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How covid-19 boosted the Insta knowledge economy

Instagram Live offers income opportunities to help independent entrepreneurs survive a pandemic

Instagram Live has emerged as an accessible classroom space.
Instagram Live has emerged as an accessible classroom space.

Instagram was dizzyingly overcrowded with influencer campaigns in the pre-covid-19 era. The abrupt announcement of a nationwide lockdown in late March changed all that. Brand collaborations dried up overnight and content creators were left with just one tool—skill.

After the initial shock, some have found ways to make the most of the new situation. Amrita Kaur, a Mumbai-based food entrepreneur, was visiting family in Indore when the lockdown was announced. All of a sudden, her plans were up in the air. She did not have Wi-Fi, her mobile network was sketchy and her Instagram-friendly crockery and cutlery were in her rented apartment in Mumbai. Nevertheless, she decided to give Instagram Live a try.

In April, she announced a workshop on Instagram, priced at 1,500 per person, focusing on the basics of Ayurveda. She utilized a family member’s hot spot. In just two sessions, she made enough money to pay a month’s rent for her Mumbai apartment. Encouraged, she decided to start a fund-raiser, with people paying as they pleased. She collected 62,000 in one session and donated the amount to GiveIndia, an online donation platform working with NGOs.

Interest in her live sessions continues to grow, and she has introduced one in Hindi too. “This experience has taught me to utilize my skills although my resources are limited. I feel strengthened and my self worth has been boosted," she says over the phone.

Instagram Live has emerged as a classroom space for entrepreneurs like her. It is more accessible than digital meeting platforms like Zoom, which need to be downloaded and need additional space on your device. Although there is a time restriction of 1 hour, Instagram Live is freely available to those who have knowledge in a particular domain, with an audience willing to lap it up.

Apart from generating income via workshops, this model is being used actively to drive donations. Quarancharity, an Instagram-only initiative, was launched in early April by Mumbai-based marketing consultant Pri Shewakramani and blogger Scherezade Shroff to raise funds for three NGOs—Welfare For All, Habitat for Humanity and Goonj.

They hold paid knowledge-sharing sessions, such as journalism and media with Barkha Dutt and phone photography with celebrity wedding lensman Joseph Radick. Most are priced at 1,000 per person and streamed on Instagram Live. The model has been so successful that it had raised more than 35 lakh by early May.

Quarancharity’s live session with the Instagram team on how to increase engagement organically was one of its most sought-after workshops. They also collaborated with Mumbai’s Tarq gallery to raise funds through the sale of artworks, and pieces worth 10,000 each were purchased within a few hours. “Be it a workshop or art, people see a post on our page and make a purchase," says Shewakramani.

Whether examples like these can evolve into a sustainable revenue model remains to be seen. So far, as Kaur says, “It has helped me survive a pandemic."

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