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...

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...

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...

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...

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

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...

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.

Servant of Humanity 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...

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...

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...

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...

#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 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.

Riaz Haq said...

Growth of #ecommerce in #Pakistan with rising #Internet penetration: Over 65m #3G #4G #LTE subscriptions by 2020

Every minute, 26 Pakistanis access the internet for the first time. By 2020, more than 65 million of them will be using 3G and 4G/LTE on their phones. There will also be 163 million mobile subscribers by then – roughly 89 per cent of the population of Pakistan. Add to this mix the fact that around 60 per cent of our population is below 30 and the rising trend of start-up businesses in Pakistan – and it’s clear that Pakistan has a bright future online.

E-commerce in Pakistan has had a slow start and is still finding its legs but pushed by 3G and 4G/LTE, it is set to cross $1 billion by 2020. This may seem quite low, given that the country’s overall retail market is worth $152 billion but Pakistan’s e-commerce is not faltering. Take the example of Black Friday 2016; it was a massive success for almost every participating e-retailer in Pakistan. Adam Dawood, head of, agrees with the assessment. “There have been massive strides in e-commerce in the last two years, especially in the online retail market sector. Yayvo has exceeded its revenues of the previous year in the first five months of this financial year,” he says.

Pakistan’s explosive online growth has not gone unnoticed. This year on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Alibaba Group chairperson Jack Ma met with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to express his interest in investing in Pakistan’s e-commerce sector. Barely two months later, a delegation from Alibaba landed in Islamabad and held meetings with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and other officials. Just last week, a delegation headed by Alibaba President and Director Michael Evans met with PM Sharif.

Farees Shah, the general manager of video-on-demand service iflix, says there are very few countries in the world which have as impressive figures of internet growth as Pakistan does. “Pakistan is one of the fastest growing markets in the world and the 3G and 4G technologies are playing a significant role in that. Right now, depending on who you ask, there are roughly about 37 million mobile broadband users in Pakistan. We are adding a million 3G and 4G users every month for the last 3 years,” he shares.

Riaz Haq said...

#China's #ecommerce #tech giant #Alibaba Group set to enter #Pakistan Market; signs first MoU

Pakistan on Tuesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Alibaba Group Holdings Limited to promote Pakistan's worldwide exports by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) through e-commerce.

Alibaba Group's Executive Chairman, Jack Ma and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif witnessed the signing ceremony.

Speaking at the headquarters of the e-commerce giant, the prime minister appreciated the success and performance of the Alibaba group.

"I am glad my meeting with Jack Ma at the World Economic Forum in January has come to fruition in the shape of the MoU we have just signed," the premier said.

"My appreciation of Ma's dynamism and performance of [the Alibaba] group comes not only from its success as a e-commerce giant but more so from the focus of the group on job creation and livelihood generation," he added.

"Indeed, the Alibaba group is a business with strong humanistic dimension. These are the values that are the pivot of the policies my government has pursued with determination and commitment since taking office in 2013."

"E-commerce is a powerful tool to stimulate economic activity, effort, innovation and entrepreneurship across all sectors of the economy," the prime minister added.

"When Jack Ma shared with me his interest in establishing an e-platform in Pakistan, i instructed my office to facilitate Alibaba's initiative in every manner and in the shortest possilbe time frame," he the prime minister said, adding that the MoU had been signed within four months of when the initiative was first conceived.

The agreement between Alibaba and Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) was signed by Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir and Michael Evans, President of Alibaba Group, and Douglas Feagin, Senior Vice President of Global Business of Ant Financial, on behalf of Alibaba, during the visit of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif to the headquarters of the company.

Explore: PM Sharif, Alibaba president discuss e-commerce giant's prospects in Pakistan

Under the terms of the MoU, Alibaba, Ant Financial, and TDAP agreed to foster growth of worldwide exports of products by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Pakistan through e-commerce.

Online and offline training programs for the SMEs would also be conducted by Alibaba in a bid to assist SMEs with on-boarding on to Alibaba's platforms and optimizing exports through e-commerce.

TDAP will help identify suitable SMEs to participate in the training programs while Alibaba will be responsible for providing industry analysis to TDAP to assist them in their selection process.

