Wednesday, December 17, 2014

E-Commerce in Pakistan: The Party Has Started

Guest Post by Monis Rahman
Founder, Chairman and CEO of

Pakistan is late to the party. E-commerce is booming throughout our immediate region. India's leading e-commerce website, Flipkart, recently raised a record $1 Billion in new investment, handling 5 Million shipments each month. The website sees so much potential in mobile shopping that it has a stated goal of becoming "the mobile e-commerce company of the future".

To our north, China's e-commerce leader, Alibaba, set a global record when it listed its shares on the New York Stock Exchange in September. Alibaba's Initial Public Offering raised a staggering $25 Billion, making its record-breaking IPO the biggest in the world. Today the Chinese e-commerce giant's market capitalization is over $250 Billion exceeding that of Wal-Mart, the world's largest old economy retailer. The market value of e-commerce companies in Pakistan's immediate vicinity including Turkey, the Middle East, India and China exceeds half of a trillion dollars.

But the party has indeed finally started in Pakistan as well. By 2017, the size of our e-commerce market is expected to reach over $600 Million from it's current size of $30 Million spent on online purchases annually. There are several factors driving this growth, which will dramatically change the way we buy things over the next several years.
Growth of Internet Penetration

Pakistan's Internet penetration rate historically exceeded that of India until 2009. In 2009, India launched 3G and its Internet penetration sky-rocketed. The same hockey stick growth took place in Sri Lanka's after its 3G launch in 2006. With Pakistan's long awaited entry into the 3G club a few months ago, there will be a similar burst of Internet accessibility which will further catapult online purchases.

Following the pattern of our neighbors, Pakistan's Internet enabled population will increase from 30 Million users today to 56 Million in 2019. Over the next five years, 28% of the country's citizens will have Internet access. This unprecedented reach will transform not just how consumers purchase goods, but will also significantly impact several other industries. My own online jobs classifieds site, ROZEE.PK, today processes 40,000 job applications a day and has helped over 1 Million people find jobs. Social media sites including Facebook and Twitter are transforming how we consume news and shape opinions.

Ubiquity of Access through Mobile

Along with the rise of Internet accessibility through 3G, Pakistan is simultaneously witnessing a surge in smartphone usage. There are an estimated 9 Million smartphone users in Pakistan, using handsets that are fully equipped with web browsers and online connectivity. Smartphones have become increasingly sophisticated, not only substituting many functions previously only capable through desktop and laptop computers, but also greatly increasing the ease of going online. Not only is the Internet becoming more accessible to consumers, consumers are also becoming more accessible to Internet merchants through the ubiquity of the smartphones in our pockets.

While the growth of smartphones in Pakistan is linked to the rise of Internet penetration, it is more so driven by the declining cost of increasingly sophisticated devices. Chinese companies which have traditionally manufactured devices for the world's leading mobile phone brands including Apple and Samsung, are now OEM'ing their own handsets for a fraction of the cost powered by Google's Android operating system. So significant is this trend that Samsung's third quarter profits fell by 50% as its mobile business continued to lose ground to low-cost Chinese smartphone makers.

The sub Rs. 5,000 price point of relatively powerful smartphones in Pakistan is enabling online accessibility to penetrate a lower untapped income strata of society. My cook now downloads recipes from the Internet on his smartphone.

India's Flipkart sees so much potential in mobile shopping that it has a stated goal of becoming "the mobile e-commerce company of the future".

Online Payment Initiatives Are Mushrooming

While over 95% of online purchases are fulfilled through Cash on Delivery (COD) in Pakistan, several promising initiatives are underway which will make it easier to pay directly online. Many banks and telcos alike have launched branchless banking and m-commerce initiatives ranging from MCB Banks's MCBLite, Telenor's Easy Paisa, Mobilink's Mobicash, Zong and Askari Bank's Timepay, UBL's Netbanking and others. The number of branchless banking agents which facilitate offline payments for online purchases tripled from 41,000 in 2012 to 125,000 in 2013, making it increasingly easier and more convenient to transfer money.

One of the most frequent complaints from Pakistan's online sellers of not being able to get merchant accounts that allow them to card payments online, has been abated. While Citibank Pakistan was once the only bank in the country to offer online merchant accounts, it was also notoriously difficult for businesses to get approved. When the bank wrapped up its consumer banking operations in 2012, it left its approximately paltry 14 approved merchants high and dry without an online card processing facility. However, UBL has since launched its Go Green Internet Merchant Account product for businesses which is far more reasonable in its on-boarding criteria. Online merchants can now potentially collect payments electronically from 12 Million debit cards in Pakistan.

Perhaps the most successful online payment solution currently available in the country is Inter Bank Fund Transfer (IBFT). A large volume of payments are made by consumers directly going to their bank's website to electronically transfer funds to online stores. Most banks are now offering their customers net banking IBFT payment facilities through their websites, bringing a majority of the country's banked population into the fold of electronic payments.

Maturing Logistics and Parcel Delivery Infrastructure

Currently 95% of online purchases are paid for through COD at the time the parcel is delivered to customer. TCS, BlueEX, Leopards and other couriers are providing COD delivery services across over 150 cities in the country. This becomes especially relevant when considering that approximately 35% of the the country's monthly 70,000 COD shipments are delivered to cities outside the three main urban centers of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. While urban shoppers are more online as a percentage of population, the value for rural shoppers is higher as many products are not available in their local markets. This implies a huge untapped segment of the population that will increasingly transition to online shopping.

Growing Trust in Online Storefronts

One of the main obstacles to the growth of e-commerce is the lack of consumer trust in purchasing from the "cloud". As a dotcom entrepreneur in Silicon Valley during the 1990's, I recall the prevailing conventional wisdom at the time: people would never give their credit card information on the Internet to buy items. Today, over 72% of Internet users in the US are digital shoppers. This contrasts sharply with less than 3% of Pakistani Internet users who have bought goods online. Although we have a long way to go, there is correspondingly huge upside potential as well.

After initial hesitation, an inflection point in consumer behavior was reached in the US during the late nineties with strong online storefront brands such as Amazon taking to mainstream media. The large amount of investment these sites were able to raise, coupled with highly professional teams, led to positive shopping experiences for the risk averse early adopters who ventured to buy online. We will see this same pattern in Pakistan.

For the first time in the country's history, we are seeing online brands deploying significant advertising budgets for mainstream media advertising. Deep pocketed general classifieds sites like OLX, funded by the South African mega media group Naspers, and Asani, a Schibsted funded company from Norway, have embarked in our online industry's first media war with ads competing for our eyeballs. Rocket Internet, which runs Daraz and Kaymu in Pakistan, recently completed an $8.2 Billion IPO in October of this year. Daraz and Kaymu are well funded and will be pouring capital into the Pakistani e-commerce market in a magnitude not seen here before. Several other Pakistani online players will be launching their TV ads in the coming months, giving new credibility to the online medium and e-commerce.

All of these developments will lead to a rapid increase in trust as first time online shoppers experience e-commerce and generate acceptance through word-of-mouth.

Pakistani E-Commerce Companies

Big foreign investors are a swooping in to become first movers in key verticals in the world's sixth most populous country with the goal of claiming online thrones. Visionary local players like Home shopping, Shophive and Symbios are organically emerging from our ecosystem and bootstrapping to success. This is a winner-takes-all market: the largest marketplaces grow the fastest making it unviable for new entrants as the industry heats up. And this industry has a voracious appetite for capital. The e-commerce party has started.

The Author is Chairman and CEO of Naseeb Networks and is one of Pakistan's most prolific Internet entrepreneurs. He runs leading online job classifieds sites ROZEE.PK in Pakistan and in Saudi Arabia. 

This post reflects the author's assessment of the e-commerce scene he sees in Pakistan. The owner of this blog does not necessarily agree with the contents of this guest post. 

Here's a couple of video clip on e-commerce company leaders in Pakistan:


Affan said...

To conclude we lagged behind in internet penetration, as compared to our neighbouring countries, due to late introduction of 3G/4G in Pakistan

Riaz Haq said...

Affan: "To conclude we lagged behind in internet penetration, as compared to our neighbouring countries, due to late introduction of 3G/4G in Pakistan"

Yes. In addition to mobile broadband, the other key factors for online commerce are payment processing, parcel delivery services and trust in online storefronts.

Anonymous said...

its an evolutionary process a lotof fly by night operators with horrendous service got weeded out and now we are left with

Myntra (clothing focussed)
Jabong (clothing focussed)

Together they control 90% of online commerce in India.

Riaz Haq said...

Unilever launches Pakistan’s first FMCG e-commerce solution with daraz.pkUnilever launches Pakistan’s first FMCG e-commerce solution with

Pond’s, Toni & Guy and Dove offering 66 products through the online portal

Unilever has partnered with to become the first organization in Pakistan’s FMCG sector to offer an online retail solution for customers. As part of this collaboration, consumers will be able to purchase a large variety of Unilever’s beauty and personal care products from the online portal.
The initiative is part of Unilever’s global e-commerce vision that focuses on increasing revenue share from e-commerce. Pakistan has been identified as a high potential market because of the high mobile penetration and increasing usage of internet across the country. The partnership with is the first of many more planned to go live within this year.
Amir Paracha, VP – Customer Development, Unilever Pakistan Limited, highlighted, “Despite being a developing country, we have found Pakistan to be highly adaptive to innovation. E-Commerce in Pakistan is forecasted to generate a turnover of PKR 4 billion over the next 5 years, with much of this growth being driven by beauty & personal care products. At Unilever, we believe in the potential of e-Commerce and are working to make it one of our core channels for customer outreach. The idea is simple; who wants to go through the hassle of shopping in supermarkets, wait for car park and long queues when your favorite Unilever items can be delivered to your doorstep.” is a project of Rocket Internet, the world’s largest internet incubator and was launched in Pakistan in 2012. It is an online shopping portal that currently offers a portfolio of over 400 brands and 15,000 products ranging from fashion apparel to beauty products, with over 1.2 million unique visitors each month. The online portal has now delivered to over 200 cities across Pakistan with half of its sales volume driven from cities outside KLI.

Riaz Haq said...

E-commerce laws in Pakistan:

As a result of the advanced vision of the Government of President Musharraf, the Electronic
Transactions Ordinance 2002 has come to fruition and is being promulgated. This is a fist step
and a solid foundation for providing Pakistan with a comprehensive Legal Infrastructure to
facilitate and provide legal sanctity and protection for Pakistani E-Commerce locally and
There are various aspects relating to Commerce generally and providing legal cover only to
Transactions is akin to providing a Contract Act & Evidence Act. In order to facilitate Commerce,
however, other areas also need to be addressed; such as:
Intellectual Property
Consumer Protection
Conflict of Laws
TelecommunicationTechnology Law
Date Protection & Confidentiality
Cyber Security
Cyber Crimes/Terrorism
The Shariah Aspects
Thus, this Government as it were has put the first man in Orbit in a long Space Race. It I now
necessary to concentrate on the continued and efficient implementation of the ETO 2002 by
correct interpretation and application and also the promulgation of laws in the other areas
identified above.
It will be effort to first highlight the salient features and policy reasons for the particular
provisions of the ETO 2002 both in the domestic context as well as in comparative light of
International regimes. This will be followed by an identification of the areas of Pakistani ECommerce
Law that exist at present and an analysis of whether legislation in those areas is
desirable and if so briefly what form it might take.

Riaz Haq said...

