Everything about this men’s wear manufacturing hub in Prabhadevi was designed to be experienced in person when Rajnikanth Morbia set up shop 27 years ago. Last April — a time when their 11,000 sq ft warehouse would be teeming with retailers — swooping down from Chennai to Jaipur just to touch, feel and investigate the warp and weft for wedding and festival shoppers in their town — it all went eerily silent. It was a similar story for freelance photographer Samir Todnkar, used to carrying around his portfolio in a folder or a pen-drive until the pandemic shuttered his studio
While it’s easy to blame the pandemic for these closures, the Covid-19 crisis has possibly been a catalyst for mom and pop enterprises like Todnkar and Morbia’s—with zero to comatose digital presence—to up their contactless game. As a new wave of Covid cases winds down and an increasing number of traditional retailers and independent professionals— dance instructors to legal advisors; art galleries to learning libraries; vegan pet food to window net sellers—untether themselves from a physical space and migrate to the cloud, one sector that has emerged as growth-friendly and pandemic-proof, has been web development. Given the pressing need for a digital reboot, local web professionals are navigating their way to success in a pandemic world.
Staffing firm TeamLease says they’ve seen about “18,000 new web development jobs exist today which is an increase of 25% in the last year itself and almost a 70% jump since 2018.” Google data reveals that searches for “website builder” and “website hosting” increased by “1.5X times” during this period.
“It’s like a genie that is out of the bottle and you can’t get it back in,” says Ritu Mehrishi, cofounder of an
Andheri-based digital media agency. “The biggest shifts are around grocery, education, cosmetics, clothing, security and legal. It’s given us an opportunity to bridge the gap for companies that never had any online presence,” she says.
While social media pages have been an easier, faster piece of the marketing puzzle to help smaller enterprises establish their digital presence, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as the only strategy is no longer enough. “Using social media is like displaying only the best you have on offer. Websites require an investment that could range from Rs 35,000 for basic browsing and go upto Rs 4 lakh depending on capacity, product pairing algorithms and user analytics. But having your own domain helps create a credible brand identity, have greater control and makes for easy referrals which many smaller businesses are understanding only now,” says Kandivli-based Priya Singhi,a web and graphic designer who has witnessed “a 30 percent surge in requests to revive old domains.”
Ashish Thakkar, a Dadar-based web developer has witnessed demands, “from owners of dead websites in dire need to bounce back.” Although the basic structure of a website as an information hub hasn’t changed — mobile responsiveness, exciting multimedia and features to fit the add-to-cart age — make web design a cocktail of creative skills and technical prowess today. “People’s needs range from 3D images, blogs and explainer videos to clones of Amazon with secure payment gateways, chatbots and intuitive analytics of buyers’ personas,” says Thakkar.
Much like a brick and mortar business, websites need upkeep and occasional upgrades. “It’s not just about changing the look and feel but updating content and search engine optimisation. When websites are templatised, take too long to load, not mobile friendly or lack modern functions, they look cliched, outdated, and spammy. Some owners don’t upgrade for years and therefore face poor traffic and frequent security breach,” explained Nayan Khandor, founder of a web solutions company that had to hire interns to meet mounting content writing and graphic design needs.