In addition, Alibaba, Ant Financial and TDAP have agreed to promote the growth of financial services in Pakistan in areas such as mobile and online payment services.

The parties have also agreed to adopt cloud computing services to support the online and mobile e-commerce businesses of SMEs in Pakistan.

The Alibaba group has in recent years been aggressively courting foreign brands to set up Tmall stores to sell to China's vast and growing middle class by offering to smoothen out Chinese sales, payment and shipping processes.

Riaz Haq said...

Alibaba inks deal with Pakistan to promote exports

Pakistan today signed a deal with Chinese tech giant Alibaba to promote the export of products by small and medium enterprises through its e-commerce platform globally.

Online and offline training programmes for the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) would also be conducted by Alibaba in a bid to assist them with the company’s platforms.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Alibaba and Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) was signed by Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir and President of Alibaba Group Michael Evans and Douglas Feagin, Senior Vice President of Global Business of Ant Financial.

The development occurred during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to the company’s headquarters in China, where Mr. Sharif with Alibaba Group’s Executive Chairman Jack Ma witnessed the signing ceremony, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

Alibaba, Ant Financial and TDAP agreed to foster growth of worldwide export of products by SMEs in Pakistan through e-commerce.

TDAP will help identify suitable SMEs to participate in the training programmes while Alibaba will be responsible for providing industry analysis to TDAP to assist them in their selection process.

In addition, Alibaba, Ant Financial and TDAP have also agreed to promote the growth of financial services in Pakistan in areas such as mobile and online payment services.

The parties have agreed to adopt cloud computing services to support the online and mobile e-commerce businesses of SMEs in the country.

Riaz Haq said...

#Alibaba's online payment service #Alipay to launch in #Pakistan very soon, Anusha Rehman. #PayPal via @techjuicepk

Minister of Information and Technology Anusha Rehman has today announced that Alipay will be working in Pakistan very soon. She was speaking at the National Competition of Final Year Projects at Islamabad. The event was organized by National ICT R&D Fund.

While speaking with the winners and participants of the event at the closing ceremony, Anusha Rehman reiterated the mission of Pakistan’s Government to connect the unconnected population of Pakistan with Internet and technology. She mentioned that Prime Minister of Pakistan has recently signed a MoU with Alibaba, the ecommerce giant of China. She added that Alipay, another venture of Alibaba, for online payments will soon be available in Pakistan.

For the uninitiated, Alipay is a third-party online payment solution. The platform has the biggest share in China’s market and most of the online payments in China are processed by Alipay.

Alipay is a venture of AliBaba Group which means that the recent collaboration between Government and AliBaba will finally pave the way for an online payment platform in Pakistan.

An online payment solution will mean huge growth and transactions influx in the ecommerce industry of Pakistan. Previously, Anusha Rehman has been quoted as saying that the government is working hard to bring Paypal and Amazon to the country but nothing could materialize on that end.

With the ever growing friendship between Pakistan and China, it seems that if not Paypal, Alipay will be available in the country very soon.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan to launch state-of-the-art E-payment gateway. #PayPal #AliPay #ecommerce

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar announced on Friday that Pakistan would open international electronic payment gateways ahead of the likely arrival of PayPal and Alipay in the country.

While presenting the budget for 2017-18 in the National Assembly, the finance minister said the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) was developing a state-of-the-art e-gateway at a cost of Rs200 million.

“The system will facilitate transactions through mobile banking,” he said. “The Rs200-million investment is being undertaken by the SBP.”

Even though PayPal is a world-renowned international e-payment system, Alipay is not as common across the globe. However, recently, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif developed an understanding with Alibaba Group Founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma, who also owns Alipay, to open its office in Pakistan. Alipay will enable Chinese and Pakistani traders to make easy e-payments between the two countries.

Meanwhile, information and communications technology expert Parvez Iftikhar said the establishment of the e-gateway system at the highest regulatory level – the SBP – was an effort towards replacing the existing manual trade payment system by opening Letters of Credit.

