Online sellers are hoping to continue their streak by tapping into the upbeat mood of post-Covid Nepal with virus caseloads dropping and the vaccination drive gaining momentum.
While crowds toting bulging shopping bags are thronging Kathmandu’s fancy markets and historic bazaars like New Road, Durbar Marg and Asan, online buyers are also tapping away on their keyboards, and keeping the servers of internet stores humming.
After virus restrictions were removed and people started going out of their homes to shop, e-commerce entrepreneurs had initially worried that their business, which was booming amid the lockdown, could be hit. But they were pleasantly surprised to find out that their fears were unfounded.
Amun Thapa, CEO and founder of Sastodeal, said that sales had increased by three times compared to last year’s festive turnover. “Business is on an increasing trend. All economic activities have opened including the street markets. But this has not dented online sales,” Thapa said.
“Nepal’s online market which is worth $100 million annually will not be eclipsed even though people have started to shop physically because of dedicated customers,” he said.
E-commerce entrepreneurs said that buyers felt more comfortable with online shopping. “The attraction for online shopping can be observed this year with people in a festive mood after one and a half years of suffering from the pandemic.”
Lino Ahlering, managing director of Daraz, told the Post that the pandemic had accelerated e-commerce growth significantly.
“Even though the market is full of people, online sales increased significantly by about 60 percent,” Ahlering said. Daraz has been observing 100 percent annual growth in the last three years, he said.
Agreeing with Thapa, Ahlering said that shoppers getting back to the physical market had not reduced online sales as people were adopting digital payments at a fast rate.
“Following tie-ups with different banks, almost 95 percent of the transactions this festive season have happened through digital payments, and only 5 percent were cash on delivery,” Thapa told the Post. “The discount schemes offered by banks on online payment also supported the rise in digital payment,” he added.
Ahlering of Daraz said that 50 percent of the total transactions were online, mostly through e-wallets and cards, and the rest cash on delivery.
According to Nepal Rastra Bank, online transactions through various digital payment platforms like IPS, ConnectIPS, cards, internet banking, mobile banking, wallet and Quick Response (QR), among others, amounted to Rs361.20 billion in the first month of the current fiscal year started mid-July, up from Rs218.93 billion in the same period of the last fiscal year.
The online shopping trend that was initially confined to Kathmandu Valley has gradually spread across the country, e-retailers said.
“Out of the total online orders, 35-40 percent are from outside the valley. The figure was 20-25 percent during the festive season last year,” Thapa said.
“Online retail sales observed good growth this festive season driven by consumers from outside the valley,” he added. “This shows that the attraction towards online shopping is increasing outside the valley too.”
Daraz observed 50 percent sales from outside the valley due to increasing use of the internet and smartphones.
Considered safer, time saving and easier, people are turning to internet shopping to buy products like fast moving consumer goods, clothing items and electronics.
Consumers wait for the festive season to buy new gadgets and consumer electronic goods because domestic dealers and sellers offer discounts and schemes, but this year consumers faced higher prices in TVs and smartphones due to a global shortage of semiconductor chips.
“TV sets have become more expensive this year while there was a shortage of mobile phones in the market as we were unable to fulfil demand,” Thapa said. “There was a gap in supply and demand in the market this year.”
Groceries are still the highest selling items online followed by smartphones, clothing items and consumer electronic goods.
According to Thapa, after groceries, mobile phones are the fastest selling product during the festive season.
Daraz also observed strong sales of mobile phones including consumer electronic goods.
According to the Department of Customs, the country imported 1.49 million mobile phones worth Rs10.36 billion in the first two months of the current fiscal year.
Online sales of clothing, one of the most popular purchases during Dashain, also did well. “Occasion-based fashion sales have come back with the economy reopening,” Thapa said. “Schemes and offers also encouraged online buyers.”
Due to the high volume of orders and a delivery backlog, Sastodeal stopped receiving orders from Wednesday midnight so that it could finish making deliveries before Phulpati, the sixth day of Dashain.
“We made 90 percent of the deliveries before the festival started. We were taking orders till the start of the festival, which created a problem with deliveries,” Thapa said.