Electronic commerce or e-commerce is no more restricted to only buying and selling online rather it is now mobile commerce, Facebook commerce, interfacing of websites with bank accounts, securing electronic payments through credit and debit cards, Business-to-Business (B2B) activities for manufacturers and traders, online equivalents of the retail outlets, tracking inventories electronically, automated purchasing, lowering expenses, enabling individuals the freedom to work, enabling a firm or individual to conduct business over an electronic network, transfer of information across the internet etc.
The e-commerce buzzword has taken the world by surprise with its rapid use across the globe not only in the developed countries but also in the developing and in the least developing countries. From Africa to Europe, from New Zealand to Australia, Canada to USA, Russia to UAE any many countries e-commerce has become indispensable for all and sundry. No business, be it a big or small, may even presume of doing business without e-commerce. Technology has not made the world a global village but a global villa. It is unbelievable that by paying around Rs.3000/- (three thousand rupees) per month in Pakistan, one can talk to business partners, vendors, suppliers, buyers, potential buyers etc. using audio and video for almost unlimited time. A businessman may pay this petty amount and use Skype or Facebook messenger and talk to the stakeholders using video and the meeting may last for hours with excellent voice and video quality.
Thousands of Pakistani entrepreneurs are conducting online business by paying a petty amount and earning huge profits. So when it comes to the bottom line, it is the technology which is making a difference and creating value and giving a global perspective of doing and winning business.
Start-ups and entrepreneurs are taking full advantage of the technology in Pakistan and the results are amazing in the given circumstances. Pakistan with brilliant workforce and intelligent brains may make a difference in the world in the days to come since the youngsters are on the go and are willing to win the world with their great notions of conducting business. Particularly those averse to run-of-the-mill stuff and having no temperament for 9 to 5 work routine are taking e-commerce a great opportunity and have achieved smashing success in many fields right from having virtual storefronts to teaching and training online. If a survey is conducted in the large cities of Pakistan regarding the choice of writing a cheque and visiting a physical branch of a bank to using ATM/debit cards, majority would prefer online transaction which is convenient, time-saving, secure etc.
Many businesses have virtual storefronts that are the online equivalents of their retail outlets. Mobile commerce in Pakistan is taking place on mobile phones such as buying tickets of an airline, train, sports event and even movies through mobile apps. Facebook commerce is also catching up in Pakistan since lots of individuals are promoting their business through this mode instead of only through traditional websites. Both Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Customer (B2C) are using Facebook for business.
The central bank of Pakistan reported a couple of months ago that the number of registered e-commerce merchants had risen by 2.6 times and e-commerce payments have surged 2.3 times over the period of one year. According to the SBP’s Payment Systems Review (Q2FY18), 344 e-commerce merchants were registered with banks in 2016, however, the number increased to over 900 by the end of last year. E-commerce transactions by the merchants were over Rs9 billion in the last quarter of 2017, witnessing a manifold spike.
Traditionally, the Pakistanis prefer paying cash to the delivery guy for purchasing goods online. This indicates that the actual amount of online business may not be gauged unless the cash economy is discouraged which would help in terms of documentation of the economy as well and avoidance of tax at the same time. There are various estimates, however, it may be prudent to guess that the e-commerce market in Pakistan may run into billions of US dollars. There are estimates that the global e-commerce retail sales may be around $3 trillion at present. China, the second largest economy of the world, is the leader in the e-commerce market whereas India and Pakistan are catching up.