Aug 04 - 10, 2008

E-commerce is emerging into an integrated mode of business transaction, providing marketing and selling points simultaneously to execute a deal between info seeker and giver.

In Pakistan its rate of inception is fast as compared to other IT enabled services due to various incentives available in the IT sector for businessmen. Through websites e-commerce takes place to curtail the cost of physical business setup, therefore yielding phenomenal cost cutting measure for both established and new ventures. This trade can open up a new dimension to cop up with the unemployment situation in the country since with insignificant investment even fresh IT graduate can enter into this profession.

There are numbers of websites engaged in marketing and booking POs (purchase orders) of local and foreign brands. Featured with catchy designs and iconic representations of products website's contents persuade and guide the prospective customers into shopping. Usually local websites perform as sub agents of foreign brands. Either e-trader accumulates inventory in an anticipation of potential clientele hitting the website or imports goods as demand arises for just-in delivery.

In later cost saving measure, one can prevent many inline hassles such as inventory management. At present, multitudes of IT skilled entrepreneurs are assisting foreign companies to land their several brands in the country through URL lead-generation process. In return, they earn commission on sale or through bulk imports get hold of substantial retail profits. Trained in website designing techniques few e-traders embark on their own web-based online companies, which incur them cost nothing but of acquiring licence. Rather, getting permission for running a website is a matter of simple deal that can be bought against pocket expenditure on services of software engineer who occupy URL content space in the main router besides designing website.

Nilaam.Pk is such an e-commerce website run by a limited number of staff. It delivers imported brands such as laptop, medicinal equipment, etc. on the doorstep of aspirants. In addition to this, there are several other e-commerce websites catering to various doorstep purchasing resolutions in Pakistan.

However, the occupation's newness beholds few problems, demanding urgent attention of the telecommunication regulators. Firstly, intangibility of e-commerce automatically separating it from the prevalent business formats makes correct estimation of its GDP contribution difficult for economic managers. Perhaps, that is what impedes development of statistical data particularly related to the ecommerce while the estimates are prerequisite to drive flows of consolidated investment in the lucrative electronic trading and to let organized commercial transactions done.

Apart from this, arising out of the fragmented nature of e-commerce is a problem of unfair market practice that takes advantage of unawareness of purchasers by selling imported products at high price. Pakistan Telecommunication Authority is the apex body that deals with the licensing of websites. Its regulatory framework and legal provisions are equally applicable on to domestic as well as foreign gatekeepers of websites. But, its restricted scope mere to content allows free space to ecommerce playing foul with the ethical trade values.

Advisably, either ambit of PTA should be expanded so that it can keep surveillance over the credibility of price quotes or it is workable if new division be devised to regulate e-trade in the country. In fact, last option may ensure mitigation of ill trade for the horizon of IT enabled services is broadening with each passing day in Pakistan. Single authority may fail in regulating expansionary IT enabled and support services in the view of phenomenally progressing telecom industry.

Besides, PSEB is entrusted with the task of promoting local IT industry abroad, but it is also government based registering authority of ITES. Call centres come under the purview of PSEB. In association of local and international TV channels, call centres are concurrently nourishing ecommerce in the country. By making strategic alliance with TV channels they handle call traffics to receive POs for products on aired in TV commercials.

Call centre experts refer these kinds of business transactions as direct selling. In this trade, electronic media provide points of marketing and selling. Business generated through shopping channels produce significant revenue and with increasing viewer ships in Pakistan TVCs are rapidly becoming alternative mode of purchasing. Call centres operate Interactive Voice Response mechanism enabled by the telecom software to manage bulky call traffics, sometimes 1000 in numbers. Attributable to slow bandwidth, low protected online payment system making purchase through internet has not been popular in the country.

Yet, different is the result for call centres. According to a call agent people are increasingly making calls on 0900/0800 prefixes and encouraging direct selling. PTA auctions UAN line at Rs. 500,000. However, automatic IVR mechanism needs to be improved since it acts on pre-recorded voices while manual interactive voice response to calls is quite flawless.

Depending highly on the proper telecom services, success of ecommerce via internet or e-media is directly proportional to performance of national telecom service provider. Growth of IT enabled and support services can earn government heavy revenue. IT and telecom sectors can pass huge contributions in real GDP of the country. Growth rates of both sectors are increasing year on year bases. PSEB recorded 61% growth in software exports over last one year.

As call centre specializes in business process outsourcing, internet strives to bolster web-based ecommerce. While progress in both is crucially linked with the indelible telecom infrastructure, sophistication in IT services evokes advertising guidelines to weed out unfair trade practices and minimize probability of customer fleecing. Noteworthy is the Gardner's latest report that enumerates two impediments in ITES progress. One is sporadic developments of IT services and another inability of industry players to introduce innovativeness in service deliveries.