Unleashing e-commerceBack in 2011, when I started Sastodeal.com with my friends, the word ‘online’ was alien to the market and households. People laughed at the idea of buying and selling online. Merely 9 percent of Nepal’s population had access to the internet. This was also the time when the e-commerce giant Amazon US clocked in $48 billion in annual net sales.
Published at : November 20, 2018
Updated at : November 20, 2018 08:02
Back in 2011, when I started Sastodeal.com with my friends, the word ‘online’ was alien to the market and households. People laughed at the idea of buying and selling online. Merely 9 percent of Nepal’s population had access to the internet. This was also the time when the e-commerce giant Amazon US clocked in $48 billion in annual net sales.
Returning home to Nepal after growing accustomed to a booming online market in the United States, I was in a peculiar situation. I could not digest the fact that people would spend hours looking for products in the market, their time and effort wasted in travel and bargaining. On the flipside, I was stunned by how sellers would restrict themselves to a limited pool of customers. This was when I thought that an e-commerce platform like Sastodeal would be an instant success. I turned out to be right, but I did not know that it would take so much time for my idea to come to fruition.
Fast forward to 2018 and the tables have turned. Sixty-three percent of Nepal’s population is now connected to the internet. There are more than 60,000 registered websites in the country. The e-commerce industry in Nepal is worth $30 million and I am certain that it will grow by at least 40 percent each year. In India, revenue from the sector is growing at a staggering 51 percent annually. Globally, it is estimated that by 2022, $25 trillion in revenue will be generated through e-commerce. In Nepal and around the world, e-commerce is the new buzzword. And what does all of this mean for Nepali vendors selling their products through e-commerce platforms? It’s a cash-producing jackpot.
Nepali vendors who are turning to their screens to sell products are becoming millionaires every day. For example, this fiscal year, in the past three months alone, I have seen businesses produce well over a million rupees in monthly sales through e-commerce platforms alone. And the numbers of such millionaire vendors are increasing every quarter.
But, to my bewilderment, not all of us are taking advantage of the online infrastructure. Online platforms like Sastodeal cater to millions of users from across the nation and from among its diaspora, all of whom are looking for great products and deals. The platform provides ample advertisement space and directs the customer from start-to-end on their purchasing journey on behalf of vendors. So if sellers have good products to offer at great prices, chances are high that they will end up becoming online millionaires. At Sastodeal, I have personally witnessed many starting out from thousands in online sales and making millions in months and quarters.
Pratik Jalan, director of Tele Talk Private Limited, believes that upcoming mobile brands will become more dependent on online platforms, especially in their pursuit to produce quick returns in shorter turnover times. When reflecting on how the advent of e-commerce initiatives have shaped his business, Jalan said, “Brands operating under Tele Talk are looking to work very closely with online platforms for sales and in introducing new product lines. It’s exciting to see how e-commerce platforms can do magic for us.”
While prominent businessmen like Jalan realise the opportunities available when working with e-commerce platforms, I am surprised at how young, recent college graduates and aspiring entrepreneurs do not taking e-commerce platforms seriously. For them, e-commerce is a trophy waiting to be claimed. I cannot understand why people in their early twenties still want to open up storefronts in over-priced malls and business lanes, hold millions of rupees’ worth of inventory, hire employees, pay utilities and make small profits on products that they are unsure they can sell.
Furthermore, e-commerce platforms like Sastodeal are able to generate real-time analytics about buying habits and preferences. These pieces of targeted information are essential for vendors and would take significant time to generate in offline contexts.
Dolma Impact Fund, Nepal’s first private equity firm, recently invested in Sastodeal. I remember Dolma inquiring about the potential impact Sastodeal and the e-commerce industry would collectively make in the Nepali market. And I remember telling them, we employ over a thousand people. When a platform like ours helps our vendors make millions in sales, we help them hire more employees. Consequently, Sastodeal indirectly helps its vendors employ up thousands more. The more sales we make together, the more employment opportunities for all of us. And, as a result, the better our nation’s economy.
Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world today, is an e-commerce entrepreneur. But that’s just one person. If we look at India, there are over a hundred sellers entering the ‘crore club’ each month. They may not be among the richest in the world but they are certainly among the richest in their countries. Likewise, in Nepal, I predict that as more people turn to the digital economy to sell their products, there will be a hundreds more millionaires. For a geographically complicated country like Nepal, where 90 percent of supplies are based out of Kathmandu, e-commerce provides an advantage. In 2012, I engaged with a group of buyers from Dharan, who travelled nine hours to Kathmandu simply to shop, and then they went back home. That journey is not necessary anymore, as their products can now be delivered right to their homes.
E-commerce is a powerful platform for a country like Nepal. It unites people, it unites the market, it creates employment, it boosts the overall economy and it creates millionaires.
Thapa is the founder of Sastodeal.