E-commerce: Pakistan very much on investors’ map

Foreign investors, keen to expand in other countries, have seen South Asia as a lucrative market with its bulging population and growth in internet penetration. Rocket Internet is one of the foreign companies that have made their presence felt in Pakistan, taking on local competition with its aggressive expansion strategy. Backed by heavy investments, the German based e-commerce focused venture capital firm and startup incubator has captured a share in the country’s growing market.
The company has given stiff competition to leading portals in various spheres including, and with clones including carmudi, lamudi and clones. Since the start of their operation in 2012, they have doubled the number of their ventures, pouring in millions of euros.
During his visit to Karachi, Asia Internet Holding co-Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Koeen Thijssen said that Pakistan has the most number of ventures opposed to the rest of the Asian countries Rocket Internet has invested in. Asia Internet Holding, a joint venture between Rocket Internet and Qatar-based Ooredoo, builds and funds startups across Asia, particularly focusing on ecommerce and mobile services. The core focus is emerging economies in Asia, particularly Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
He said Rocket Internet will pump €180 million during the next three to four years as investment in Asia, declining to quote even a ballpark figure for Pakistan’s share.
“But a major chunk will be invested in Pakistan,” he said.
Recently, – based on the amazon model – included the electronics category on its online shopping store. “The response has been very good with almost 100 iphones sold in a matter of seven days.
“The profit margins in electronics are very low. The local sellers did not have the platform, skills or the delivery network to sell in high volumes, so they go through us.”
The co-CEO said Pakistan is an interesting case because most of the local ventures are headed by Pakistani nationals, while in the rest of the Asian countries, expats tend to head the ventures. “It’s very unique for Pakistan. It seems that the country naturally has the entrepreneurial gene,” he said, appreciating the country’s workforce. “It’s difficult for expats to recognize local market mechanics.”
When asked about the company’s market strategy, he said, “It is simple; it aims at transparency by providing comparable prices on its websites. We are also using market place strategy for all our ventures,” Thijssen added.

Riaz Haq said...

Second Consecutive Week Featuring Five Billion Dollar Weekdays of Online Desktop Spending Reaffirms Strong Holiday Season
Following Strong Cyber Week, Y/Y Growth Rate Softens to 12 Percent in Most Recent Week

Online Desktop Spending Season-to-Date Remains Up 15 Percent, Still Ahead of Forecast

RESTON, VA, December 17, 2014 – comScore (NASDAQ : SCOR), a leader in measuring the digital world, today reported holiday season U.S. retail e-commerce spending from desktop computers for the first 44 days of the November-December 2014 holiday season. For the holiday season-to-date, $42.5 billion has been spent online, marking a 15-percent increase versus the corresponding days last year. The most recent week beginning with Green Monday (Dec. 8) posted strong growth in online sales, taking in $8.6 billion in desktop spending, up 12 percent versus year ago. For the second consecutive week, all five days of the work week reached the milestone of at least $1 billion in online desktop sales, marking the first time in history such a feat had been accomplished twice in the same holiday season.

“Despite a slight deceleration in growth rates during this past week, we still observed strong spending in total with five more days surpassing $1 billion in sales to bring us to fourteen for the holiday season to date,” said comScore chairman emeritus Gian Fulgoni. “While it’s not uncommon for the week after Cyber Week to experience a relative lull as retailers pull back on promotions and consumers catch their breath before the final gift buying push, it is encouraging that the 15 percent spending growth rate for the season-to-date remains slightly above our forecast of 14 percent for the season as a whole. We expect early next week to experience one last surge in online buying leading up to Free Shipping Day on December 18th, after which the online holiday shopping season should start winding down.”

Duzz said...

When will uber and amazon come to Pakistan?

Riaz Haq said...

Duzz: "When will uber and amazon come to Pakistan?"

Pakistan has its own homegrown versions of both. and savaree.

Also,,,, etc.

Riaz Haq said...

The rise of Pakistan’s startup ecosystem: Shifting traditions and inward inspiration

Just two months ago, e-commerce company Markhor, which works with local artisans to produce high-quality men’s leather shoes, became Pakistan’s most successful Kickstarter campaign, raising seven times more than its intended goal, catching the attention of Seth Godin and GOOD Magazine.

There is no greater evidence of this positive change than in Pakistan’s burgeoning technology ecosystem. In a new report released by my company, Invest2Innovate – which was commissioned by the World Bank’s Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) – we mapped the number of startup competitions, incubators, university programs, coworking spaces and forums, and analyzed the gaps and challenges entrepreneurs continue to face in the country.

Three years ago, the ecosystem was relatively nascent, with just a handful of organizations. Today, the space is unrecognizable and brimming with constant energy and activity.

A closer look at Pakistan’s tech scene

Plan9, the country’s largest technology incubator launched by the Punjab Information Technology Board, recently announced PlanX, its new startup acceleration program. The Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), one of Pakistan’s top universities, recently graduated the first class of incubatees from its Foundation program.

The IT trade association, Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & ITES will soon launch Nest i/o, a Karachi-based technology incubator seeded by Google, Samsung and the US Department of State. Coworking spaces like Basecamp in Peshawar, DotZero and HQ in Karachi and TechHub in Lahore are sprouting all over the country – providing space to fledgling and growing companies.

Hackathons and Startup Weekends are producing startups like Savaree (a ride-sharing application similar to Lyft) and Groopic (a photo editing application), and online publications like TechJuice and PakWired also provide constant coverage of rising companies, events and other startup-related news.

While this phenomenon is not unique to Pakistan – we are watching startup communities sprout and thrive all over the world – there are several factors that make us hopeful about the growing ecosystem.

First, Pakistani entrepreneurs have largely led the growth of Pakistan’s ecosystem. In his book, Startup Communities, author and cofounder of TechStars Brad Feld noted that leaders of a growing startup community must be entrepreneurs who have a long-term commitment to growing the ecosystem and “must be inclusive of anyone who wants to engage with the community.”

For example, DotZero, one of Pakistan’s first major coworking spaces, was cofounded by four successful technology entrepreneurs based in Karachi. The Karachi Institute of Technology & Entrepreneurship (KITE), established in by a Pakistani entrepreneur, is providing an alternative and innovative learning environment to students wishing to enter the technology sphere.

Second, though security issues, corruption, and political instability have increased the perceived risk for foreign investors, it has also in turn caused Pakistanis to look inward, build indigenous networks, and replicate models that have worked in other countries for the local market.

As a result, we’ve seen an ecosystem that is being built by Pakistanis for Pakistan. Moreover, given that 2/3 of Pakistan’s 180 million people are under 30 years old, we have a young population who are hungry and determined to change the environment around them. Young Pakistanis are launching local chapters of global brands like TEDx, Startup Weekend and Startup Grind, further fostering idea generation and the dialogue around innovation.

Riaz Haq said...

Thanks to competitive packages and affordable rates, the 3G users are predicted to touch 10 million mark within next few months, ensuring swift mobile broadband internet services to subscribers.
Since launch of 3G around seven months ago by mobil phone operators, such services are receiving a healthy response as around more than five million subscribers have so far adopted them.
As per publicly available stats, there were 3.7m broadband users in Pakistan till May-2014 for all technologies combined. According to operators including Mobilink, Telenor, Zong and Ufone they have already crossed 1.5 million 3G users mark.
Sources confirmed that Telenor is standing around or over 1.7 million 3G users while Ufone, Mobilink and Zong must have added more 3G subscriptions since their respective announcements for crossing 1 million 3G users two months back.
Zong, the only operator which acquired 4G license during an auction in April this year, has also launched its 4G services from seven cities of the country. A telecom expert said Pakistan had only 3.35m broadband subscriptions before auction of 3G and 4G licenses, while if one looks at 3G uptake during first seven months month of service then there are more than five million 3G users, which is around 3.5 % of 139 million total mobile phone users in this short span of time.

The expert said historically, if one looks at track record, then Pakistanis are usually very hungry for new technologies and their adoption rate is decidedly high for new tech or for anything that’s better than what they were using earlier. This has happened before (during 2G era), and from its looks one can be certain that total subscription count for 3G users can cross 20 million in first 30 months.
The subscribers have appreciated the packages and reduced rates for 3G users but said quality of services also needs to be considered.

Riaz Haq said...

Warid Telecom has officially announced launch of its 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) services in Pakistan. The service will be initially available in six cities including Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Lahore, Gujranwala and Faisalabad from Friday (today).

The company will offer a free LTE trial to its customers for seven days following the commercial launch and charge Rs5 per MB for data transactions afterwards.

The commercial launch of Warid’s LTE services came following a month of unlimited 4G LTE trials to its postpaid customers in the abovementioned six cities.

Company’s customers have been notified regarding the conclusion of unlimited trials and tariffs for data transaction through SMS, emails as well as automated calls.

“Over the years, Warid Telecom has developed a reputation for breaking new ground in Pakistan’s mobile landscape. We have always remained at the forefront of innovation: our decision to transform directly from 2G to LTE technology is a reflection of this spirit of innovation,” Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Warid Telecom, Mr. Muneer Farooqui, said while speaking on the launch.

Ericsson, a leading hardware provider for telecommunication services, is Warid Telecom’s partner for rollout of LTE network in Pakistan.

Farooqui said Warid has earmarked US 500 million dollars for the development of infrastructure to roll out 4G LTE in the country in next five years.

“Moving forward to 2015 and beyond, we will continue to invest in premium technologies and network infrastructure to ensure service excellence to our patrons who have always held us close to their hearts,” he said.

Warid was the only mobile company which had not participated in government’s 34/4G auction, held in April, and has directly switched from 2G services to 4G-LTE technology with its available spectrum that it had purchased in 2004.

Zong, the only company to have bagged the license of 4G spectrum in the auction, had launched its 4G LTE services in seven major cities in September.

- See more at:

Riaz Haq said...

Telecom revenue up by 24.6% to Rs90b in 2014, cellular sector grows 47.4% to Rs47b in Pakistan

KARACHI: The country’s telecommunication revenue increased to Rs90 billion during fiscal year 2014, reflecting growth of 24.6 per cent, which is more than double of 11.66 per cent of FY2013.
According to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, the cellular sector covered more than half of the telecom sector’s overall revenues and reached Rs47 billion during the year under review, translating to a year-on-year growth of 47.4%.
As of June 30, 2014 data revenues account for 19.3% of the telecom sector’s overall revenue, up from 16.4% at the end of FY13 – the number for cellular segment, too, increased from 7.3% to 10.1%.
According to PTA, the data revenue trend is likely to continue in the coming years with increased use of smart phones, tablets and laptops in the consumer market and an uptake of OTT services, such as WhatsApp, Viber and Facebook messenger, which will eventually replace traditional voice communication.
Import of mobile phones showed record growth in FY14 as handsets worth $544 million were imported during the period, a 21% year-on-year increase.
Although voice traffic continued to show impressive growth (40%) in FY2014, conventional text messages – one of the main revenue streams for cellular mobile segment – struggled against the more popular social media applications.
The total number of SMS exchanged over the cellular mobile networks dropped to 301.7 billion during FY2014, down 4% compared to 315.7 billion last year, statistics showed. The average SMS per cellular subscriber per month also reduced to 180 in FY14 compared to 214 of FY13.
The telecom regulator attributed the decline in conventional text based messages to the rising influx of smart phones and use of mobile internet, OTT and social media applications that have reduced the subscribers’ dependence on traditional mode of SMS.
Though these OTT services have triggered the growth of CMOs’ data revenues, free messaging and calling services also dented the sector’s average revenue per user (ARPU), a key economic indicator to measure the average revenue that service providers generate from a singlesubscriber.
In FY14, the cellular segment’s monthly ARPU decreased to Rs199 compared to Rs211 of the last fiscal year, according to statistics compiled by PTA. The regulator, however, clarified that the ARPU was calculated based on the number of SIMs sold till that time and the actual ARPU was higher.
Quoting a GSMA’s market analysis on Pakistan, the regulator said the cellular subscribers in the country possess 2.17 SIMs on average, which translates to an actual monthly ARPU of approximately Rs432.

