Built in the 17th Century by Emperor Shah Jahan, Chandni Chowk is one of Delhi’s oldest and busiest market places, characterised by cramped as well as relatively big shops dotting labyrinthine lanes on either sides. With some shops operating since over 100 years, this biggest wholesale market in the country houses over 5,000 small and medium business (SMB) operations. Now, imparting these numerous businesses an online identity is Google India’s latest initiative, India Get Your Business Online. Called Chandni Chowk Online, the website provides a listing of these businesses.

“India has over 47 million SMBs, but only about 4,00,000 businesses have some sort of web presence. And out of these 4,00,000 only 1,00,000 businesses have a professional website. As the Internet user base grows in India, there is an increase in the number of users who are getting online to find these businesses. So the campaign was launched to get more businesses online with a free professional website,” says Rajan Anandan, VP and managing director – sales and operations, Google India.

Started with a plan to get at least 5,00,000 Indian businesses online with a website that’s quick, easy and free to set up in the next three years, the initiative also gives access to steady stream of free tips and tools to make the websites work harder along with a free coupon worth Rs 2,500 as advertising trials.

For no-brands like us, it is just a way to feel modernised and in sync with the times. All that I will be doing is to append the website URL on to my visiting card.

“With over 137 million users in the country, the Internet is taking off in India and more users are looking for local information online, and efforts like these will go a long way in helping SMBs get started on and gain from the Internet economy in the next few years. Businesses that have a website can easily be found using Google and we’re also open to registering businesses that have a website on the directory. For a business, having a website today is as important as having a mobile phone. We’ve now created over 150,000 websites for small and medium businesses across 7,850 cities in India within a year,” says Anandan.

Segregated under categories like Apparel and Clothing, Dry Fruit Dealers, Hotels and Restaurants, Food Products, Footwear, Glass Dealers, Hardware, Home Appliances, and Jewelleries, the website lists the name of the shop, name of the shop owner, type of shop, address, contact number and the website URL.

Anoop Verma from Arnav Gems and Jewellery, a shop that Verma says has been in business since the last 100 years says, “The shop was initially built and managed by my great grandfather and over the years we have established a loyal customer database. Despite that, owing to the current trends of most businesses having an online presence, having a website will only prove beneficial. But it will be limited to what it is at present, as we do not plan to expand to online shopping.”

But Ankit Bansal from Sanskriti Fabrics in Nabi Karim has a different take on this initiative. “The level at which we operate, we do not really need a website. Websites and Internet presence are useful for manufacturers or traders trading for a particular brand. For no-brands like us, it is just a way to feel modernised and in sync with the times. All that I will be doing is to append the website URL on to my visiting card,” he says. He further adds that the representatives who came as part of the initiative possibly had a target number to achieve and were hence persistent in getting the websites made. “They kept saying free mein hai, banwa lo,” he says.

Despite this, Anandan is optimistic about the future and says, “We’re excited about the progress we’ve made and we will continue to build on this start, and build over 5,00,000 sites in the next two years. We’re in touch with various big markets heads and SMB associations across the country and will decide on the next project as per the demand and assistance we receive from the local market association heads.”

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