Whereas the size of online markets for goods and services was growing steadily in Nepal for the past few years, the ongoing lockdown imposed to control the coronavirus outbreak in the country has reinforced the importance of such markets. Daraz Group, a leading online shopping company of the country, in this context, has launched a new initiative called Daraz Sahayatri Programme with a view of supporting small and medium-scale entrepreneurs. Onlinekhabar has recently talked to the company’s Managing Director Lino Ahlering about the new initiative and overall impact of the lockdown on the online shopping scenario in Nepal.
Please tell us about the Daraz Sahayatri Programme in the context of Covid-19 outbreak.
The majority of Daraz sellers are small and medium-scale entrepreneurs. In Nepal, the SMEs contribute around 22% of the GDP and generate employment for around 1.7 million people. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, many SMEs have been pushed to the brink and without support to the SMEs, the economy will be hit very hard. Thus, to contribute to lessening the impact, Daraz introduced the Daraz Sahayatri Programme.
This prorgramme is introduced to support the SMEs throughout Nepal. Through this programme, we will help existing and new sellers to conduct business all over Nepal through our digital platform. We will not take any marketplace fee from the sellers for two months, provide weekly payments, and enable express signups so that the interested SMEs can set up their online businesses on Daraz in a short amount of time. We will provide them with everything they need to run a successful online store on Daraz through education, training, and support.
Where do you think this programme is relevant in the context of Nepal?
We have seen that online shopping and food delivery companies have played a vital role whereas all other markets are shut currently. Consequently, they are fully supported by the respective governments.
The SMEs are the lifeblood of an economy. We are inviting them to operate online and expand their revenue streams by being able to sell their products all over Nepal. We are not only inviting them but also providing them with all of our resources for them to be able to do business again. It is very much true as seen in other countries that the SMEs could be empowered through e-commerce, especially now. And as an online marketplace with more than 4,000 sellers across the country, we already have a very sophisticated operational infrastructure to support the sale and delivery of goods throughout the country.
What are the chances of this project turning out to be a success in the current circumstances?
Much of the work of setting up an online store and learning how to operate it can be done online. So, we are currently focused on helping interested sellers sign up for the programme and set up their online stores in a record time. We will provide all the required education and training through the Daraz University and our dedicated staff. The programme will be especially effective once the government brings measures to slowly reopen the economy, which we can see happening now. And success for us is not how many SMEs we can bring on board, but how much we can help them get back, up and running. Not only will this help them now, but also will greatly expand their business. By selling online, they can get to reach customers all over Nepal.
By the way, how is Daraz coping with the current situation in terms of its day-to-day operations?
We have completely reworked our strategy. In order to support the government lockdown, we have been focusing entirely on the delivery of grocery and basic essentials in partnership with Big Mart. Prior to the lockdown, we had already taken a lot of precautions to ensure the safety of our customers and our staff. Since the lockdown, we have enforced 100% home-office policy to ensure the safety of our staff. All our delivery riders are regularly educated on hygienic best practices and are also equipped with hand sanitiser for them as well as for our customers. We are also constantly monitoring their health, and if anyone is not feeling well, they are told to strictly take rest at home. We are following the best practices from our Alibaba headquarters, the WHO and the local authorities for operations.
Please tell us about your collaboration with Big Mart.
We were already in works of officially collaborating with Big Mart from months before. Big Mart is one of Nepal’s leading supermarket chains and it has an excellent supply chain. So, it was inevitable for us to partner with them, and it certainly helped us to be able fulfill the needs of our customers in this difficult time.
Finally, where do you see the future of e-commerce in Nepal?
This pandemic introduced many to online shopping for the first time. However, even in recent months, we have seen very strong growth rates in terms of e-commerce adoption and more and more people across the country are now aware of the convenience and benefits of online shopping. The increasing number of online shopping platforms, especially in the lockdown, underlines this development. Even the government started initiatives in this regard, and, therefore, we are very optimistic that the ecosystem will continue to strive strongly in the months and years to come.