Riaz Haq said...

From Saudi Gazette:

OVER five IT, Telecom and Technology firms from Pakistan, who participated in the TECH Seminar organized by Pakistan Embassy’s Commercial Section in Riyadh recently, have reached agreements with several Saudi companies to cooperate in related fields in the Kingdom.

Global Control, MAS Holdings, Communication Concepts and Corporate Solutions are negotiating details of their engagements with Pakistan’s 360 Technologies, 360 Logics, Kualitatem, and 313 Evolution.

Hani Almuhammad, CEO of Global Control (a Saudi-owned company) called the seminar a superb event which had many “very good presentations” and said he was impressed with what Pakistani companies were offering as value-added services. Global Control has reached an agreement with Kualitatem and Corporate Solutions.

“I look forward to attending more such events under TECH Pakistan program,” added Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Majed, CEO of MAS Holdings whose IT subsidiary MAS-MBTS (a Saudi-owned company) also sponsored the event.

More than 100 professionals attended the technology seminar and listened to what the companies were offering in terms of knowledge-base and technology transfer.

Dr. Majed, a Saudi professional, said he was happy to connect with several participating Pakistani IT firms and looked forward to doing business with them in the Kingdom. His company is in talks with 313 Evolution Co.

Pakistan Ambassador Manzoor ul Haq said, he hoped the seminar will act as a stepping stone to arrange more fairs and seminars in the technology sector. “Definitely it will provide an opportunity to entrepreneurs from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to explore business opportunities as well. There is great scope for collaboration in various areas pertaining to services like IT, Telecom, Engineering and Health between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan,” the ambassador added.

“The Technology Seminar has succeeded in generating serious business interests and technology transfer opportunities as it managed to showcase products and services the Pakistani-owned companies were offering for a higher value-added price structure in IT/Telecom, e-governance and construction,” said Waseem Bajwa, the commercial consul at the embassy who initiated the seminar titled TECH Pakistan.

“T stands for Technology, E for education and engineering, C for communication and construction, and H for Health and Human Resources, while Pakistan meant services Pakistan has to offer in Saudi Arabia for these sectors,” Bajwa explained when asked what TECH Pakistan stood for.

Irshad Salim, whose New Jersey-based firm Irshad Salim Associates collaborated with Riyadh-based Corporate Solutions to assist the embassy initiative, said, “The technology seminar has generated meaningful and actionable business-to-business (B2B) engagements between the participants on the very first day, and we are happy to have played a small role in it.”

The CEO of Corporate Solutions Zeeshan Shahzad said, “As a member of the local IT/Telecom and GIS/Mapping industry, we have identified key areas of business interests with several Pakistan companies desiring to do business with us.”

The organizers said they now plan similar events on construction and education also.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan is the sixth largest country worldwide and has one of the highest (B2C) growth rates among the economies in South Asia. Though Internet penetration of just above 10% lags behind many of its neighbors, mobile Internet and especially 3G/4G connections are spreading fast. E-Commerce is at the early stages of development in Pakistan, and connectivity share there falls significantly behind other countries of its income group in Asia-Pacific. However, as the number of Internet users grows, with young consumers accounting for over 60% of web connected individuals, they are beginning to grasp the benefits of online shopping.

Surveys have shown that Internet users in Pakistan shop online because it gives them more variety in products and saves time. The majority of online shoppers make their purchases on local sites, while close to a third buy from both local and international sites. Despite global E-Commerce merchants Amazon and eBay not offering direct delivery to Pakistan, these websites are among the most popular in the country as consumers turn to third-party operators to organize import of their orders from these merchants. China-based Alibaba, on the contrary, takes direct advantage of the growing market in Pakistan offering swift and often free delivery to this country from its websites and Prominent local E-Commerce players include online retailers and marketplace operators such as HSN (,,, and

One of the biggest challenges that these merchants have to work with in Pakistan is the underdeveloped online payment infrastructure. Cash remains the most used and the most offered payment method in both online and offline retail, as card penetration is low and electronic payment processing has sparse local offering. Moreover, online retailers have to win over the trust of consumers, as a third of them did not shop online because they found information about products displayed to be insufficient. With these obstacles overcome, Pakistan could become one of the future hotspots of emerging B2C E-Commerce.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan is the sixth largest country worldwide and has one of the highest (B2C) growth rates among the economies in South Asia. Though Internet penetration of just above 10% lags behind many of its neighbors, mobile Internet and especially 3G/4G connections are spreading fast. E-Commerce is at the early stages of development in Pakistan, and connectivity share there falls significantly behind other countries of its income group in Asia-Pacific. However, as the number of Internet users grows, with young consumers accounting for over 60% of web connected individuals, they are beginning to grasp the benefits of online shopping.

Surveys have shown that Internet users in Pakistan shop online because it gives them more variety in products and saves time. The majority of online shoppers make their purchases on local sites, while close to a third buy from both local and international sites. Despite global E-Commerce merchants Amazon and eBay not offering direct delivery to Pakistan, these websites are among the most popular in the country as consumers turn to third-party operators to organize import of their orders from these merchants. China-based Alibaba, on the contrary, takes direct advantage of the growing market in Pakistan offering swift and often free delivery to this country from its websites and Prominent local E-Commerce players include online retailers and marketplace operators such as HSN (,,, and

One of the biggest challenges that these merchants have to work with in Pakistan is the underdeveloped online payment infrastructure. Cash remains the most used and the most offered payment method in both online and offline retail, as card penetration is low and electronic payment processing has sparse local offering. Moreover, online retailers have to win over the trust of consumers, as a third of them did not shop online because they found information about products displayed to be insufficient. With these obstacles overcome, Pakistan could become one of the future hotspots of emerging B2C E-Commerce.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s 2nd Annual Start-Up Cup competition launched

To promote and assist the local entrepreneurships across the country, the 2015 Pakistan Start-Up Cup, an intensive, nationwide business competition launched here on Saturday.

The Start-Up Cup is locally driven business model competition open to any idea. This innovative community-based approach is designed to increase the quality and quality of entrepreneurs in the community.
The US Embassy in Islamabad and the Islamabad Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) Chapter, in collaboration with the US Pakistan Women’s Council, launched the 2015 Pakistan Start-Up Cup, an intensive, nationwide business competition. Entrepreneurs selected to participate in Start-Up Cup will receive coaching through multi-day “Build-a-Business” workshops and regular mentoring to help turn their ideas into a commercial reality. Prize money of $10,000, $7,500, and $5,000 will be awarded to the winner and two runners-ups with the best Start Up concept.
At the opening ceremony, Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in Islamabad Thomas E Williams, said, “Programs like Start Up Cup foster greater inclusiveness in Pakistan’s economy, particularly for women. The entrepreneurial solutions that arise from competitions such as Start-Up Cup foster inclusiveness, grow economies, promote stability, expand the international supply chain, and spread the exchange of ideas.”
Over the course of the seven-month programe, aspiring Pakistani entrepreneurs will learn to design viable business models, develop customers, and launch their start-up business concepts in the marketplace.
This year’s programme will build on the success of last year’s Start-Up Cup, which saw over 400 entrepreneurs compete for one of the top three prizes. Last year’s winning team went on to defeat 170 other entrepreneurs to win the first-ever World Start-Up Cup competition in Yerevan, Armenia.
The 2015 Start-Up Cup in Pakistan will introduce new partnerships with entrepreneurship centres across Pakistan, including the world’s first Women’s Entrepreneurial Centre of resources, education, access, and training for Economic Empowerment (WECREATE) in Islamabad sponsored by the US Department of State in collaboration with the US Pakistan Women’s Council; the Lahore University for Management Science (LUMS) Centre for Entrepreneurship; and Karachi-based technology incubator “The Nest I/O.”
The partnerships between Start-Up Cup and these centres will ensure that newly established businesses receive sustained support and mentoring, essential tools for long-term success. Numerous US Embassy programmes assist Pakistan’s entrepreneurs by increasing their access to financial resources, supporting opportunities for entrepreneurship education, and nurturing an entrepreneurial culture.
There are four base stations for this program, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi with overall prize money of Rs22.5 million.
During the opening ceremony esteemed businessman and Islamabad TiE Board member Imtiaz Rastgar said, “StartUp Cup has only came to Pakistan two years ago and already tremendous feats have been achieved as new voices and ingenious minds have been brought to the fore. One can only imagine how much advantage this competition will bring as the years progress”.

Riaz Haq said...

Plan9 partners with FundingLab to launch Pakistan's first crowdfunding platform: Pakistanis to invest in Pak startups

Riaz Haq said...

Xiaomi smartphone in Pakistan:

The Xiaomi Mi Note is one of the hottest smartphones on the market that you can’t get in the U.S. The phone, a stiff competitor to Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy and Note lines in China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Pakistan -- basically every market but the U.S. and Europe -- has its own Android-based software ecosystem, MIUI 6, which happens to look a lot like Apple Inc.’s iOS. That’s part of its appeal: a phone that is every bit as beautiful as an iPhone, but for hundreds of dollars less.

Xiaomi had a whirlwind 2014, with a whopping 61 million handsets shipped. The smartphone maker now has Google Inc. on its toes, concerned that the distant competitor, known more for its software and services than its devices, could drive customers away from its Google Play offerings. Xiaomi has also surpassed consumer-electronics behemoth Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. as the largest mobile manufacturer in China in terms of shipments to the country, according to the International Data Corp.

Xiaomi was gracious enough to let me review its latest and greatest smartphone. So take that, Apple and Samsung: a Xiaomi phone in the U.S.

The Xiaomi Mi Note features a 5.7-inch Full HD display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chip, 3 GB of random-access memory, 16 GB and 64 GB internal storage options, a 13-megapixel rear camera, a 4-megapixel front camera and the Android 4.4.4 KitKat OS with Xiaomi’s MIUI 6 interface. The device sells for 2,299 yuan ($371), making it hundreds of dollars cheaper than a base-model iPhone.

First Impressions

The Xiaomi Mi Note is thin, light and quite compact for a phablet with a 5.7-inch display (it’s about the same width as the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus). Some aren’t enamored with the thinness of the Mi Note (less than 7 millimeters), but it’s a plus in my book. The Mi Note is nice to hold, but the all-glass exterior can be slippery. The back panel appears to be made of the same Gorilla Glass as its front display, which gives it a nice premium look. But glass back panels are prone to shattering when handsets are dropped.

Riaz Haq said...

At the start of the year, a collaboration between Habib Bank and Monet resulted in the launch of the first mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) system in the country. It allows retailers of all sizes to take payments using a mobile phone and can run on a slow GPRS connections. While it doesn’t sound ground-breaking – and it’s something commonplace in other countries, using gizmos made by companies like Square – it’s a breakthrough moment for Pakistan. Simply, it’s a card-swiping gadget that plugs into smartphones; it looks like this:

Cash is king in Pakistan. But digital alternatives are finally emerging

This could finally disrupt the cash-only culture and local payments industry. It could even chart a course that emerging and future startups can take.