Digital Pakistan

The finance minister said the telecommunication sector was one of the important pillars of the country’s economic development. Hence, in order to further incentivise the sector, customs duties at the rates of 11% and 16% were being withdrawn and a uniform rate of 9% regulatory duty was being levied on telecom equipment in the coming fiscal year.

Additionally, Dar said start-up software houses would be exempted from income tax for the first three years. Similarly, exports of information technology (IT) services from Islamabad and other federal territories will be exempted from sales tax.

Mobile phone industry – another important element in the IT sector – received a further relief as withholding income tax on mobile calls was reduced from 14% to 12.5% and federal excise duty was reduced from 18.5% to 17%.

“We hope that provincial governments will also reduce the rate of sales tax on mobile industry,” he said. “In order to encourage the use of smartphones, the customs duty will be reduced from Rs1,000 to Rs650.”

Iftikhar commended the incentives and tax relief for the IT sector, which were meant to enable industrial players to invest more in the sector. “Digitalising Pakistan is the way forward. This is how we will cope with the developed countries,” he said.

Nevertheless, he added more could have been done to achieve a faster growth in the sector. “Reduction of withholding tax on phone calls and duty on smartphones is an encouraging development. However, calls and phones should have been made tax-free in the larger interest of digitalising the economy.”

Branchless banking

Dar announced exemption from withholding tax on cash withdrawals by branchless banking agents.

The move has been undertaken to realise the government’s dream of providing 50% adult population of Pakistan access to banks under its Financial Inclusion Strategy 2020. At present, 25% adult population has access to formal banking channels.

E-commerce and IT need to watch out for the budget

Iftikhar said the exemption from withholding tax on cash withdrawals under branchless banking would enable the government to document the economy, which would be one of the great efforts towards minimising the size of undocumented economy.

“Progress in almost every sector of the economy – like banking, agriculture, education, health and governance – is now linked with adoption of telecommunication,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jazz Director Communications Anjum Rahman said the government was supporting the agenda of ‘Digital Pakistan’, which was in line with the company’s vision and aspirations.

Riaz Haq said...

SimSim, Pakistan’s first free mobile wallet, gets SBP approval

LAHORE – Pakistan’s first free mobile wallet, SimSim, has received regulatory approval from the State Bank of Pakistan.

The approval was granted, earlier this month, under the Branchless Banking Regulation framework formulated by SBP.

SimSim is collaboration between FINCA Microfinance Bank Limited and FINJA Pvt. Limited. This is the first time a bank and a fintech, acting as the super-agent of the bank, have partnered to create a digital financial product.

“SimSim’s pioneering instant mobile account will go a long way in boosting financial inclusion in the country and digitising the economy,” stated Mudassar Aqil, CEO of FINCA Microfinance Bank Limited.

Discussing future plans for SimSim, Qasif Shahid, CEO of FINJA, said that SimSim is not simply a product or an app, rather it is a movement to free digital commerce in Pakistan.

Monis Rahman, tech veteran and co-founder of FINJA, added that the ease of becoming part of the SimSim network positions it as a platform, which users can spread and grow without any friction.

SimSim successfully completed a beta pilot prior to the formal approval from SBP, and recorded PKR 600 Million in transactions, 30,000 in self-registered mobile wallet accounts and a retail network of 500 participating merchants.

The mobile wallet is a highly innovative, automated process which relies on NADRA integration and machine learning. Anyone with a valid CNIC can create a SimSim branchless bank account, in under one minute, using their internet-enabled mobile phones.

SimSim is connected to other banks through 1-Link for instant transfers, while ATM cards are available for cash withdrawals. Payments through SimSim are free for the receiving and sending users with their mobile numbers acting as bank account numbers.

To be a part of the SimSim network, all anyone has to do is download the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store and set up their wallet.

