A year ago, when 28-year-old Soma Chatterjee Maiti from India started using mobile messaging app WhatsApp, she did not know that one day the platform would economically empower her.
Living in the small town of Khorda in Bhubaneswar, Maiti is a school teacher and sells suits and sarees via her WhatsApp group during her spare time. She informed her friends about the idea and they helped her get more customers from across the country.
"The group currently comprises 30 people belonging to different cities like Delhi, Bangalore and in West Bengal, among others. Moreover, it's been just six months since I started this business. Every now and then, my friends introduce me to new members to whom my products can be sold," Maiti says.
Creating a group is not where her job ends. Maiti has to make sure that the group remains active, for which she keeps on following up, like asking the members if the package was delivered properly. Besides, she keeps on posting the pictures of her products in the group, so that the sales do not slow down.
"Whatever material I have, I click its pictures and post it in the group. If a person likes a product, she directly contacts me over the phone and the deal is taken further," Maiti added.
WhatsApp is a social community tool and these days it is becoming an opportunity for homemakers to earn as well as stand on their feet, while not restricting themselves to just being "homemakers".
Just like Maiti, 30-year-old Pooja Srivastava, who lives in Ghaziabad, has also created a group on WhatsApp called "Bend the Trend". The name suggests breaking the general trend of shopping in the malls or via online portals, through a daily-use app, making the process easier.
"With about four years of using WhatsApp, I thought of starting my own business this year. I was aware that this app is quite popular and has every feature I needed to kick-start my business," Srivastava says.
There are 76 members in the group who hail from various metros of India, along with some belonging to countries like Canada, Singapore and the US. Her group also exists on Facebook that helps her get customers from abroad.
Srivastava sells all sorts of apparel, artificial jewellery, kids wear, fashion accessories, etc., and earns around Rs 30,000 (USD 600) in a month.
Prior to starting her business, Srivastava was an Assistant Professor at the Sun Institute of Management and Technology in Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
"I used to teach a few years back and even before that I was an HR professional. However, after getting married, I shifted to Ghaziabad and it was difficult to find a new job here. Thus, I decided to start my own business," she adds.
According to Anoop Mishra, a Lucknow-based social media analyst, technology is becoming an enabler for homemakers these days.
"One-touch mobile accessibility of social applications is playing a wider role in making ideas visible and viral. Easy accessibility of technology and cost-effectiveness are encouraging homemakers day by day," Mishra says.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi's schemes like "Make in India" and "Skill India" getting a push, Mishra thinks that these homemakers-turning-entrepreneurs can be recognised if they are good enough at their work.
"To make their story bigger, they would have to be exceptionally different and must go beyond the limits," he asserts.
Yashmalika Singh, a resident of Delhi, has also been using WhatsApp for quite some time. She has a paying guest house (Ashirwaad PG) for girls in Dwarka and whoever lives there, she easily connects with them through this app.
"Whenever she has to inform or ask something, she would send a text in the group she has created on WhatsApp, instead of calling the person individually," informs Riya Singh, who lives there.
It's true that technology is evolving every day and with its evolution, people are also looking for possibilities to make their lives better.
In an era where we talk of gender equality, a tool like WhatsApp is helping these homemakers attain their own identity and freedom.