Ahson Saeed, head of marketing and business development at Monet, says the aim is to change the way both consumers and retailers focus on cash payments in Pakistan. “Complete digitization is our end goal,” Saeed says. This can give retailers “a data-centric system that is absolutely free from error,” he adds.

Useful for startup services
Saeed points to the ride-sharing app Savaree and the recently-launched contractual worker startup as examples of services that would benefit from the mPOS system that his firm has launched. “It is imperative for early-stage startups to have streamlined cash flows, and by employing mPOS the threat of pilferage as well as higher insurance costs are both removed.”

For startups to scale up in Pakistan, it is imperative for a larger proportion of the population to be comfortable in using their services. This means that smaller grocery stores, tobacconists, tea stalls, vegetable retailers, and even transport and communication services all need to be brought on board with digital payments. To do this, Monet is venturing into areas which private sector banks have traditionally ignored.

The first web company to deploy this new mPOS system is Daraz, the Amazon-esque ecommerce startup run by Rocket Internet that has been operating in Pakistan since July 2012. Amyn Ghazali, head of alternative payments at Daraz, is similarly optimistic about the impact that this will have on the business. “Over 90 percent of our existing orders are done on a cash-on-delivery basis,” he reveals to Tech in Asia. “This model is inefficient and restrictive, as insurance costs burgeon for big ticket items such as electronic goods, mobile phones, and home appliances, thereby impacting our bottom line [This]. mPOS is a workaround which benefits both the end consumer and Daraz.”

It is still difficult to ascertain how quickly this would reach mass-acceptance. The positive indications are that this kind of smartphone-connected POS is low-cost technology to implement. The Monet gadget itself comes with the backing of one of Pakistan’s largest private-sector banks, and the founders are working aggressively to market it to segments that are not effectively covered by conventional POS systems. In time, this kind of phone-mounted payment system will certainly redefine how small and big businesses work and how consumers pay for things.

Riaz Haq said...

Easypaisa is a joint venture between Telenor Pakistan, and Tameer Micro Finance Bank, the first bank to get a MFS license in Pakistan.
Of Pakistan's 180 million people, only 15 million have bank accounts and associated access to financial services. The domestic remittance market is estimated at nearly USD 7 billion through formal sources and a similar amount flowing through undocumented, informal channels like Hundi and Hawala.
At Easypaisa, we set out to empower every Pakistani through our broad portfolio of financial services. From sending and receiving money through paying bills to insurance and savings options, Easypaisa allows the customer to choose whichever service best suits him.
In Pakistan transferring funds through conventional formal channels required both the sender and receiver to have bank accounts which was possible for only 15% of the population. Low bank branch penetration and a focus on urban areas and the privileged left the masses without any feasible option for their financial needs.
Easypaisa offered its services as the first of their kind to allow funds transfer in a matter of seconds, requiring only basic KYC. Starting with money transfer, additional products like bill payments, salary disbursal, international remittance, loans, and more have been added over the years.
In 2014 Easypaisa continued its trend of innovation by launching a host of new services. The Inter-bank Funds Transfer facility links Easypaisa with the banking network via a local switch, allowing M-wallets to move funds to and from any account at any of the 35 1-link enabled banks in Pakistan, also allowing OTC customers to send funds to any bank account, enabling transactions between banked and unbanked customers. ATM cards were added to the portfolio to give customers easier access to funds via ATMs. ‘Sehat Sahara’ was launched as Pakistan’s first micro health insurance product, offering health insurance at very affordable rates to a segment that has never before seen such a service. E-payments enables payments through M-wallets via NFC and through OTC as well, specifically targeted towards enabling smaller merchants and micropayments. Handset financing has also been launched and provides customers easier access to handsets with credit scoring based on GSM usage.
The Money Transfer product was initially picked up by customers who did not have access to financial services and belonged to the bottom of the pyramid in rural areas. A study carried out by CGAP and Coffey International in 2011 discovered that the majority of these customers (69%) live on less than $3.75/day, while around two-fifths (41%) of these users live on less than $2.50/day. The majority of this segment was not targeted by banks either because they were not considered economically feasible or because the banks did not have a presence in these areas. Money Transfer was aimed at providing a safe, secure and instant service with minimal KYC requirements that could document and formalize all this money flowing within the country and has since proven itself by moving approximately 1% of the country’s GDP in 2013.
Inter-bank Funds Transfer was launched to bridge the gap between banked and unbanked, enabling payments from unbanked to banked which constitute a large part of the remittance market. The health insurance product is the first of its kind for the target market, and seeks to bridge the gap in healthcare. The e-payments domain suffered from limited uptake so we implemented new technology ( NFC) to bridge the usability concerns around payments. Finally handset financing offers customers without a credit history the ability purchase better phones with a new credit scoring model based on GSM activity.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan tech on the rise

Pakistan rarely makes the news for its technological progress or contributions to the tech world at large. Sadly it is better known for its civil unrest, homegrown terrorists, and extremist violence. But the country is encouraging a growing faction of entrepreneurs in technology, and is not to be left out of the evolving tech scene. Despite an internet penetration level of under 15% as of last year according to Internet World Stats, some are looking to the country’s startup culture and its lack of legacy infrastructure to help it develop a successful technology industry.

Startup accelerator Invest2Innovate (i2i) has been supporting entrepreneurs and small business owners for a few years now; Tech in Asia reports this week that the accelerator has mentored 16 young businesses. Graduate startups from i2i have raised US$700,000 in investment so far — what seems like a paltry sum to Silicon Valley tech, but the accelerator is boosting jobs and advancing interest in tech. In December of last year, Kalsoom Lakhani, founder and CEO of i2i commented on the movement towards supporting technological innovations in Pakistan for The Next Web: “A number of Pakistan-based technology entrepreneurs – many of whom have had some exposure to well-developed ecosystems like Silicon Valley, New York or London – have been and remain deeply committed to growing this space, often participating as judges, mentors, advisors and investors to competitions, incubators/accelerators and startups.” The accelerator has plans for expanding into other countries as well.

Other startups have gained international recognition, particularly gaming-based businesses. The lack of internet penetration in Pakistan is certainly a hindrance to native tech adoption, but that has not stopped game developers from becoming popular with players and users in other countries. And tech like social gaming is important for developing tech culture as it promotes connecting with users through digital forums. Despite rampant poverty throughout Pakistan, there is growing interest in what internet connection has to offer. Figures like Mariam Adil — a woman at the forefront of Pakistan’s tech entrepreneur scene and startup culture — have become famous for promoting the country’s vested interest in gaming, social technology, and web-based development.

Yet, obvious obstacles remain. One of them being the government’s work to tightly control cyber culture within the country. In late April, the parliament examined a proposed bill entitled The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2015, which would allow the government to censor content and criminalize certain web-based activity under broad parameters. The bill would also allow the government to access data on individual users without any judicial processes. Such legislation mirrors the behavior of Pakistan’s neighbor China. Perhaps the country has been taking notes. No doubt, as startups gain ground in Pakistan, there will be an inevitable pushback against laws that strictly regulate internet use.

Riaz Haq said...

Technology is causing a paradigm shift within the real estate sector in Pakistan. Long gone are the days when people used only traditional methods to find a new property.

In Pakistan, there are now over 30 million Internet users and 15 million smartphone users. In fact, recent statistics showed a staggering growth in Internet use of over 550 percent between September 2014 and April of this year, with the total number of 3G subscribers crossing 11 million. Pakistan’s tech device market is predicted to grow by 15 percent in 2015, according to market research firm GfK.

With the increasing availability of online portals, affordable smartphones, plus 3G and 4G services in Pakistan, house hunters are searching the Internet for properties. Consequently, real estate agents and developers are having to adapt their marketing efforts to keep up with the shift online.

In my experience, those in the real estate industry are still predominantly using offline marketing methods, such as newspaper advertisements, billboards and fliers to promote their properties. However, there has been a recognizable move online as the industry begins to see the potential of this medium.

You cannot ignore the benefits of online marketing, which is already a commonplace practice in developed countries. Online marketing leaps over traditional methods in this area because it provides a clear, accurate way to monitor campaign performance.

The real strength is in the ability to target users regardless of where they are, and then analyze their behavior onsite. Emerging markets, including Pakistan, have yet to embrace these new technologies fully. But change is coming, and it is coming fast.

Many Pakistani agents and developers have already found success via this online medium. For instance, Abdul Majeed, CEO of the Property Club agency, said that using online real estate portals has been very helpful for reaching a global audience. Where previously he was only able to target the local property market, now he can secure deals with overseas Pakistanis as well.

Similarly, Wafa Umer, director of Quality Builders Limited, which has developed several residential and commercial projects in Karachi, says that using a digital platform is just as important for a builder as it is for a real estate agent.

By using the services of these websites, Quality Builders has secured a huge number of leads for its ongoing projects from both local and international investors. Moreover, they consider the response from using these property portals to be on par with that of any leading newspaper.

Now, many in the real estate sector have acknowledged the importance of online tools. According to a survey of real estate agents conducted by Lamudi in 2014, 45 percent of agents surveyed reported that the Internet is frequently used in the house-hunting process. This number is expected to accelerate over the next decade as Pakistani house hunters increasingly embrace these modern tools.

By contrast, in the U.S., 84 percent of agents polled by the National Association of Realtors said they would use social media to promote themselves. Although online property platforms are widespread in developed countries, emerging countries are not far behind — and there are significant opportunities here for tech-savvy agents, brokers and developers to be ahead of the curve.

Real estate professionals in Pakistan are gaining access to a wider number of people, both domestically and internationally, by embracing online marketing and building a positive reputation along the way. This trend is the future for our industry, and agents who do not keep pace with these trends will soon be left behind.

Riaz Haq said...

It was the Kirana shop format across India that was the most affected by this onslaught of the organized retail. Given the scale of these companies, the Kirana stores began to feel threatened for survival. But while these small shops recognized the threat posed to their business and accordingly realigned their business, the bigger retail companies made a lot of excesses during the good times. But their biggest nemesis appeared in the form of e-commerce in India. The emergence of e commerce began to rewrite the whole retail script in India. In 2009, Flipkart, now India’s biggest e-retailer, began its operations. With a modest beginning, Flipkart soon rose in the valuation game and was valued at approximately $11 billion, at the time of its last round of funding. It expects this valuation to jump to $15 billion at the time of the next round of funding. Compared to this massive valuation, all listed retail companies in India command a total value of $2.5 billion. E-commerce has seriously rocked the boat of the organized brick and mortar retail players like Future Retail, Aditya Birla Group and Reliance Retail. Realizing the growing threat to their businesses, the Aditya Birla Group, in the beginning of May, merged two of its retail formats --Pantaloons and Madura Garments. Bharti Retail has also been acquired by Future Retail. This merger will make Future Retail the No 2 retailer in India, just behind Reliance retail, which estimates to achieve a turnover of RS 18000 crore by the end of March 2016. The realignment and mergers and acquisitions within the retail space are supposed to provide scale and efficiency to these entities, so that they may be able to take on the challenges posed by the e-retailers.
Several factors have contributed to this new thinking on part of the older organized retail players in India. The long awaited FDI in multi brand retail in India has not yet fully materialized, coupled with huge debt that these companies have accumulated, the high operational costs these companies incur and most importantly, the spread of e commerce have all combined to force these companies to rethink their strategies. Online retail in India is at the cusp of a huge upward surge. Its convenience, better pricing, higher usage of debit and credit cards among consumers and the penetration of smart phones, all combine to help the ecommerce business in India grow at exponential rates for many years to come. E commerce has also been the flavour of the venture capitalists and private equity players who have invested substantial amount of money in these businesses in India in the last few years.
Not that the funding will keep coming for eternity. At some point, the Indian e-commerce players like Flipkart, Myntra, Snapdeal et al will have to pause and start thinking about profitability. Right now, they have forced the brick and mortar retailers on the defensive. The old retail businesses have realized their business models are not sustainable and feel vulnerable and threatened by the onslaught of e retailers. At present, the organized brick and retail companies account for approximately 17% of sales, the online retailers 2%, with the unorganized retail accounting for the rest. As per a recent study, by 2019, 11% of the retail sales will be contributed by the online retailers and the share of the brick and mortar retail companies will decline to 13%.

