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E-Commerce: The New Frontier

Kathmandu, May 30, 2016: We are witnessing a momentous change in how Nepali products are being bought and sold. Today, everything, from a Corsican sorbet to Bhaktapuri Ju Ju Dhau, from an Espresso machine to a Fitzgerald classic, is just a quick click away. All you need is desire, the rupees, and a smartphone. A scroll and a click, and you are the proud owner of whatever you desire. It is that simple.

With the advent of e-commerce, e-tailing and home delivery in Nepal, online shopping has proliferated at an incredible pace; so much so that it has already started to transition from websites to mobile applications–a huge leap for a budding industry. Now, with the Nepal Rastra Bank mulling over the regulation of e-payments, the issued directives are sure to further boost consumer confidence regarding online transactions. These are indeed heady days for Nepal’s online businesses.

One among the many mushrooming e-tailers, Kaymu Nepal, a subsidiary of the Asian online market giant Asia Pacific Internet Group (APACIG), began catering to Nepali shoppers and traders as an online marketplace in 2014. After successful implementation of the eBay business model in Nepal, Kaymu has taken a step further into increasing market capitalisation. After the launch of its mobile app Kaymu in 2015, it became the first web portal to make e-shopping more convenient than it already was. The mobile application Kaymu is available across all android, iOS and blackberry platforms.

Rajeev Amatya, Managing Director at Kaymu Nepal, says that the company is aspiring to change the market dynamic by motivating the largely offline Nepali consumers to go online and shop till satisfied.
“Kaymu works as a market maker and has seen little competition from other trending platforms. The stats are impressive and on the rise,” Amatya said, “Our app has been installed by more than 30,000 active users; it has 230,000 page fans, and the traffic of online shopping enthusiasts and visitors is growing by 20 percent every month.”

“I really liked this approach from Kaymu; it makes things simpler for a busy-bee like me,” Melina Maharjan of Kupondole, a regular user of the app, says, “The app is easy to navigate and after I place my order, they deliver the product quickly and also, the product is always the same quality that has been advertised on the web.”

Likewise, Foodmandu, a food-delivery-service-provider, with more than 100 restaurant menus on its shopping list, serves more than 83 locations inside Ringroad in Kathmandu.

It has recently launched a mobile application in line with its growth strategy.

“We have been experiencing a growth in the number of users by nearly 100 percent each year,” Chief Executive Officer at Foodmandu, Manohar Adhikari, says, “The recent launch of our mobile app is a move aimed at increasing our market presence and to providing consumers hassle-free services in line with the growing demand.”

Adhikari admits that the e-commerce market is undergoing a transition and will gain momentum in a few years, if issues pertaining to e-payment complexities and web facilities are effectively addressed. Likewise, NET TV, Nepal’s first IP TV platform under NITV Streamz Pvt Ltd, provides online TV and movie streaming services. The application features live television, movies, TV shows, YouTube Plus and online games.

E-commerce experts and IT consultants are on the same page when it comes to the future of shopping. “Growth of online marketplaces and e-service providers is largely because the population of tech-savvy youngsters is growing and there has been a reduction in information asymmetry (a knowledge-divide) among buyers and sellers,” Prajwal Shrestha, an Information Technology Consultant, said, “These platforms will gain more popularity after issues pertaining to web access, payment gateways and user awareness are resolved.”

The growth of the market has been hindered largely by the lack of web awareness and connectivity and payment issues; out of a 100 people, only 15.4 use the internet in Nepal. Research suggest that 85 percent of Nepali e-shoppers prefer cash on delivery and 10 percent use digital payment gateways like eSewa, iPay, Payway among others, while others opt for credit cards and wire transfers.

On the other hand, with the planned launch of high-speed data technology like 4G, formulation of regulatory framework by the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) and increasing online presence of businesses and customers, total transaction volume of online gateways is set to soar significantly in the next few years.

“Sixty-five percent of the total revenue is derived through utility payments and the remaining occurs in travel, entertainment, remittance and other e-tailing channels,” said Bishwas Dhakal, CEO of F1 Soft, which operates E-sewa, an online payment gateway. “The company is experiencing a growth in our user-base by around 100 percent each year and the number will shoot up after the industry comes under the NRB regulations.”

Moreover, NRB has said it has initiated policy-level discussions in order to develop public confidence and ensure security of online transactions. “The increasing use of e-payment instruments and channels and need of the economy to shift to electronic payments has prompted NRB to bring necessary policies and rules,” said NRB Spokesperson Trilochan Pangeni. “We are holding discussions on how to regulate the system.”

Keeping in mind the growth rate of e-commerce in the country, it seems brick and mortar businesses will, sooner or later, adapt to the changing times as well; it is likely that they will tail their customers through apps and finally opt to evolve into brick and click, click and flips or else perish. Well, maybe not to that extent. But the way the trend of online shopping is picking pace and opening new doors to convenient virtual shopping, that day might not be too far away.