FINCA Microfinance Bank

FINCA, one of the fastest growing microfinance bank with a global presence in 21 countries and a network of 105 branches in 94 cities across Pakistan. It is the pioneer microfinance bank in Pakistan which truly introduced the first complete digital mobile wallet – SIMSIM.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan-based apparel #fashion label Sana Safinaz's #cloud-based e-tail solution featured in Magento case study …

For Sana Safinaz, Pakistan’s leading fashion brand, March is the start of the summer season, and the fashion industry’s hectic ‘lawn season.’ ­According to the Hindustan Times: “Lawn is the name Pakistanis use to refer to the brightly colored cotton fabric sold in stitched and unstitched form in a myriad of hues, to an eager set of buyers who will sometimes go to great lengths to get their favourite suit pieces.” During this peak season, shopping malls are overwhelmed with customers. “Compared to normal trading days at our brick and mortar stores, the footfall during collection launches increases 600 percent,” reveals Sana Safinaz’s Haris Ahmed, their Head of Retail Business. You can only imagine the impact of traffic on the brand’s website.
“Our website goes crazy,” says Moeed Ahmed of the Sana Safinaz Digital Business team. “Brand collection launches during the lawn season are met with an abnormal spike in traffic,” adds Tariq Siddiqui, the brand’s Manager of Digital Business. “Across the whole industry it’s rare to find a site that has the infrastructure to successfully handle a surge without affecting customer experience.” Adding to their traffic is the company’s regular investment in highly-optimized Google search/adwords campaigns, that generates almost 35 percent of their total traffic. With the spotlight on Sana Safinaz this summer season, and the eCommerce business becoming a high percentage of the company’s total inventory, their site had to perform. Oh, and they only had a month before launch. Naturally, they chose Magento Commerce.

Sana Safinaz got to work straight away with their local development partner, Webwork Solution (Pvt.) Ltd. They chose Magento Commerce (formerly Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition), so they would never have to worry about servers and traffic spikes again. They also wanted to beat their competition by capitalizing on the rich core functionalities of Magento Commerce, and its highly effective marketing/segmentation modules. The team broke the project into two phases: Phase one included the “must have” features like order fulfillment and integration with their Point of Sale system. Phase two focused on additional capabilities like social media extensions to generate additional sales through social platforms, along with other site feature deployments.
With Magento, the Sana Safinaz team spent their time improving site structure and user experience, rather than panicking about IT and site crashes. With a cloud solution built on AWS, they knew their new Magento Commerce site could handle the crazy traffic that was about to hit.

The moment of truth arrived on March 3, 2017. Across Pakistan, the lawn season had begun, and millions of Pakistani women were hustling to buy their ultimate summer outfit. The Sana Safinaz site went live, and on the first day it processed more than 5,000 orders. Before Magento Commerce, the most orders ever processed on a single day was 1,000. As page views increased by 87 percent, their customers were raving on social media: “We were able to place orders so smoothly,” wrote one customer, “Never had this with other brands.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Alibaba Mulls Buying #Daraz, Rocket Internet's #Pakistan #ecommerce Unit after buying stake in #Telenor finance unit - #Alipay #payments Bloomberg

Group entered Pakistan last week with microfinance bank stake
Nation’s e-commerce, retail stores growing: Euromonitor
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is considering acquiring Rocket Internet’s online retail unit in Pakistan to help China’s biggest e-commerce company expand its reach in the South Asian, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

The companies are negotiating a price for Rocket’s retail unit Daraz, according to the person, who asked not to be identified since the discussions are private. The deliberations are an early state and no decisions have been made, the person said. Alibaba’s spokesman declined to comment, while Daraz didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The development comes after Alibaba’s Ant Financial decided to purchase a 45 percent stake in Telenor Microfinance Bank, a subsidiary of Telenor Group, for $184.5 million last week to further develop mobile payment and digital financial services in the nation of more than 200 million people. Elsewhere in Asia, Alibaba is gearing up for an intense battle in Singapore, where Inc. has started operations and Sea Ltd.’s Shopee is expanding to win consumers.

Pakistan’s burgeoning youth has turned the nation into the world’s fastest growing retail market with stores and e-commerce both growing together, bucking the trend in many developing nations. Pakistan’s market may expand 8.2 percent a year through 2016-2021 as disposable income rises, according to research group Euromonitor International.

Pakistan has 30 million active Internet users, and brands are redoubling their attention to e-commerce, Daraz said in a statement last month. Alibaba’s interest in Pakistan comes on the back of Beijing’s financing of about $60 billion in infrastructure projects across the country as part of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road trade initiative.