Given that the entry of global retail giants like Wall Mart, Tesco and Carrefour etc into India has been delayed, these old retail companies, most of whom expected to exit by offloading their business to these multinationals, have to survive longer and under difficult business environment. Not that the online retail companies are making any profits right now. Their complete focus right now is on customer acquisition and the easiest way of doing that has been to drop prices and give attractive discounts to the consumers.

Riaz Haq said...

Euromonitor on retailing in Pakistan:

Retailing grows as economy recovers
Retailing witnessed strong current value growth in 2014 as the economy strengthened. Despite continued energy crises and inflation, hopes of an improved situation due to steps taken by the new government significantly impacted the growth of foreign investment in the country. New entrants to retailing have created a more competitive environment, with companies investing heavily in marketing.
Traditional grocery remains significant but sees slower growth than modern
Traditional grocery retailers continue to represent the largest channel due to their widespread presence throughout the country. However, despite their dominance, their growth was inhibited by the rise of modern grocery retailing. The advent of supermarkets and hypermarkets has allowed consumers to do their shopping in bulk and with added convenience. The trend of consumers preferring a 1-stop solution for their shopping needs continues, as there was increased awareness and acceptability among the masses with regard to shopping in these outlets.
Non-grocery continues to outpace grocery sales
Despite inflation consumers continue to spend an increasing amount on non-grocery products compared with grocery products. Increasing income levels among consumers have allowed them to spend more on non-essentials. Foreign investment has also played a significant role in this growth, as retailers such as Debenhams and Next have opened their outlets in the country in order to capture this growing need among consumers. Moreover, huge marketing investment by retailers such as Gul Ahmed and Servis Shoes has spurred the growth of non-grocery retailing.
Companies spend big on mass advertising campaigns
Competition in retailing has become intense with the entry of several new players. Most marketing campaigns are observed in the non-grocery landscape. Gul Ahmed, Bata, Servis and Outfitters were some of the brands to launch marketing campaigns using TV, radio and print ads. Brands also remain active with social media marketing in order to engage with followers online.
Positive outlook for retailing
The outlook for retailing is positive as the new government has taken steps to solve the energy problem prevailing in the country. This will allow manufacturers and retailers to curb costs and shift focus in growing their business. Inflation is expected to rise moderately, but this rise is expected to be countered by rising income levels. Continued foreign investment is expected to give rise to an increased number of companies as they seek to reap the benefits of retailing growth.

m.yasir said...

I am an interested in knowing how a middle class man can start any e-commerce business to earn a reasonable living in Pakistan?

Riaz Haq said...

#Smartphone monthly sales averaging 1.5m to 2m in #Pakistan | #3G #4G Mobile Payments Today …

Direct carrier billing company Centili recently launched its service in Pakistan with the five largest mobile network operators in the country, according to a press release.

Centili will work with Mobilink, Telenor, Zong, Ufone, and Warid, which have a combined 136 million subscribers in Pakistan.

Centili cited research in the announcement suggesting that smartphone adoption in the country reached 31 percent in 2015, which means that feature phones still account for a large part of the market and play a significant role in the digital society.

Experts predict that by 2020 smartphone penetration in Pakistan will reach 51 percent based on 3G/4G expansion alone. At the moment, monthly smartphone sales are averaging 1.5 to 2 million, with 70 percent of all sales favoring Android-based devices. Centili said it believes this is opening the door for the widespread use of Android in-app payments and it believes it can help bridge the gap in digital purchases in a country where just 2.9 percent of the population owns a debit card.

Riaz Haq said...

"#Pakistan, #India among fastest growing online advertising markets," CEO, Effective Measure … via @e_measure

Richard Webb:

"It starts out slow and bubbles along – Pakistan is currently spending 1.5-2 percent of advertising spend on digital media – then within a couple of years you shoot up to 40 percent of total spending. Pakistan and India are the fastest growing online advertising markets in the world at an expected compound growth of almost 52 percent a year. The potential is massive. We’ve seen this happen in other markets before and we can, to some degree, predict how it will happen in Pakistan. Based on my experience, the adoption will happen here in a smooth fashion. The later adoption means that Pakistan won’t suffer any of the headaches of mistakes made along the way."

Riaz Haq said...

Telecom sector: #Pakistan to have 40 million #smartphones by end of 2016. #3g …

There will be 40 million smartphones in Pakistan by December 2016, according to market estimates, based on current trends in the e-commerce sector, says a major player.

According to sources in the e-commerce market, the estimate, along with the optimism surrounding it, is being driven by the recent growth of telecom sector, particularly the increase in number of mobile broadband users.

In Pakistan, third-generation (3G) and 4G mobile phone users stand at 14.6 million as of July 2015 and continue to grow, creating a huge demand for smartphones, which is the top selling category across all major e-commerce platforms.

Publicly available data shows mobile phone imports in terms of value and not in units, making it difficult to figure out category-wise imports. However, market sources say less than 20% of Pakistan’s monthly mobile phone imports comprises smartphones. This equation though is likely to change in a couple of years, they added.

More than two million users a month are looking to buy a phone online, according to Co-Founder Muneeb Maayr. To capitalise on this growing demand, major industry players from service providers (telecom operators) to mobile phone makers and an e-commerce platform have partnered with internet giant Google to promote online trade by offering exclusive discounts on mobile phone purchases just ahead of Eidul Azha.

Titled Google’s Tech Mela, the 10-day event, which goes live on September 11, is an online shopping festival which brings many new phones launched recently at discounted prices and deals from major mobile phone brands.

“With this event, Google aims to support the vibrant and growing culture of e-commerce in the country,” Maayr told The Express Tribune, adding it was an exciting platform to raise awareness and consumer adoption of e-commerce in Pakistan.

The participating companies include Samsung, Microsoft, Huawei, PTCL, Rivo, TPL Trakker, Innjoo, Infinix, Intex, Telenor and Zong which are offering products from tablets to personal tracker devices and data bundles.

“This is the first of many online shopping festivals to come to Pakistan, and smartphones are a good assortment to begin this festival with,” Maayr said, responding to a question about whether they planned to promote products other than smartphones.

According to him, Google’s regional head for Asia is in Pakistan for a week scoping out on how best to participate in the development of ecosystem for internet usage.

The country’s e-commerce market is still in its infancy and represents only 5% of conventional retail trade. However, the overall size of this fast growing segment has come close to $100 million, up by two-thirds from $60 million as of December 2014, said Chief Executive Officer Shayaan Tahir in a recent interview.

A bulk of the country’s e-commerce transactions originate from Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi, which comprise about 50% of customers, Maayr said, adding the remaining customer base is very thinly split between cities and towns nationwide.

With telecom operators rolling out 3G and 4G services in semi-urban and rural areas of the country – which usually don’t have outlets for branded products – the e-commerce market is likely to benefit a great deal.

Riaz Haq said...

Billionaires' Startup Brings Black Friday to #Pakistan's Shoppers via @business

The billionaire Samwer brothers want to help introduce Pakistan’s shoppers to a local version of Black Friday, the November sales binge that kicks off the year-end holiday retail season in the U.S.
It doesn’t matter that Black Friday is an American invention, said Bjarke Mikkelsen, co-chief executive officer of Daraz, the online retailer backed by the brothers’ incubator Rocket Internet SE. Daraz -- operating in Pakistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh -- will team with brands, wireless carriers and advertisers to offer “hundreds of deals” on Nov. 27, he said.
“It’s a shopping event that was created in the Western world,” Mikkelsen, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. investment banker, said in an interview. “It’s a way of attracting many people with great deals and big marketing.”
Daraz, a three-year-old company, is getting more funding to bankroll that effort. On Tuesday, Daraz said it raised 50 million euros ($56 million), including 20 million euros from CDC Group, a British government-owned investor trying to create jobs in Africa and South Asia. The rest came from Asia Pacific Internet Group, Rocket’s joint venture with Qatar mobile carrier Ooredoo QSC.
Daraz is taking a page from Inc. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which have demonstrated how hefty one-time discounts and exclusive merchandise can get American and Chinese bargain-hunters to spend billions of dollars. Daraz also plans its own version of Cyber Monday, the online shopping event held three days after Thanksgiving, which occurs in the U.S. on the fourth Thursday of November.
$20 Smartphones
The plans are in the making even though Pakistan currently has only about 30 million Internet users. Neighboring India has 10 times as many, according to the lobby group Internet and Mobile Association of India, yet Pakistan’s $232 billion economy is on track for its fastest pace of annual expansion since 2008.
Daraz draws 6 million visitors a month spending a combined 1 million euros on exclusive offers for Chinese-made smartphones, TVs and clothes, Mikkelsen said. It sells via websites and mobile apps and almost half its deliveries venture beyond major cities, with smartphones as cheap as $20 being a top seller.
Building buzz will be key for a company that started out as a fashion retailer before expanding its wares in November 2014. It partnered with Google Inc. to host Tech Mela, a 10-day online shopping event that preceded this month’s Islamic Eid al-Adha holiday.
There’s little point advertising online when Internet penetration is so low, Mikkelsen said. Instead, Daraz is recruiting taxi drivers and college students to become “brand ambassadors,” or a sales force paid on commission.
“By tapping into a global shopping phenomenon we will create a more powerful event than if we made up a new concept from scratch,” he said.

Riaz Haq said... #Pakistan to see chunk of $55 million investment #ecommerce …

The company also refused to share country-wise breakdown of this financial injection but added, “Pakistan is our biggest market,” and the investment split between countries would also reflect that, hinting that a sizeable chunk of the $55 million may be invested in Pakistan. estimates the current size of Pakistan’s e-commerce market to be somewhere between $55 million and $78 million.

“The e-commerce market in Pakistan is developing fast and Daraz is proud to be part of this journey,” Mikkelson said, “Internet penetration is growing fast, the transition to smartphones is overwhelming and the number of users on the Daraz shopping App is increasing exponentially.”

Starting in 2012 as an online fashion business, the home-grown tech startup later expanded its business model to a general marketplace dealing in electronics, home appliances, fashion and many other categories and became one of Pakistan’s leading e-commerce platforms. In 2014, it launched operations in Bangladesh as and Myanmar as

The company refused to disclose its revenues but added, “The business is multiple times bigger now and growing double digits on a monthly basis”.

The online shopping website is getting 6 million visitors a month and is spending over £1 million on Infinix Hot Note, a Chinese smartphone being sold on its website, according to TechJuice.

Read: E-commerce growth: Proving to be a steady breadwinner

Daraz is one of the most promising companies in APACIG’s portfolio, the company’s CEO Hanno Stegmann said in a press release. “The markets where Daraz is active are inspiring for entrepreneurs. We are looking forward to supporting Daraz in its ambition to become the number one shopping destination in Asian frontier markets.”

