9(1): 95-99.

DOI: 10.5958/2321-5828.2018.00017.7