Finding Opportunities in a Recession

As an entrepreneur, it’s very important to stay calm even when the world is breaking apart. Most of the time, when there is a world changing event like COVID-19, people’s consumption behavior change. They buy different things compared with their previous spending habits.

While doing product research for our E-Commerce holding company, I got to know that Hair Clippers was one of the best selling products while China was on lockdown because of COVID-19. Who would’ve thought that people would buy Hair Clippers when hundreds are dying because of an extremely deadly virus.

But when barbershops are closed, you still gotta cut yours and your children’s hair. 3 of the fastest growing Chinese companies from January to March are companies which are either manufacturing Hair Clippers or are leading retailers.

Another great example of this trend is blankets, hand warmers and mini electric heaters. Due to control measures of COVID-19, apartment buildings turn off heating and you have to open windows for fresh air. However, temperature in many parts of the world is still too cold. China’s leading e-commerce marketplace Pinduoduo reported that sales of blankets and hard warmers saw 165% increase during the lockdown.

When you find calm in chaos, you can find opportunities like these and benefit from them. Insights like these coupled with lethal digital marketing can create new companies which capitalize on new purchasing behaviors.

This is a guest post by Socialoholic’s co-founder @SaadBassi

How I Helped Sell $38,000 Worth of Biryani With $1,729 Ad Spend

It all started with friends complaining that you couldn’t get a decent biryani in Islamabad. While Socialoholic focuses on launching digital businesses as soon as possible with minimum viable product, I would see my friends planning features on top of features for a biryani delivery service which did not exist yet. And the discussion would always end with one big question.

Will it work? Is there enough market for this biryani delivery service we are planning to open? Are we going to lose all the money we are going to invest?

Sick of this continuous discussion with no end in sight, I wondered if an offline business can be launched like a digital MVP startup.  I downloaded a beautiful biryani creative from Google Images, created a facebook page with a logo I designed in 2 minutes and ran a Facebook ad with $5 budget. 

To ensure that people were actually going to order biryani instead of just liking and commenting on a beautiful biryani photo, I added a phone number in the Facebook ad and hoped to see the phone ring. Lo and behold, in about 10 minutes of my ad getting approved, the phone started ringing and everyone wanted to order the biryani which did not exist in real world. Being a growth hacker, I just told everyone that biryani is sold out which further hyped the biryani startup.

Keep in mind that there is no biryani to sell yet. We are just running a Facebook ad for a biryani restaurant while sitting in my bedroom.

Once we had the calls, everyone was confident that Biryani Express is going to work and Fasih, the CEO of Biryani Express got to work. But our focus still was that we have to test this with minimum possible investment.

Instead of hiring chefs, Fasih ordered biryani in bulk quantity and sold it on per serving pricing and hence pocketing the difference in revenue vs expenses. In earlier days, we were even doing deliveries ourselves just to prove that my thesis of running a small business with no money is true.

Once we had proven the idea, Fasih, started hiring chefs and created the logistics infrastructure for Biryani Express and today it is one of the most famous biryani delivery service in Islamabad.

What started with a $5 ad on Facebook is now a great small business which employees 8 people and has generated $38,000 against a life-time Facebook ad spend of $1,729.

This just shows that the concept of lean startup and MVP is as applicable in offline world as it is in digital world.

P.S I have anonymized the actual name of Biryani Express as my friend didn’t feel comfortable sharing revenue numbers with actual restaurant name.

About the writer: Saad is co-founder and CEO of Socialoholic. He can be reached on twitter.