The company is also planning to introduce Black Friday Sales in the country to promote the culture of online shopping gain people’s trust in this segment.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan startup announces $9 million in series B financing …

Zamzama Property Group, the parent company of real estate sites Zameen and Bayut, announced today that it has secured US$9 million in a series B funding round. The startup said a total of three investors participated in the round, but only publicly disclosed Vostok New Ventures as one of them, declining to reveal details about the other two. Per Brilioth, managing director of Vostok New Ventures, will also be taking a seat on the board.

“We had a lot of offers [for the round] and had to cherry pick the investors [that participated],” Imran Ali Khan, co-founder Zameen, told Tech in Asia. “The money will be used to expand our operations and continue investing in our key markets.”

Zameen, the startup’s flagship venture, is a real estate and property listings portal focused exclusively on the Pakistani market. Founded in 2006, the portal first raised funding in 2012 when French angel investor Gilles Blanchard participated in a seed round and joined the company as its chairman. In 2014, the startup announced an undisclosed amount in series A funding from Kuala Lumpur-headquartered Frontier Digital Ventures.

Bayut, the smaller venture in the group, is a similar property listings site but focused on the United Arab Emirates market. It was founded in 2007.

According to an emailed statement, Zameen attracts two million monthly visitors and has expanded its team from 90 people at the start of 2014 to over 300 employed today. Co-founders Imran Ali Khan and Zeeshan Ali Khan have retained controlling interest in the company.

“We have been at the helm of a digital revolution in the country that has seen millions of Pakistanis come online for the first time. This is a company run by Pakistanis for Pakistanis, and it will always be,” said Zeeshan.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan, although a late entrant to the world of ecommerce, has recently recorded a massive rise in online shopping trends and other ecommerce businesses. Such exponential growth trends over the past few years – with US$30 million being spent on online purchases currently – depict a highly positive picture for the future and the size of Pakistan’s ecommerce market is expected to reach over US$600 million by 2017.

With many new online ventures springing up rapidly and existing businesses recording unprecedented growth rates, there is still a lot that needs to be done to reach the true ecommerce potential of the country and compete with other big players of the region. Several factors are responsible for drastically changing shopping trends over time and driving the growth of ecommerce in Pakistan.

One of the most important factors in the equation is the rate of internet penetration in Pakistan. Pakistan’s internet enabled population is limited to around 30 million users today. This, however, is expected to rise up to 56 million users by 2019. Pakistan’s much-awaited entry into 3G and LTE services in 2014 has increased internet accessibility and will also most likely propel the growth of online purchases. Statistics from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) reveal that the total number of third-generation (3G) mobile subscriptions have risen up to 10.3 million in 2015. The number of 4G or Long Term Evolution (LTE) subscribers also increased to over 68,000.

Over the next 5 years, 28 percent of the country’s population is estimated to have internet access. With increased access to the internet and social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, marketing trends are also rapidly changing and transforming the way opinions are now being shaped. This will not only transform shopping trends but also significantly impact several other ecommerce arenas, such as online job hunts through which has facilitated job hunts for over 1 million people, and land, property and rental transactions via, to name a few.

Even though Cash-on-Delivery (COD) payment methods continue to remain widely popular in Pakistan and account for more than 95 percent of online purchases, other promising initiatives such as branchless banking (Telenor’s Easy Paisa, Zong and Askari Bank’s Timepey, Mobilink’sMobicash etc.) and Inter Bank Fund Transfer (IBFT), are also underway.

Many banks and Telecom operators have introduced the concept of branchless banking, and the number of branchless banking agents facilitating offline payments for online purchases have recently tripled, making it much more convenient to transfer money in a secure environment.

Online merchants now have much greater access to merchant accounts that enable them to collect payments electronically via the 12 million debit cards in circulation in Pakistan. Moreover, with more and more banks now offering consumers internet banking payment facilities, a vast volume of payments are made through IBFT which enables consumers to electronically transfer funds directly from their online bank accounts to online stores.

Riaz Haq said...

13 #technology #startup incubators, accelerators and workspaces in #Pakistan via @techinasia

ttitudes towards entrepreneurship have changed drastically in Pakistan in the past few years, partly fueled by the success of startups in the region as well as broadening access to the internet.

Just a couple of years ago, budding entrepreneurs in Pakistan would have found it difficult to gain access to mentors, business training, and investors due to the lack of interest in encouraging disruptive startups. Now, however, the landscape has changed and startup founders have a choice when determining which incubator to reach out to.

In no particular order, here are some incubators and accelerators making an impact in Pakistan.

Plan9, The Nest I/O, LUMS Center For Entrepreneurship, i2i, PlanX, Microsoft Innovation Center, Technology Incubation Center, DotZero, BaseCamp, Founders Institute, NSpire, Tech Incubator and WeCreate Pakistan

Riaz Haq said...

#Uber planning #Pakistan launch. Placing ads for gen manager, ops manager, employees in #Lahore …

Today, Uber’s career page points to a few interesting vacancies, which would suggest they’re set to enter Pakistan. The online taxi behemoth is looking for a “general manager”, “operations and logistics manager”, and a “marketing manager,” for Lahore, the country’s second-largest city. When, or if, it will arrive is still not 100 percent clear, but this is a promising sign.

I’ve argued before about how Pakistan’s growth trajectory seems to suggest it’s a market ripe for disruption in the online taxi hailing space. Macroeconomic conditions aren’t very different to those of India, where Uber recently announced plans to invest US$1 billion in an effort to wrest control. And this is a market generally exploding all over Asia, with three unicorns in China alone.

Pakistan, with an estimated population of 200 million, is a market largely untapped when it comes to taxi apps. There have been efforts in the past, with Rocket Internet-backed EasyTaxi as well as homegrown startups such as Savaaree, but they’ve largely failed to make enough of a dent. However, with explosive growth of high-speed internet and Uber’s demonstrated willingness to tweak its model for accepting cash payments, there seems to be no reason why a concerted effort won’t work in Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

UAE Sheikh Al-Nahyan invests $5.4 million in #Pakistan-based Mobile Payments start-up Inov8 …

A Sheikh from the UAE has invested $5.4 million in Pakistan’s fastest-growing mobile payments company, Inov8 Limited.

His Highness Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, is the sole investor in the company’s Series A round, investing $5.4 million in the company which has achieved a valuation in excess of $100 million.

“I have invested in multiple mobile payments and commerce initiatives, and I find the depth of the management, the product platform, and the vision of the founders to be the best I have come across. I look forward to being an integral part of their success story,” Al Nahayan said.

Inov8 Limited is the region’s fastest growing mobile payments company and a dominant player in Pakistan’s market. With its award winning products and services, the company is set to expand to Africa and the Middle East.

“Sheikh Al Nahayan is an avid investor in the industry and understands it quite well,” CEO and co-Founder of the company, Hasnain A Sheikh said while speaking to The Express Tribune, adding that “we are in a strong partnership with Wateen Telecom (owned by Al Nahayan) which is how the investment came about.”

“This round of funding is testament to the massive upsurge in the demand for Inov8 products and services across the region, which has been phenomenal over the last 18 months,” he said.

Meanwhile, co-founder and president, Bashir Sheikh said,”We will be utilising our funds for our growth across the Middle East and Africa region with an expectation to raise a much larger Series B round in the near future. We will be looking to grow organically and via acquisition, for businesses, products and teams.”

ommenting on the future goals of the company, Hasnain said there is one simple goal, adding that “the company aims to become the number one mobile payments company in the world by 2020.”

“Inov8 has been working to grow the mobile payments industry in Pakistan since 2004. Today we have one of the largest offerings of products and services as well as one of the biggest client portfolios in the region,” he said earlier.

With Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak being the sole investor in the company, Inov8′s headquarters have moved to the UAE, while maintaining some of its presence in the UK.

The region’s leading mobile commerce and payments provider has partnered with a leading aggregator operating in North America and the region, Monami, to offer internet payments in Pakistan. The funding received, along with the post money valuation should pave way for further investment in the country’s burgeoning technology industry.

This is the first time that leading names including Google Play Store, Apple, AppStore, iTunes and Skype, among 50 others, are being made available locally to Pakistani consumers; under this large portfolio of investments.

Riaz Haq said...

#Daraz #Pakistan Black Friday: Big discounts & fulfilling online experience with #ecommerce #EasyPaisa #mobilemoney … recently announced the launch of Black Friday, the mother of all sales around the globe, in Pakistan. Shoppers seem thrilled for what appears to be the biggest sale of the year in the country, where bargain hunters will be at the edge of their seats, starting 12 am on November 27, to grab the best deals at
There is no denying that an ecommerce revolution is taking place in Pakistan. This revolution only started a little while ago and is accelerating with blinding speed. And from where we see it, Daraz Black Friday will be an incredible demonstration for the world to witness the power of Pakistani consumption just like recently, China’s Single’s Day reflected a shift in their economy and spending habits. has been partnering with big companies in the past and for Black Friday the big names on board are PTCL, Ponds, Mediatek, InnJoo and Easypay as official payment partners, offering an additional (up to) 25% off on products to customers who pay via Easypay on Black Friday. You can be subscribed to any network provider to enjoy this discount – basically, everyone with a mobile-phone can, you’re not confined to any particular network. This discount will be on top of the (up to) 70% off on products you avail during the online sale on November 27.

While, of course, all other payment options are available for customers, from cash-on-delivery, swipe on delivery, online card payment, internet bank transfer (IBFT) and ATM; the process of paying via Easypay, to avail the additional discount of up to 25% off, is also very simple process. Once you’ve placed your order, select Easypay as your payment option and then complete the payment using VISA or MasterCard through the Easypay online portal, or by making the payment at the nearest Easypaisa retail outlets or by using your Telenor/Easypaisa mobile account.
The discounted prices will be displayed in the cart and not on the product pages. The levels of discount are bifurcated depending on the total cart value. Customers with a total cart value below PKR 15,000 can avail 20% discount on their purchase whereas customers with a total cart value above PKR 15,000 can avail 10% discounts on their purchase. The discounts are limited to products not exceeding PKR 100,000.
Those purchasing InnJoo, Infinix or Telenor phones on Daraz Black Friday will enjoy a flat 25% off on any model purchased when paying through Easypay. That’s exciting news as InnJoo will be launching three news phones Halo, Max 2 and Fire Plus besides its already available assortment on the website. Whereas Infinix will be launching Hot 2 – 1 GB version and offering a plethora of other exciting deals and freebies.

Riaz Haq said...

Payment Giant #PayPal Sees ‘Great Opportunity’ In #Pakistan … via @ValueWalk

PayPal has responded to reports that it might launch services in Pakistan. A PayPal spokesperson told ValueWalk in an email: “As a global payments company, PayPal is constantly innovating and looking for new ways to meet the needs of our customers around the world. As we look at expanding our global footprint, we see Pakistan as a market with great opportunity, but we are not able to comment on future plans.”

This week Pakistan’s Minister of IT and Telecommunication, Anusha Rehman, said they have now made steps to enable PayPal to move into the country. She noted that e-commerce has become extremely important all around the world and that it has been up to the government to make conditions in Pakistan favorable for e-commerce companies to operate in.

She said that after setting up a gateway between Pakistan’s major financial institutions and major e-commerce websites, they should start working with PayPal, Alibaba and other international companies. Thus far, officials have issued four licenses to big banks in Pakistan which allow them to run banking services without having bank branches. Also the State Bank of Pakistan is working to set up a digital payments gateway in the country.

