More than a dozen virtual exhibitions and Facebook live sales have been organised through the online initiative
It is a flea market with a difference. Not only is it online but it is meant only for women entrepreneurs. An idea born out of necessity, the popularity of the flea market among buyers and sellers has enthused entrepreneur and flea market organiser Mamtha Pillai.
Mamtha, who owns Meraki Home Garden, a niche outlet in Thiruvananthapuram, dealing with plants and planters, like many others, suffered a setback on account of the pandemic and lockdown.
“All of us with small businesses suffered a blow because of the restrictions imposed to curb the pandemic. Many of us used to participate in sales, big and small, in Thiruvananthapuram and elsewhere. When all that got cancelled, some of us had no clue what to do with stocks, especially those with perishables like food,” says Mamtha.
She knew that her plants could be kept aside for sale at another time but that was not the case with everyone one else. So, Mamtha came up with the idea of an online flea market on their dedicated Facebook page, Trivandrum Flea Market – An all-Women Initiative’, to help women entrepreneurs market their products. “Although Instagram could have been a better platform for such sales, I realised that for many first-time social media users, especially senior citizens, Facebook would be an easier platform,” she says.
The first one was conducted in July 2020 and the Facebook Live flea market turned out to be a huge hit among vendors and buyers. That boosted their confidence. More than 12 such virtual exhibitions have been conducted and Facebook live sales are organised frequently.
“We managed to sell a wide range of products, such as pickles, snacks, cakes, desserts, clothes, handicrafts, home linen, art works, jewellery and so on. That convinced us that this was the way forward during these troubled times. Vendors come from different places in India and they have all found customers,” says Mamtha.
Finally, on March 14, they organised their first physical exhibition and sale in a heritage space, House of Roses, in Thiruvananthapuram, which had been renovated by its owner, Cindu Vijay, an architect residing in Kozhikode. Twenty vendors participated in the exhibition and sale. As with their virtual sale, this too turned out to be successful and helped Cindu showcase her space among potential clients.
Kasthuri Rajasegaran, a home-cook who specialises in Sri Lankan cuisine and eggless cakes, was one among the vendors at the sale. She says she was quite disappointed with the response to her Instagram account that begun in October 2020. “I participated in the Vishu event on March 14 and since then I have been flooded with orders. It has been a great encouragement because I am completely new to the city and have no friends or relatives here. The flea market has given me a strong helping hand,” she says.
With the surge in COVID numbers, the vendors have reverted to sales through Facebook Live sessions and online exhibitions.
To coincide with Mother’s Day, ‘Celebrating Mom’, a virtual sale will take place on May 7, 8 and 9. “Even after the pandemic is tamed and live exhibitions become popular again, we plan to continue with online events. It has broad-based our vendors and given customers more choices,” says Mamtha.