In Kuwait, even grandmas have Instagram businesses. In this case "Instagram business" does not mean a business using Instagram for free (but pretty!) advertising, like Coach posting hued advertisements for its bags and shoes. Rather, people use their Instagram accounts as online store fronts, selling anything and everything through the social network. "If you have an Instagram account, you can slap a price tag on anything, take a picture of it, and sell it," explains artist Fatima Al Qadiri, who grew up in Kuwait, in a Mousse Magazine interview. "For instance, you could take this can of San Pellegrino, paint it pink, put a heart on it, call it yours, and declare it for sale. Even my grandmother has an Instagram business!" The practice is so popular, Kuwait has an Instagram Business Expo.
Jason Kottke dug up a few examples of "Kuwait's booming Instagram economy" and they're a fascinating use of the filtered photo-sharing service that we don't see here. For these sellers, Instagram provides a free, beautiful web store with built in social-sharing features. The service has no method for financial transactions. Instead, Kuwait's entrepreneurs, post a WhatsApp or Kik number (for low-cost texting) and an e-mail address for business inquiries and do their bidding that way.
It's not all that different from a small business owner linking to his or her website, but in this case the Instagram account is the professional website. One such Instagram business, Sondos Makeup, has a traditional site, too. But it's just a link back to the Instagram account:
That URL at the bottom is the only clickable thing on the entire page. In this world, the website advertises the Instagram account as the point of sale, not the other way around.
Fatimah Al Qadiri describes a lot of the wares as "hacked products" and some of it does look like the type of stuff you'd find on Etsy or eBay. Store & More, which describes itself as "online store for cute ladies," sells a lot of headbands and beaded bracelets:
Sondos sells a hodgepodge of makeup products from various brands (or maybe brand impersonators). Mangabox sells Japanese comics.
But then, there's the type of retail you don't see on Etsy, like Sheeps_sell, which sells livestock.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.