Another major step taken by Pakistan to bring PayPal and other international e-commerce and related firms into the nation is the move onto the white list of the Financial Action Task Force. The organization fights money laundering and had previously listed Pakistan on its grey list, which meant that it did not recommend that international technology companies set up operations there.

The Financial Action Task Force has set internationally accepted anti-money laundering and counterterrorism standards for countries. This basically means that the countries which are on the task force’s white list have put in place standard protocols to battle money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities.

Now that Pakistani officials have taken these steps, they intend to invite PayPal and other major international technology companies into the country. Former PayPal parent company eBay, U.S.-based online retailer Amazon, and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba are said to be on their target list for firms they want to bring into Pakistan. Alibaba also operates its own digital payments arm, AliPay, which competes with PayPal.

Pakistan is more and more becoming a prime target for international companies. Uber revealed last month that it plans to set up operations in Pakistan as well.

Riaz Haq said...

Watch women in #Lahore fight over clothes in Black Friday-style chaos in #Pakistan #BlackFriday …

"Lahori auntees going mad"

If you enjoy the sight of normally mild-mannered people losing all reason and fighting each other for bargains during Black Friday , then the UK has let you down today.

Fear not, because over in Pakistan, a group of women have done their best to remind us all of the true spirit of end of year sales.

This 10-second clip of a fabric shop in Lahore shows women wrestling each other to the ground in a desperate bid for a bargain.

Shouting and screaming, the ladies grab what they can from the rack - and the hands of rival shoppers.

One woman even attempts a rugby tackle in order to retrieve the threads she simply cannot live without.

Read more: Black Friday 2015: How to get the best UK deals from all the major brands

The clip was reportedly filmed in a store called Sapphire, and uploaded to Twitter by@godfatheriv who wrote: "Lahori Aunties going bats*** crazy over clothes."

Riaz Haq said...

Post-#BlackFriday: In #Pakistan, #ecommerce entering a new era with big-ticket items sales to rural customers …

Not long ago, e-commerce in Pakistan was primarily related to online sales of smartphones, laptops and fashion apparel and almost all online retail sales were generated from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad – the largest urban centres constituting major markets for e-commerce even today.

Fast forward to 2015, Pakistan’s e-commerce sector held the country’s first ever ‘Black Friday’ in the last week of November. The industry noticed people buying washing machines and televisions online with orders coming from as far as Tando Allahyar. The rural town, as opposed to a daily average of one, placed 50 orders on, a major player, which had 40,000 people on its website when the deal started at midnight (the night between Thursday and Friday).

According to major market players, one-third of the total Black Friday transactions were online – a major shift in the consumer habit from cash-on-delivery (CoD), which still accounts for more than 95% of Pakistan’s e-commerce that has already surpassed the $100 million milestone. These Black Friday trends indicate e-commerce in Pakistan is certainly picking up.

According to industry experts, e-commerce follows a four-phase growth cycle from infancy to maturity in any new region. Some say China has entered the third phase while India is close to finishing the second.

However, when it comes to Pakistan, many say the country’s e-commerce is still in its infancy. But a successful Black Friday, which received an overwhelming response from consumers across Pakistan, certainly merits a question: is the country’s e-commerce entering level two?

“Absolutely, Pakistan’s ecommerce is entering the second phase,” says Saman Javed, Head of Communications and PR at Daraz, which started Black Friday sales and invested heavily in its marketing for consumer awareness.

“One-third of the payments were online, which indicates a shift in consumers’ attitude who now trust online payment system,” Javed said, adding the response was beyond the company’s expectations, which shows the demand people have here is almost similar to elsewhere in the world.

Though it didn’t disclose sales figures, Daraz said it offered Rs132 million in discounts during Black Friday sales when 1.5 million people visited its website.

Another factor indicating an overwhelming consumer response was the websites of and – which attracted almost all the traffic on November 27 – went down immediately after the sale began.

“We witnessed something we have never seen before,” Shayaan Tahir of Homeshopping said, adding there were 1,000 people on their page at a single point in time. “It will be even bigger next year.”

Homeshopping sold Rs5.6 million worth of iPhones at more than one phone per minute during the first hour of its ‘White Friday’ sale before running out of stock. The company sold 45 units iPhone 6 Plus and 25 units of iPhone 6. This is in addition to 100 units of smartwatch sold by the online retailer.

By contrast, iPhone deal on Daraz was sold out within minutes and many consumers complained over being left out. The traffic was insane and not everyone could get what they wanted, says Javed. It’s a global trend where people fight for the best deals that sell out in minutes, she added.

While smartphones remained the top-selling category on all major platforms, other sectors were also impressive. Daraz says it had record-breaking sales for fashion while home appliances brands, such as Kenwood and Dawlance were also amongst the top sellers. On the other hand, TVs were among top selling categories at Homeshopping.

Riaz Haq said...

E-commerce in Pakistan is growing fast, as the spread of 3G mobile technology has made it an attractive option for an increasing number of younger and rural consumers.

Following the recent Black Friday event, businesses have expressed confidence that the sector is no longer in its infancy and is entering a new era, as people were observed buying a wider range of goods, from more locations, than ever before.

Up until now, e-commerce in the country has tended to centre around a few categories – mobile phones, laptops, fashion – and to be focused on the major cities of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

But the industry said that on Black Friday people were buying washing machines and televisions online. And one site reported a 50-fold increase in orders from one smaller rural town.

"Absolutely, Pakistan's ecommerce is entering the second phase," Saman Javed, Head of Communications and PR at online marketplace Daraz, told the Express Tribune.

Referring to Black Friday sales, she revealed that "One-third of the payments were online, which indicates a shift in consumers' attitude who now trust online payment system". That said, cash-on-delivery remains the dominant payment method.

Growing mobile broadband penetration is seen as the major driver of this development. "Third-generation (3G) mobile internet technology is reaching remote areas and adding new internet users thus boosting our traffic," explained Shayaan Tahir, CEO of online retailer Homeshopping.

The speed of the change taking place became evident, as he indicated that eight months ago around 20% of site traffic came from mobile but that has now leapt to 50%.

More generally, the number of broadband users in the country has grown almost fivefold to 23m in the course of the past 12 months; around two-thirds of those users are aged between 18 and 34 and are shopping online.

But e-commerce is only starting to grow up in Paksitan; Tahir pointed out that "The country's overall retail market is worth $40bn but we are still 0.2% of that".

Riaz Haq said...

#ecommerce in #India: #Cow dung patties are selling like hot cakes online in India for #Hindu rituals and fuel …

Like consumers around the globe, Indians are flocking to the online marketplace in droves these days. But there's one unusual item flying off the virtual shelves: Online retailers say cow dung patties are selling like hot cakes.

The patties -- cow poop mixed with hay and dried in the sun, made mainly by women in rural areas and used to fuel fires -- have long been available in India's villages. But online retailers including Amazon and eBay are now reaching out to the country's ever-increasing urban population, feeding into the desire of older city folks to harken back to their childhood in the village.

Some retailers say they're offering discounts for large orders. Some customers are asking for gift wrapping.

"Cow dung cakes have been listed by multiple sellers on our platform since October and we have received several customer orders" since then, said Madhavi Kochar, an Amazon India spokeswoman.

The orders come mostly from cities where it would be difficult to buy dung cakes, she said.

In India, where Hindus have long worshipped cows as sacred, cow dung cakes have been used for centuries for fires, whether for heating, cooking or Hindu rituals. Across rural India, piles of drying cow dung are ubiquitous.

Radhika Agarwal of ShopClues, a major online retailer in India, said demand for the cow dung cakes spiked during the recent Diwali festival season, a time when Hindus conduct prayer ceremonies at their homes, factories and offices. On a recent day, ShopClues' website showed that the patties had sold out.

"Around Diwali, when people do a lot of pujas in their homes and workplaces, there is a lot of demand for cow dung cakes," said Agarwal, referring to rituals performed during the popular festival.

"Increasingly, in the cold weather, people are keeping themselves warm by lighting fires" at outdoor events, she said, adding that people who grew up in rural areas find the peaty smell of dung fires pleasant.

"It reminds them of the old days," she said.

Online retailers said people were also buying the dung cakes to light fires for ritual ceremonies to mark the beginning of the new year and for the winter festival known as Lohri, celebrated in northern India.

The cakes are sold in packages that contain two to eight pieces weighing 200 grams (7 ounces) each. Prices range from 100 to 400 rupees ($1.50 to $6) per package.

Dung cakes are also used as organic manure, and some sellers are marketing them for use in kitchen gardens.

Riaz Haq said...

Although such disruption has yet to come to Pakistan’s auto industry, plenty of auto related services such as classifieds, car brokerage, dealerships and sales are quickly moving online to websites such as Apni Gari, Carmudi, OLX, PakWheels, Sasti Gari and countless others.

Smartphones with internet connectivity are deployed to solve some of the inherent problems related to the conventional auto trade. For example, buying a used car from a dealer meant several visits to find the right car or sifting through hundreds of newspaper classifieds, with limited information and no pictures. With online portals, people can sift through tens of thousands of cars listed for sale across Pakistan, look at pictures and then decide which ones they want to investigate further.

Similarly, sellers faced challenges with the traditional system because they either had to leave their car at the dealer’s for a long period of time or sell it to the dealer instantly at a price lower than the market value. With online services, they can now list their cars and wait until they find a buyer willing to offer the right price.

Plenty of auto related services such as classifieds, car brokerage, dealerships and sales are quickly moving online to websites such as Apni Gari, Carmudi, OLX, PakWheels, Sasti Gari and countless others.
According to World Bank data, there are three million cars on the road in Pakistan today. This number is increasing rapidly as more than 170,000 new cars are sold every year and about 35,000 to 40,000 cars are imported every year as well. Yet these numbers pale in comparison to other developing countries, given that the car ownership per capita in Pakistan is very low.

There is already a trade of about 750,000 used cars taking place every year in Pakistan and more than 50% of this used car inventory has already come online through auto buying/selling portals. Given that trade is moving online, used car dealerships have realised the power of the internet and according to the All Pakistan Motor Dealers Association (APDMA), 4,500 dealerships in Pakistan are putting all of their inventory online on auto sites and other mediums like their own websites, social media, etc.

Not only has the car trade moved online, so has the research part, whereby people decide what to buy. Rather than relying on an auto expert, a relative or a friend, anyone can go online, find out the pros and cons of the different makes and decide what to buy. In a study conducted by Nielsen, Pakistanis spend about three weeks deciding on what their next car will be and the majority of this time is spent online thanks to the abundance of information.

Services such as car financing and maintenance have also moved online. With over 10 banks offering car financing, the internet is an excellent means for people to compare rates and terms and conditions. In terms of maintenance, services such as AutoGenie allow people to book an appointment with an experienced mechanic who will come to their home and make the necessary repairs. Similarly, Insta Lube, a service launched by Total this April, enables people to call a helpline to have their automobile’s oil changed at their home.

While all the above feels like disruption in the traditional way of doing things, in my view we are only just getting started in Pakistan and all the businesses that are disrupting today will be disrupted in turn unless they innovate. In more mature markets like the US, used car sales are even more disrupted and are almost like buying diapers on Amazon.


So imagine being driven around in driverless cars owned by Uber! Disrupt or be disrupted!

Riaz Haq said...