The accessibility of the internet to the growing number of young and urban consumers resulted in an internet retailing boom. The rapid growth in mobile internet usage and increased awareness of internet retailing encouraged multiple internet retailers to enter, which resulted in a sizeable increase in e-commerce.

Jade-E-Services Pakistan Pvt Ltd ( led non-store retailing channel with 13% of value sales in 2016. The first ever online Black Friday Sale SAS by in November 2015 was a major success with record-breaking sales. also established successful partnerships with some renowned international brands and earned exclusive distribution rights. All this, along with impactful marketing campaigns, huge product assortments and good customer service resulted in massive growth for

A fast-growing young population and a rise in the number of middle class consumers coupled with high penetration of low-cost smartphones from China and rapid growth in broadband and mobile internet use will be the main driving forces of non-store retailing in the long term. The increasing confidence of consumers in online shopping will continue the rapid transformation of consumer buying habits which, along with easy access to the internet, will continue to grow non-store retailing in Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Alibaba moves to attract Pakistani exporters towards B2B portal

Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba Group geared up efforts to get Pakistan’s exporters listed on its multination business-to-business electronic portal, the company’s senior executive said on Monday, after the firm expressed its intention to acquire a Norwegian telco’s financial subsidiary in the country.'s Country Manager Jason Jia said the group has launched Pakistan pavilion on the website to showcase indigenous product listings following the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan and Alibaba Group signed a pact to improve the country’s ecommerce and boost exporters’ business last year.

“We want to work together to introduce Pakistani products to the world markets,” Jia said, addressing a roadshow for Karachi-based businessmen who constitute a negligible portion of the platform’s registered suppliers.

Currently, there are 3,000 paid members and most of them are based in Sialkot, Lahore and Faisalabad, while textile, leather, surgical instruments and sports goods sectors are the top categories. Even before the launch of Pakistan’s page, Alibaba has been attracting local buyers and suppliers. Overall, it has around 250,000 registered members from Pakistan. The site charges up to $1,500 annually from featured suppliers. Alibaba also signed up five local partners, including NJ Dynamic Solutions, EB Excels, NextBridge, Alpharex International and Trademor to provide sales and service support to member companies.

“We are looking for more from Karachi, especially apparel and garments sector,” Jia said, referring to more than three million small and medium businesses in the country.

Multilingual is the world’s leading business-to-business portal operating in 190 countries. It has two million online shops and 260 million plus buyers from across the world.

Mohammad Zia, a rock salt trader posed trust on the site’s capacity to generate orders for his start-up. “I have generated a good number of orders,” Zia said, declining to share the numbers, but added that his company grew to 10-worker payrolls from four in the past two years.

Zia said payment from foreign buyers gives him jittery and “so, if Alipay comes in there will be a much relief”. “Currently, we receive payment from banking channels, and Alibaba’s involvement in payment too will make all the things integrated,” he added.

Ant Financial Services Group, an affiliate of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, agreed to acquire 45 percent stake worth around Rs20 billion in a subsidiary of Norwegian Telenor to broaden access to financial services through digital payment solutions in Pakistan. Completion of the transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals. Ant’s technology Alipay, the world’s largest digital payment platform, would bring mobile payment and inclusive financial services to individuals as well as small and micro businesses in Pakistan where 90 percent of online orders of around Rs10 billion are fulfilled using cash-on-delivery.

Riaz Haq said...

#Alibaba's entry in #Pakistan hailed as boost for #DigitalEconomy. Experts predict #Islamabad likely to lower high taxes after #Chinese e-retailer's investment. #ecommerce #fintech #Daraz #AliPay #Telenor #Telecom #payments

KARACHI -- Alibaba Group Holding's recent purchase of a Pakistan-based online retailer has positioned the Chinese technology conglomerate to make inroads in e-commerce across South Asia, but the acquisition has raised expectations of robust growth in an industry that many experts say performs well below its potential.

