While acknowledging the role startups are playing in the country’s economic growth and financial inclusion, Prime Minister Imran Khan the other day said his government would facilitate talented entrepreneurs in transforming their innovative ideas into sustainable businesses. He was addressing a ceremony at the National Incubation Centre (NIC) for startups under its Ignite program.
The official Startup friendly policies are expected to bridge the gap between Pakistani ecosystem and global best ecosystems, including Silicon Valley, Europe, South East Asia and also for sharing of resources, best practices and knowledge.
Over the last three years, dozens of incubations, accelerators and startups have been launched in Pakistan mainly focusing on filling the gaps in our e-commerce industry whose market in terms of revenue income is said to have expanded to an estimated $1 billion in 2019 with a projected growth rate of 30-40% in 2020. It is just a minutest fraction of global e-commerce revenue income which was nearly about $3.50 trillion in 2019 and was about $2.95 trillion in 2018. The growth rate is estimated at 20% in 2020.
The exceptionally immense growth anticipated in the e-commerce revenue in Pakistan is due to the ongoing development in the digitalisation in the country. Secondly, the growth in the potential for the e-commerce industry in Pakistan is also backed by the most important ingredient of any e-commerce industry, ‘the free and liberal access to internet’.
A rapid growth in the availability of internet, mobile and broadband over the last few years has added to the acceleration of e-commerce business in the country. In 2019 the number of internet subscribers was 71 million. This number is expected to reach 80 million in 2020. This is a huge untapped e-commerce market in Pakistan.
In Pakistan, online shopping is the major contributor of the total e-commerce revenue. The Online Shopping domain is growing exponentially in Pakistan. The number of online shopping websites are growing every single week, almost all the top trusted clothing brands have an e-commerce handle in the form of e-commerce website, Facebook or Instagram page.
Though the Industry has a lot of potential and is growing rapidly, a number of hurdles are still retarding its pace and its universal acceptance. The main one being the absence of PayPal, globally the most preferred payment method.
It is very challenging for consumers to find the right product from the right source because the top online shopping websites in Pakistan are mostly vendor-based and, therefore, mostly lack a system of authenticating the vendors which sometimes leads to the consumers ending up being the victim of false information about quality of the product and its price, even burdened with fake products.
Secondly, most of the websites in Pakistan lack the ideal navigating and search systems which would allow visitors to search for their desired product in the shortest possible time. What is needed is said to be a navigating and search system catering to say 2-3 million products database from 100-150 online stores all at one place. A new startup named, Shoppingum, launched in Pakistan recently is said to come very close to a reasonable mass of products. The startup is helping online consumers to search and navigate them to their desired products in no time. Do follow the link https://www.shoppingum.com.
Late delivery times, inconvenience in returning the products if the product is not as mentioned in the provided information on the website, refunds and weak customer support are the other major reasons why many people in Pakistan still avoid online shopping.
The resolution of these major problems will not only open up a vast new world of global business for Pakistan but, in the process, help boost our economy as well. We need to urgently frame the right policies that would support the industry, helping it to grow rapidly.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2020.