Social media is opening up new opportunities for new business. In April 2015, there were 40 million recorded business pages on Facebook. By December, 50 million.
Increasingly, entrepreneurs are turning to social media as a way to scale their business ventures, gain brand exposure and extend their reach.
Zarana Shah is a current MBA student at the George Washington University School of Business who started two India-based e-stores - Get Junked and Goodness Gracious – selling home-made jewelry and desserts.
There are over 125 million Facebook users in India. Alongside a full-time role as an accountant in Mumbai, Zarana used Facebook and then Instagram, to scale her businesses and reach out to the wider Indian market.
In under four years, Goodness Gracious grew to cater for over 150 corporate events. Get Junked partnered with an online delivery store to make its jewelry products available in 17 cities across India. In 2015, Zarana sold the company for over 1000% more than its initial startup investment.
Zarana wants to transition into US-based marketing and strategy consulting after her MBA. In the long-term, she hopes to return to India and start her own consulting firm, to pass on her knowledge and experience to the country’s next generation of ambitious young entrepreneurs.
How did the idea to start your own businesses come about?
I am compulsive entrepreneur always looking to do new things.
The e-stores were originally a teenager’s attempt to get some extra pocket money. Get Junked started as a stall at a college fair. I loved jewelry design and I realized I could capitalize on my skills. Same with Goodness Gracious, I would make desserts for friends and family, and gradually it turned into a fully-fledged business.
How did you use social media to help your businesses to grow?
It’s exciting to see what a little social media can do for a business. Facebook and Instagram gave us brand visibility. Even with no store-front, we were able to grow.
Social media is great because it’s interactive and, often, one follower brings in more. But it can be a double-edged sword. Inaction can break the following of a brand. It’s important to be consistently proactive; swift responses and well-timed updates are critical.
What challenges did you face?
I had other commitments, and the more we grew, the harder it was for me to keep up.
It was hard to maintain the same level of interest in hobbies that had become my major source of income. I started losing interest, and I hated to see my business suffer.
I knew I had to move on, or – in the case of Get Junked - hand over to someone who could keep the business growing.
What advice do you have for MBAs looking to start their own business?
Prepare for all that can go wrong.
No business can go exactly as planned, but preparing for any possible deviations helps guide it closer to the ultimate goal. I have made mistakes and failed many times, but I made sure that I prepared well for my failures and never repeated the same mistakes again.
What is the future for women in business?
Business isn’t as traditional as it used to be, it’s more accommodating to women’s needs and women are increasingly choosing to have both a family and a career.
We have a long way to go, but slowly we are rising up the corporate ladder.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m looking to break into marketing and strategy consulting, focusing on e-commerce or start-ups.
In the long-term, I hope to start my own consultancy firm in India to support entrepreneurs who face the same problems I did when I first started out.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at GWSB?
I needed a quality education in business. Although I’d acquired some skills in setting businesses up, career-wise I was stagnant.
I knew that I wanted to be in an urban setting where I could work towards creating my own network in the US. GWSB has a wonderful entrepreneurship department and is known for placing its students well in the field of consulting.
How have you profited from your MBA experience so far?
The possibilities here are endless. There are so many projects and competitions to participate in.
The real-time exposure to the consulting field has been incredible. It’s an opportunity to put into action the knowledge of the theories I’ve learnt in class, which makes me feel prepared for a real job in the outside world.