Online shopping in Nepal does not have a long history, yet its popularity is on a steady rise with more and more e-commerce sites joining the race. With the growth of smart phone users and internet penetration, it is no surprise that an economic opportunity would remain untouched. Almost everything and anything is available and on sale – from services to products.
Does that mean that retail business is suffering or on the decline? Not really. We are traditionally still people who enjoy seeing first hand, touching and bargaining and visiting umpteen shops before making the purchase. But for those who are strapped for time, do not enjoy shopping expeditions, or fancy the convenience of home delivery, online markets have answered their needs.
Additionally the online business companies are smart in marketing their products and services through aggressive advertising and repeated posts on social media sites. Often people regularly on the internet follow a link out of curiosity, see a good bargain and have quickly ordered a product without second thought. Moreover, products are often cheaper than in retail outlets, come with free or nominal home delivery charge, can be exchanged or returned with full refund, and can be paid cash on delivery to overcome online payment reluctance among shoppers.
Today sastodeal.com, foodmandu.com, kaymu.com are preferred sites that people trust and buy from in addition to a host of others that sell everything from perfectly chilled beer to vegetables, fine cheese and meat cuts. In addition are a number of retail businesses that market solely through facebook and instagram and provide consumers with high end makeup, shoes, exclusive sarees, jewellery, electronics and now even pets.
But industry operators are far from satisfied. Anil Basnet, CEO of metrotarkari.com says when it comes to ecommerce, the country is still below average. “The growth rate in recent years is remarkable. But there’s a lot to achieve yet. What we have achieved is only a fraction of global progress in this arena,” he shares.
According to Minesh Rajbhandari, CEO of Cheers Online, ecommerce in Nepal is just in infancy. He opines, “The real concern of most online companies at this stage is to attract customers as much as possible, teach them how to shop through online platforms, and retain them”.
According to traders, 80 percent customers are new ones, the repeat pattern is 20 percent. It is believed that some 30 online companies are in existence wit about half of them doing well. Observers estimate the sector to be growing at 30-40 percent per annum while the customer base is growing by 15-20 percent each year.
Amun Thapa, CEO of sastodeal.com says that customer consciousness has increased amazingly since the time he has been in business. They not only want the product in perfect condition but also a certain level of sales service.
Binod Dhakal, President of Computer Association of Nepal (CAN, shares that e-commerce has grown well and is an efficient and prompt system with very less chance of being cheated.
More companies and traders are now looking at specialization. Cheers Online deals only with alcohol, Metrotarkari.com provides its customers fresh vegetable, Gazzabko Deal offers sarees while Harilo.com allows customers in Nepal to buy goods from United States and pay here.
Yellowpagenepal.com gives information relating to the restaurants and eateries in Kathmandu. Foodmandu.com has been delivering customers food from over 100 restaurants and has an active customer database of over 10,000 people using their services. Manohar Adhikari, Chief Executive of Foodmandu.com says that working in a niche market or specialised product is the best option for an e-commerce company especially in the initial phase of the business. He claims that his business is growing by about 100 percent every year and it delivers around 5000 orders per month currently.
Merojob.com is another innovative venture that is a job platform for human resource. Established half a decade ago, the company has more than 8,500 companies offering jobs via their website connecting job seekers with employers. Jobdynamics.com, on the other hand, helps job aspirants get trained in the professional sector and ensures placement. Sastodeal.com and hamrobazaar.com are companies with a difference. They simply offer platforms to sellers and prospective buyers.
The future is exciting for ecommerce is the shared thought of people in the business and are looking towards a more regulated framework and policies from the government as the market takes shape. From the buyer side, Mitra Bhandari is an avid online shopper and loves the convenience that comes with it. Rashmi Agrawal says that she often ends up buying stuff that she doesn’t need, but loves going online at least once in a day through various sites that she regularly buys from to see what’s new on offer. Young Adesh describes online shopping best, “I love that I can compare products and choose. It also helps to read other people’s reviews especially when it comes to travel and restaurant experiences. I just wish we had more platforms to choose from, and it would be great if we had a payment gateway to order online from other countries”.
How is ecommerce faring in Nepal?
Internet speed is getting faster, consumers are buying and using smartphones, payment gateway companies are steadily penetrating the market, logistic companies are getting better at their work and in the end consumers are building the habit of buying online. As an industry, ecommerce is sailing with the wind and it is sailing fast.
How do you view the future of this industry?
What happens in India will most certainly happen here. I can relate to how ecommerce in India was just a few years ago and where it is now. The same can be said for Nepal’s ecommerce industry in a few years. By 2022, ecommerce industry will be one of the leading industries in Nepal.
Where are we at present?
We are just beginning. The objective for any ecommerce company today is to raise awareness and teach the market – vendors and customers on how to buy and sell online.
What is the main road block for growth?
In tier III cities (places other than Kathmandu, Pokhara, Biratnagar, etc), people still don’t have access to faster internet connectivity or payment gateways. As a result, it is difficult for ecommerce companies to reach out and cater to those markets just yet.