Gaps such as the absence of a global online payments system can now be filled through Alibaba's Alipay service, said Shuja Rizvi, a Karachi based senior stock market analyst at Al-Hoqani Securities. "With the entry of a major player like Alibaba, Pakistan's policies will be molded to face global competition and our environment will hopefully improve," Rizvi said in an interview with the Nikkei Asian Review, citing one of the most commonly discussed benefits of Alibaba's arrival in the country.

Alibaba announced earlier this month a deal to buy Daraz Group, a Pakistani digital marketplace company, for an undisclosed amount. Since it was founded in 2012, Daraz has steadily expanded its services to Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, say analysts who regularly track the e-commerce sector.

The acquisition comes as Pakistan prepares to receive more than $60 billion in Chinese investment under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor -- a cornerstone of Chinese President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative. Alibaba's arrival in Pakistan also has been preceded by significant growth in cellular phone services and high-speed internet across the country in recent years, analysts say.

According to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, or PTA, the official regulator of the telecom sector, more than 73% of Pakistan's population, or roughly 149 million people, have cellular phone subscriptions. Especially important for the growth of digital businesses is the estimate of 56 million people, or more than 27% of the population, who subscribe to broadband services -- a key figure indicating the number of internet users, many of whom will be potential future online customers.

"Today, the number of internet users in Pakistan are more than the entire population of many countries around the world," a senior official with the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication in Islamabad who requested anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to journalists, told Nikkei. "For investors like Alibaba, there is fertile ground for a strong future expansion."

Other PTA officials said that online retail businesses in Pakistan have much room to grow as they have an advantage over traditional retail outlets that have to invest heavily in commercial real estate to sell their products to consumers.

"In the most prized commercial markets of Pakistan -- in big cities like Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad -- rents have more than doubled for the top-end premises just in the last 10 years," said the Ministry of Information Technology official. "And the overhead costs -- especially rents -- continue to rise."

Barkan Saeed, chairman of the Pakistan Software Houses Association, the main representative body of the country's software industry, welcomed Alibaba's purchase of Daraz and entry into the country "as a major milestone" for Pakistan's e-commerce sector. Saeed said that while the government estimates the annual value of e-commerce transactions in Pakistan at approximately $600million, the actual figure could be five times that amount.

Riaz Haq said...

VEON announces a partnership between JazzCash and #Mastercard for #digital #payments, #SupplyChain & cashless operations in #Pakistan. Over 7 million customers and merchants use JazzCash every month. It's the leading digital #wallet in Pakistan.

In a first for Pakistan, merchants and consumers who sign up for JazzCash wallet will be able to benefit from a wide range of Mastercard’s digital solutions and capabilities to pay for orders and services via all digital channels as well as make online payments in a fast, safe and convenient manner.

VEON’s co-CEO Sergi Herrero commented: “The COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting the need for digital payments, more than ever before. This partnership with Mastercard will allow our more than seven million customers and merchants to carry out their essential transactions in a safe and efficient way. In the future, with a young and fast-growing population of more than 200 million, there is clearly scope in Pakistan for JazzCash to accelerate its recent growth while improving financial inclusion.”

Amnah Ajmal, Executive Vice President, Market Development, Middle East and Africa - Mastercard, said: “With a large percentage of Pakistan’s population still unable to access formal financial services, this partnership serves to drive financial inclusion in the country and will provide customers with a much simpler, faster and more secure way of making payments. It will further equip them with the necessary tools to benefit from a newer and revamped digital economy. As a global leader in the payments technology sector, we are committed to helping Pakistan unlock the economic opportunities offered by digital payments.”

JazzCash customers will also have access to Mastercard’s virtual and branded debit cards that can be used in 55,000 points of sale and ATMs in Pakistan, in addition to JazzCash merchants and e-commerce sites.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan registers 38 #exporters with #Amazon. #Covid19 #pandemic has increased the importance of #ecommerce manifold, making it an extremely vital sector of the #economy. State Bank of Pakistan now has regulatory framework for online cross-border trade.

Pakistan is in the process of registering the country’s goods sellers with US e-commerce giant Amazon and has sent a list of 38 exporters for registration.

The initial list of 38 exporters comprises surgical and sports goods, and home textile sectors and the list will be expanded to other sectors in the near future, after successful trial of the shortlisted companies, announced Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood while chairing second meeting of the National e-Commerce Council on Thursday.