#Technology #Startup funding in #Pakistan up 600% in 2015: A banner year for nation's tech #entrepreneurs. …

Though start-ups in Pakistan have been on and about their tasks for several years now, it was 2015 that really put them on the venture-capital-funding map. In 2014, Pakistani start-ups managed to raise a mere $4 million, but the funding jumped to $23 million in 2015. Despite the fact many firms who secured funding chose not to disclose their numbers, the collective $23 million still represented close to 600% increase in investment.

Analysing the prevalent trends, the buzz and hype around online businesses, one can expect a bright future for Pakistan’s technology industry and international companies and investors have started noticing the advancement.


Though slowly, the idea of taking the business online is becoming an evident realisation and companies are scrambling to develop online platforms that help their businesses grow. Consumers are taking to the idea and ease of shopping online, although there remains a massive room for improvement (and hence window of opportunity) in the quality of services up on offer.

Still the country’s tech scene has its knights. Companies like, and have not only made a name for themselves for being the pioneers in their respective fields, they have also upped the antes time and again by reinvigorating their portals and providing improved facilities to their users over and over again.


Efforts of The Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) have also been quite instrumental in Pakistan’s technology industry’s growth in 2015. Apart from raising awareness regarding the uses of IT among the public and automation of the Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education and the Citizen Feedback Monitoring Program, PITB also laid strong foundations for tech-entrepreneurship by establishing Plan9, the largest technology incubator in Pakistan distinguished by its zero-equity model.

Since its inception in 2012, Plan9 has graduated 66 start-ups, created roughly 500 jobs and over $2 million in funding. Commenting on Pakistani start-ups, Founder & CEO Fadi Bishara said Pakistani start-ups were more hard-core tech than Silicon Valley start-ups.

Currently, academic institutions are also playing a supportive role in increasing awareness about online entrepreneurship. LUMS Centre of Entrepreneurship, Information Technology University and National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences are now offering courses on entrepreneurship. While these courses are merely theoretical, they provide students with the much needed confidence to pursue unexplored professions.

With Pakistan’s technology sector becoming more vibrant than ever, one can expect the current year to be bring even gladder tidings for the country’s tech-preneurs, as well as the start-ups mushrooming across the country. Here’s to another year of change and progress.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan (9% male, 2% female) Leads South Asia in #MobileMoney. #India (3% m, 1% f), #Bangladesh (3% m, 2% f) …

In 2014, an average of 3% of people in South Asia used a mobile phone to send or receive money. While there are still gaps between how often men and women use these services, Pakistan leads the region with 9% of men and 2% of women moving money on their mobiles. You can find more data on financial inclusion in the Global Findex Database

Riaz Haq said...

#Ecommerce a big success in #Pakistan- Artisans cinnecting with customers. #3G #4G #Smartphones

In the Hindu Kush mountains, craftswomen painstakingly stitch flowing scarves. They are skilled artisans who were unable to sell their products beyond the remote region until mobile Internet came to Pakistan and dropped the market into the palms of millions of previously marginalised people.

The women of northern Chitral are among the unlikely profiteers of an e-commerce boom since 3G and 4G Internet arrived in the deeply conservative Muslim country in 2014, suddenly able to market and sell traditional products without leaving their villages or in some cases even their homes.

"The online platform eliminates the middleman," says Nasrin Samad, the entrepreneur behind the artisan brand Kai, which works with women across the region. Now, Chitrali women "have access to a global audience," she says.

Kai products are sold on polly & other stories (, which launched late in 2015 to connect traditional artisans like those in Chitral with consumers hungry for "authentic" products.

"Years of working with local community and craft groups had shown us how difficult it was for local small businesses, even the most talented, to access mainstream markets or connect with buyers, both within Pakistan and abroad," founder Amneh Shaikh Farooqui told AFP.

To bridge the gap, says co-founder Ange Braid, the pair built a website to give "small, creative businesses, many of them led by women or young students, the chance to market and sell".

Opportunities like this in a country like Pakistan are "huge", says Adam Dawood, head of online marketplace

In the first quarter of 2015, smartphone shipments to the country soared by 123 per cent, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority's annual report.

Broadband subscribers have topped 26 million people, the Ministry for Information Technology said in February, with broadband penetration going from three per cent to more than 15 per cent.

The ministry cited World Bank studies showing that a 10 per cent increase in high-speed Internet connections can boost gross domestic product (GDP) by 1.38 per cent, adding the arrival of broadband in Pakistan is set to have a "very positive impact on economic growth".

Dawood echoed the report's optimism. "There are tremendous opportunities for everyone to start selling and buying instantly and earn money," he said.

Women are seeing the benefits, but e-commerce presents potentially an even greater opportunity for young people in a country where roughly two thirds of the population - of around 200 million - are estimated to be under the age of 30.

A recent economic survey by the finance ministry singled out the challenges facing youth in Pakistan, including "limited job search expertise, a mismatch between education, aspirations and employers' requirements and a lack of mobility, among other factors".

Seventeen-year-old Daniyal Admaney says he was able to defy scepticism over his youth to launch his T-shirt design business on Kaymu, however. "I... thought that I should do something productive during summer vacations when I have nothing to do except getting bored and sleeping," he says.

Kaymu, a venture of German company Rocket Internet, which builds online start-ups, has helped launch several other e-commerce companies unique to Pakistan such as consumer goods site

Riaz Haq said...

#Ecommerce booming in #Pakistan

Inside the small manufacturing unit of Sam’s Cake Factory, employees are busy baking cakes and producing other gourmet delights.

Sam’s Cake Factory has experienced huge growth since it was launched a few years ago by Sumaira Waseem, a housewife who wanted an outlet for her talents.

“We started Sam’s Cake Factory through Facebook four years ago,” explained Sumaira Waseem. “Back then, I did all the work myself. We used to make around four cakes weekly, but now we get orders for around 50 cakes per week. All our marketing is done through Facebook and our website.”

The success of this project has been achieved through e-commerce.

This trading system offers Pakistani women the opportunity to start businesses without the constraints they may have previously encountered in a conservative society.

Sheops is a marketplace website for women, founded by Nadia Patel Gangjee.

“Sheops is enabling women to sell online using technology,” she said. “And reach out to a much bigger audience. We started off with a group of five women and now we are community of over 26,000 and growing daily.”

With more and more Pakistanis now online and reaping the benefits of online shopping, the growth of
e-commerce looks set to continue and to open up more business opportunities for women living in Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s e-commerce sector set for rapid expansion

The 2014 Pakistan Startup Report insisted it was the right time to build startups and invest in entrepreneurs. Even some of the estimated 12,500 Pakistanis in Silicon Valley were returning home to float their own ventures. The report concluded, “Pakistan will grow, the only uncertainty is the speed at which it does.”
Well, one sector where rapid growth has become a certainty is e-commerce.

Yusuf Hussain, Director of the Islamabad Founder Institute, believes multiple factors are converging to create the right condition for e-commerce in Pakistan — the tech-savvy middle class now numbers around 100 million; investments in the tech sector grew an impressive 800 per cent YoY in 2015, spurred by improved security environment and an expanding tech ecosystem; and buying online is becoming easier with the emergence of mobile payment platforms like Easypaisa, Innov8, and Finja.
“Funding is critical for investment-hungry e-commerce,” Hussain tells GN Focus. “Also, there is greater focus on product and service quality and reliability, with growing competition and the emergence of ratings sites like”
Of mobile payment platforms, he says, “With growing maturity, they are poised to make inroads into the cash on delivery models and expand the pie.”

Jamil Goheer, Co-founder of Virtual Force, which provides technology platforms to startups, attributes the impressive rise of e-commerce to massive infrastructure development, GDP growth, strategic geolocation, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and technology upgrades. “Businesses are reaching out to their consumers over various digital platforms and advocating for economic activity over the Internet due to lower costs,” he says.
He says a survey they conducted recently reveals apparel and fashion are the booming sectors, with almost all major brands selling their products online. The electronics, food, beauty, footwear and furniture categories are also picking up steam online.
Game changer
Moeez Javed, founder of online fashion store Virgin Teez, says e-commerce has progressed at an “astonishing speed” and has been “profoundly impacted” by the rise of social networks in Pakistan. He estimates more than 1,000 brands are going online every month, and the pace is only picking up. “Some 73.2 per cent of the entire population now has access to mobile phones, and smartphone users recently surged to 9 million. These internet-enabled smartphones have dramatically increased the ease of internet access and made online businesses much more accessible for all.”
The introduction of 3G/4G services in 2014 was a game-changer, says Arzish Azam, founder and CEO of Just Price, taking Internet penetration from 10.9 in 2013 to 13.8 in 2014. He estimates Pakistan currently has more than 2,000 online stores.
Dr Umar Saif, Founder of Plan9, Pakistan’s largest technology incubator, agrees, highlighting the importance of younger users in urban areas.
Research by the shopping portal shows that people aged 25-34 account for the highest number of e-commerce user

Riaz Haq said...

How technology killed #Pakistan’s historic red light district of Heera Mandi in #Lahore

Pakistan’s oldest red light district was for centuries a hub of traditional erotic dancers, musicians and prostitutes - Pigalle with a Mughal twist, deep in the heart of vibrant Lahore.
But as an e-commerce boom revolutionises how Pakistanis conduct the world’s oldest profession, locals say the historic Heera Mandi district is under threat.
Balconies where beautiful women once stood are now empty, while rust eats away at the locked doors of vacant rooms. The only stubborn hold-outs are shops selling instruments that once facilitated the aperitifs of music and dance.
Men now can book a rendezvous online through escort websites or even directly with women over social media, instead of searching out streetside solicitation.
With location rendered meaningless, sex workers like Reema Kanwal - who says the business “runs in my blood” - have abandoned Heera Mandi.

The district, whose name translates as “Diamond Market”, is close to the echoing, centuries-old Badshahi Mosque.
During the Mughal era, the empire that ruled most of India and Pakistan in the 15th and 16th centuries, Heera Mandi was a centre for mujra, traditional singing and dancing performed for the elites.
The wealthy even sent their sons to the salons of tawaifs, high-class courtesans that have been likened to Japanese geishas, to study etiquette.
Later, when the British came, distinctions between courtesan or mujra dancer and prostitute were blurred.
Dance and sex became intertwined, and Heera Mandi began its long slide into sordidness - but even so, Reema remembers “glorious” days.
Reema’s mother and grandmother were also prostitutes, making her part of Heera Mandi’s generations of women who danced and pleased men in the market.
“People used to respect the prostitutes of Heera Mandi, we were called artists,” she says - but all has changed over the last decade. “Now we don’t have any honour.”
She blames the loss on a rush of girls without her family background taking up the profession who have not been taught “how to treat people” the way she has.
Diamonds in the rough
Such girls, she says, need nothing to market themselves but a mobile phone, with which they can advertise on Facebook or Locanto, some offering services over Skype for as little as 300 rupees ($3).
Dozens of escort services with online bookings claim to serve thousands of clients in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.
In a deeply conservative Muslim country where prostitution is banned and sex outside marriage is criminalised, one website says it caters to roughly 50,000 customers.
With the old traditions falling by the wayside, girls also no longer need an entourage of musicians and teachers, say the owners of the music shops that are the final remnants of old Heera Mandi.
The intricate mujra dancing that was such a foundation of the red light district required years of teaching and live musicians. Now girls learn easy but provocative dance moves via YouTube.
“They take a USB or sometimes they don’t even need that, they have songs in their cellphones, they plug a cable and play the music,” laments Soan Ali, one of the music shop owners.
Like Reema, Ali’s family has also been in Heera Mandi for generations, and he proudly recalled his father’s “hospitality” as he attempted to lure clients for his mother.