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Facebook to partner with more VC funds for mentoring SMEs

NEW DELHI: Facebook plans to partner with more venture capital funds next year to mentor and upskill small and medium businesses in India and deepen its engagement with the government to drive greater financial inclusion and empowerment for the segment, Archana Vohra, director of small and medium businesses at Facebook India, told ET.

Vohra said WhatsApp Pay, which is stuck in regulatory hurdles, could be a big enabler for empowering small and medium businesses in the country. “India is a very big WhatsApp country. We thrive on WhatsApp. For all businesses in India, payment is the key driver. If you want to break the journey of an entrepreneur, you start with skilling and training, then you solve for logistics, then you solve for people and margins and then you solve for payments,” she said.

“A very good way of empowering people is to make payments reach out to as many people as possible. Payments is something we are invested in and will make sure we do what is right for the customers,” said Vohra, referring to WhatsApp payments, the launch of Facebook Pay in the US, and the checkout feature on Instagram that is being tested in the US to enable users to transact on Facebook’s photo-sharing app.

Vohra said the company has done a lot of work this year to facilitate the growth of the segment, including the launch of its VC Brand Incubator programme, through which it tied up with venture capital funds like SAIF Partners, Sauce.VC, and Fireside Ventures for skilling, mentoring and training more than 70 brands at different stages. There were brands like Chaayos and Sleepy Owl.

“We initially started with a small venture capital fund and a small startup to test if this model works. We have expanded that to include a lot more venture capital funds and brands. So, you will see a whole bunch of other venture capital funds join us this year and next year. The launch of blueprint, our global education programme that empowers businesses and advertisers to reach their goals in Hindi and automated ads, have been big initiatives this year. There is a whole set of other pilots th ..

The company continues to invest in initiatives with the government like partnership with Common Service Centre (CSC) through which it plans to digitally train 2.5 lakh people. “A host of such partnerships will continue next year as well. We will continue to train small and medium businesses not just across our family of apps but in also enabling them to be successful online at large,” Vohra said.