Online shopping portal Daraz has launched Daraz Sahayatri, a Rs55 million stimulus program to enable Small and Medium Enterprises that want to digitise their business but do not have access to logistics or technological expertise. The program is a platform for SMEs to sell and receive orders from across Nepal without any listing fee.
As the fourth month of the nationwide lockdown winds down, the way people conduct business has changed, and an increasing number of businesses are taking their transactions online. But small and medium scale enterprises face unprecedented economic crisis, as physical distancing guidelines are set to be in place long after the lockdown is over.
E-commerce has proved itself essential at a time of social distancing and lockdowns, emerging as a key pillar in the global fight against COVID-19. Online shopping is helping to avoid in-person contact and reduce the risk of new infections in many parts of the world. As the hassle of standing in lines shopping among crowds at malls and grocery stores, and inventory shortages have pushed people out of stores and onto the web. Online grocery delivery services are booming, acquiring new customers even outside their previous majority demographic.
Businesses with an online storefront have more flexibility and are therefore more likely to survive a supply chain disruption. Moreover, e-commerce also has the potential to connect Nepali SMEs with global value chains. Already, 4000 sellers are active on Daraz, a significant number for a country that primarily depends on brick-and-mortar businesses for shopping.
Past crises have shown that a sustained uptick in e-commerce is likely. The SARS outbreak of the early 2000s made Alibaba, the parent company of Daraz, one of the biggest online companies in the world.
96% of households in Nepal have mobile phones, and the latest figures show a 35% increase in internet consumption during the lockdown. The use of mobile apps is growing fast, which allows for an opportunity to transform the economy by properly harnessing the power of mobile technology.
SMEs will undoubtedly benefit —during this crisis and in the long-run— by embracing digitisation and looking at e-commerce as a key sales channel.