Thursday January 27, 2022

Must dos to counter slow growth of eCommerce in Pakistan

February 02, 2021

Over the decades, traditional businesses worldwide have undergone a major transformation and a large number of them have an overwhelming online presence as well. Apart from having brick and mortar offices, they have their presence in cyberspace that transcends national boundaries and limitations of time. Today distances do not matter and commercial activity goes on round the clock, when in the past it was limited to certain working hours only.

It is a common practice that superstores, product suppliers, manufacturers etc receive orders throughout the day and night and deliver these to the customers at promised time against payments made in different modes.

The names of, foodpanda, airlift etc are too common and even children feel comfortable placing orders. In Pakistan, the most commonly used method is Cash on Delivery (COD) under which the customer makes the payment to the delivery guy on receiving the merchandise.

The spread of Covid-19 has changed things drastically and due to it the habit of purchasing things online has increased at a considerable pace. People are now ordering food, clothes, groceries, pharmaceutical goods and other essential items online.

One can recall that during the lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the first wave of Covid-19, medicines could be delivered at home on provision of the prescription to the suppliers online.

Coming to global trade, it is clear that the whole world has become a marketplace where businessmen sitting in any corner of the world can showcase their products and services and lure in customers. At the same time, the customers can explore supply lines all over the world and get the desired products delivered to them at home.

This has been made possible by the advancement of technology that has connected the world through Internet and made business transactions possible at a click on the devices used to connect to Internet.

In this scenario, it is a discouraging fact that Pakistan has not been able to exploit the potential to the fullest and the volume of e-commerce here is hovering around the figure of $1 billion only.

The figure of annual online sales for China is $672 billion, the United States $340 billion, United Kingdom $99 billion, Japan $79 billion, Germany $73 billion, France $43 billion, and South Korea $37 billion, according to the figures of April 2020 released by the US-based

Saqib Azhar, CEO, Enablers – an organisation working for promotion of e-commerce in Pakistan – states that the issues like our inability to open Amazon accounts in the country, non-availability of online payment options like paypal, lack of awareness and knowledge about e-commerce opportunities, selection of wrong products for sale in the international market are some of the reasons for slow growth in this context in Pakistan.

He says Enablers has developed a platform through which Pakistanis can sell their products globally on Amazon. The product selected for sale shall be high in demand and there shall be less competition globally, he says, adding that this is determined with the help of softwares they use and the product searches made by prospective customers.

He says the people who cannot invest or buy inventories for online sales can learn skills and assist manufacturers or work as virtual assistants who are paid well. This can be done from the confines of one’s home, he adds.

Azhar shares that recently they have met President Arif Alvi and discussed certain steps that need to be taken without delay with the support of the government. For example, he says, it was decided efforts will be made to ensure Pakistan comes in Amazon Approved Selling countries in 2021, Chambers of eCommerce will be set up throughout the country, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) will be engaged to introduce eCommerce degrees and Post Graduate Diplomas (PGDs) all across Pakistan, and awareness sessions will be held at different levels to promote eCommerce in Pakistan.