A video message of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) director general, who appreciated Pakistan’s e-commerce policy as a step in the right direction, was also shared with meeting participants. The adviser spoke about the progress made in the recent past on the e-commerce policy, since its approval on October 1, 2019. He appreciated coordinated efforts of public and private sectors for effective implementation of the policy.
Dawood emphasised that the trend of e-commerce had accelerated in recent years with the development and easy accessibility of internet. He added that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of e-commerce had increased manifold, making it an extremely vital sector of the economy.
He underscored the importance of directing resources towards digital adoption and connecting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with e-platforms across the globe while exploring new market access opportunities for them.

Sharing progress, a State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) official said the regulatory framework for the facilitation of cross-border B2C (e-commerce) had been developed, which would be adopted after integration with the e-commerce module to be developed by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) in the Web-based One Customs (WeBOC) system. Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa revenue authorities apprised meeting participants of the incentives being announced for the digital and e-commerce sector in provincial budgets to support it during these challenging circumstances.

Representatives of the Consumer Protection Councils of Punjab and Lahore and of the Consumer Rights Commission of Pakistan informed meeting participants that, in line with the e-commerce policy, the federal and provincial consumer laws were being amended to include e-commerce and the disputes arising from the sector.

They added that webinars were being planned to educate the academia and train judicial officers in consumer protection. Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) revealed that several new initiatives were being planned to promote e-commerce, including a separate sector classification for e-commerce.

So far, 152 businesses have registered on its portal, which has reduced the time required for company registration to four hours.

Speaking on the occasion, the commerce secretary said the Ministry of Commerce was continuously engaged with Pakistan’s foreign trade missions for promoting trade and exploring new markets for exporters. In this regard, a new development is the registration of Pakistani sellers with Amazon.

Riaz Haq said...

Founded by 3 #Pakistanis (Talha Ansari, Muhammad Nowkhaiz & Wahaj Ahmed), Retailo raises $2.3 million pre-seed for its B2B #ecommerce marketplace in Saudi & Pakistan to help 10 million SMEs retailers in #MiddleEast, North #Africa & #Pakistan via @MENAbytes

Talha Ansari, Muhammad Nowkhaiz, and Wahaj Ahmed; who previously worked with Careem, Rocket Internet, Daraz, and McKinsey, Retailo wants to empower over 10 million SMEs in the retail sector of the Middle East, North Africa & Pakistan with the use of technology and real-time data. Its marketplace enables will enable the retailer to procure inventory for their stores.

Retailo is starting with small grocery stores in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan which it says is a $100 billion opportunity. It had apparently launched in Pakistan’s largest city Karachi a few months ago and has recently launched in Riyadh too. The startup said that it will focus on Saudi as its home market.

“Retailo’s technology and operations combine to deliver a strong value proposition to retailers, manufacturers, distributors, and wholesalers. It is focused on offering SMEs competitive pricing; a one-stop-shop to discover products and the ability to order whatever they need, whenever they need,” said the startup in a statement.

The biggest highlight of the startup is its team. Talha Ansari, according to the statement was the youngest CEO at Foodpanda (Pakistan), at the age of 25. He later worked with Careem as Senior Director Operations helping the company scale its last-mile delivery business in Saudi. Mohammad Nowkhaiz, prior to founding Retailo was Head of Strategy at Careem and spearheaded company’s super app strategy post-Uber acquisition. Wahaj Ahmed is a former McKinsey consultant who was the youngest Careem GM at 25 and grew company’s business in Karachi by 10x in eight months, claims the statement.

The three founders commenting on the occasion, said, “We strongly believe in creating impact in the lives of people by giving them opportunities to improve their earning potential. The MENAP region has a significant opportunity to increase its economic prosperity by unlocking the productivity delta that exists between the region and global benchmarks. MENAP is home to 700 million individuals & 10 million SMEs; and its unorganized retail sector presents the perfect opportunity to increase the efficiency of supply chain by utilizing technology and real-time data.”

Interestingly, their competition in both Saudi and Pakistan includes startups founded by Careem alumni. Sary, the leading Saudi player in the space is co-founded and led by Mohammed Aldossary, a former Careem general manager. It closed a $6.6 million Series A earlier this year. Bazaar, the Pakistani B2B ecommerce platform that raised $1.3 million pre-seed earlier this year is co-founded by Saad Jangda, who was one of the founding members of Careem Now. Dastgyr, another Pakistani startup going after the same market also has Careem alumni as its co-founders.

Shane Shin, the Founding Partner of Shorooq Partners thinks that Retailo is led by exceptional founders, “Seed stage investing is all about backing the right people. We have looked at this space deeply and are proud to invest in the dream team behind Retailo who we believe can successfully build a strong, regional and international business.”

Khailee Ng, Managing Partner, 500 Durian, said, “While they operate one of the fastest-scaling business models in the world, their success means millions of SMEs and rural populations are more productive and have more stability and food security. Technology can
impact the next billion, and we’re already seeing it here with what Retailo had been doing.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Unilever’s #Pakistan #Delivery Service Partner blueEX Plans #IPO on #KSE to Expand Network. #Karachi-based courier service plans to sell new shares equal to 25% of the company within the next two months. #ecommerce #economy #tech

Universal Network System Ltd., a Pakistan courier service that counts the local units of Unilever Plc and Nestle SA as clients, is planning an initial public offering to expand its network and bolster its technology backbone.

The Karachi-based company, which operates the blueEX courier service, plans to sell new shares equal to 25% of the company within the next two months, said Chief Executive Officer Imran Baxamoosa. He didn’t disclose financial details.

The initial share sale will make it the first logistics company to list in Pakistan and lure investors to a business that’s crucial for the nation’s booming e-commerce industry, according to Topline Securities Pakistan Ltd., financial adviser for the IPO.

“There is some crazy exponential growth that is being foreseen right now,” Baxamoosa said in a phone interview. “We have grown organically so far but now it’s about time that we get aggressive.”

The courier company that started by handling cargo in 2005 entered the e-commerce business six years later by going door-to-door and convincing companies to start online sales. It even made websites, back-end software and set up a call center for its clients.

It now has about 1,000 employees and over 350 vehicles. The company will use the proceeds to boost its network fourfold. It will also add servers and other IT equipment.

The nation’s e-commerce industry is in its infancy but is growing rapidly as internet and smartphone penetration jump, according to Ruchir Desai, fund manager at Hong Kong-based Asia Frontier Capital Ltd. The pandemic could be a big trigger for the market, he said.

The company handled 2.1 million shipments and 4.5 billion rupees in cash deliveries in the year ended June. It has grown annually by about 70% on average since 2012. The company forecasts revenue will rise more than three times to 4.3 billion rupees in fiscal 2023, according to Baxamoosa.

Riaz Haq said...

#US-based retail giant #Amazon adds #Pakistan to the Approved Selling Countries List. #Pakistani sellers and #exporters will be able to use world's largest #ecommerce platform. It will energize ecommerce in Pakistan and boost the country's #exports.

Sellers get excited! Buyers, don’t warm your credit cards up just yet!

Pakistan has finally bagged a position in the Amazon approved selling countries. Accounts can be made using Pakistani details.

Standing ovation to the efforts of the people behind this incredible achievement, Aisha Moriani (Joint Secretary, Ministry of Commerce), Omer Gajial (Ex Amazon Category Development Head for Amazon North America division), and Shoaib Sarwar (deputy Consul General, Consulate General Pakistan, Los Angeles) along with the team members of NECC (National Ecommerce Council) and Badar Khushnood from Pakistan Software Houses Association, just to name a few.

They have been working day and night in getting Pakistan added in Amazon’s approved sellers list, and their hard work has paid off!

This milestone will drastically change the game and result in a new era of economic growth as more sellers will visit the platform than ever before.

Previously, Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood emphasised that the trend of e-commerce had accelerated in recent years with the development and easy accessibility of internet. He added that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of e-commerce had increased manifold, making it an extremely vital sector of the economy.

Now that Pakistan has been added to the approved sellers list of Amazon, one can only pray and hope for this to  steer in the positive direction for the development of the country!