Creating a Roadmap for eCommerce in Pakistan

Pakistan has witnessed exponential growth in the eCommerce arena over the past few years and since the launch of 3G services last year the time finally feels right for mass acceptance.

The launch of the 3G and 4G services in Pakistan in July 2014 has led to the number of overall broadband users in the country to rise rapidly from 3 million to over 18 million people. In its first year of release 3/4G users numbers at more than 15 million, therefore upgrading our IT infrastructure has obviously led to a very important step in the right direction. As more and more people come online from all the varying social groups existing in our nation, all ecommerce companies will become increasingly more important. Numerous online retailers have experienced a massive increase in orders with Kaymu alone growing from 700 orders a day to 3,000 orders a day. This increase in demand will have to be accompanied with an increase in efficiency, protocol and service standards in order for the industry to meet its full potential. If we want to continue and grow at an even faster pace we need to address some of the major challenges we are facing in the industry today and work on a roadmap for the future.

Nadeem Hussain, the CEO of Tameer Bank, recently held an eCommerce roundtable in Pakistan for this very purpose. His aim was to discuss ways and means of expanding the eCommerce industry in the country. The following is a comprehensive view of the findings from the roundtable talks held with some of the major players in the field of eCommerce and its related concerns, as well as my own experience.


It’s my strong belief that improvement in the following 4 tenants will lead to an even faster growth in the the overall expansion of the eCommerce industry

  1. Customer Experience
  2. Logistics
  3. Payments
  4. Awareness

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

The major focus for all eCommerce companies has to be Customer Trust. The rapid growth this industry is experiencing at the minute is due to a large influx of new customers that are trying online shopping for the first time. It is imperative for the long-term growth rate of the industry, that each and every new customer has a great first experience so that they continue to build trust in the concept of online shopping.

Customer trust can only be built when they receive the right product, at the right time, at the right price and if they are properly compensated when they don’t. Given that most companies act as as marketplaces that do not necessarily carry all their available inventory on their site, controlling customer experience becomes increasingly more difficult. Running your business as a marketplace like Kaymu, Daraz, Homeshopping, Symbios or countless other local e-tailers means facing and overcoming challenges such as product availability, delivery speed, and product quality. These aspects are the key to retaining customers and commanding their loyalty.

The reason for these challenges is as follows:

  1. Unavailability of Stock: Many marketplaces face inventory challenges when stock is not available with the seller but is displayed on the website due to manual “sync” between the merchant and the eCommerce store. This leads to the buyer’s’ orders either being cancelled or experiencing long delays in being fulfilled. By the time the item comes back in stock the buyer has already lost faith in either the marketplace or online shopping. Having improved and updated inventory processes will be a key factor towards achieving sustained customer growth and satisfaction.
  2. Slow Deliveries: The cause of these range widely but the most common cases I have witnessed involve sellers who prioritize their own individual sales over and above sales through online marketplaces. This delays dispatches for their online sales and negatively affects the overall customer experience. The online arena has a far greater reach than what most sellers can even imagine and if their commitment to eCommerce remains strong they can very easily become the market leaders that customers will come to depend on. Each seller needs to act as an ambassador for the customers who purchase online so that together they can thrive and grow to new heights they would never be able to achieve alone.
  3. Price Volatility: Prices of items in online stores do not always reflect current market prices. In categories such as mobile phones, the volatility of market prices regularly leads to the cancellation of orders. In the worst of cases customers are asked to pay more than the agreed upon charge due to sporadic price changes. These experiences can be extremely disheartening for most if not all customers. Each and every member of the eCommerce industry needs to form a firm commitment to their customers assuring them the freedom of complete choice and information when placing their orders. These commitments then need to be upheld in order for the customer to feel satisfied after having placed an order. Price volatility will not allow the industry a smooth road ahead.

To allay most of these building strong and lasting partnerships between sellers and merchants is they key. Building partnerships will lead to all the major issues being solved. Technological solutions by the eCommerce stores will be adapted with less friction leading to the overall efficiency of the value chain improving. In addition to that when it comes to dealing with complaints from customers, together both seller and the online store can quickly resolve any issues leading to little to no customer dissatisfaction.

In terms of technical solutions, manufacturers and distributors themselves do not have strong systems in place that keep up to date inventory numbers. If these were available then online marketplaces could easily tap into their systems and sync their products in realtime to limit the number of non-buyer cancellations. Startups such as Shopistan are already building real time inventory engines such as these under their Omni Channel brand and at Kaymu we are doing real time sync directly from other eCommerce portals. There is incredible room for growth in these areas and once better systems come in to play sellers and buyers will both greatly benefit from an increase of eCommerce activity.

LOGISTICS

Pakistan is very fortunate to have very strong 3PL providers. Other than India, our courier agents are probably the best in the region in terms of their coverage and reliability.

The eCommerce industry in Pakistan heavily relies on the following courier firms to diligently deliver all its orders:

  1. TCS has the largest network of any of the private companies. It’s COD services are very reliable and they have started offering 1 hour pickup services and are through their own online shopping portal offer 1 hour guaranteed deliveries for certain products.
  2. LCS was the last entrant into the COD business but now has the second largest network and its competitive rates have quickly allowed it to become probably the largest COD provider in the country.
  3. Blue-Ex pioneered COD services in the region and still maintains a very reputable clientele. unfortunately their reach is not as widespread as the other private operators in the country.
  4. OCS was recently purchased by Muller and Phipps who have hired a very strong management team to begin operations with a major focus on eCommerce fulfilment. They are aiming to use technology to fill in a lot of the gaps in the logistics industry that other providers have not as yet addressed.
  5. Pakistan Post, the national postal service is not well known for its reliability. It is, however, currently looking to expand its reach towards its COD offering. They are providing a very cost effective solution which is being used by an increasing number of retailers selling low cost goods online.
  6. Stallion is a local startup that offers customized COD solutions to local eCommerce stores. It began from a local university and received funding from investors to grow operations.
  7. Forrun/Delivery ChaCha/Fatafat/I2Y are all local city solutions for quick pickup and delivery options. As these smaller players grow they will begin to provide ample competition to the local 3PL’s.

Despite the large range of logistic competitors offering varying services and price levels there still remains many improvements that can be made especially within the ecommerce industry. The major problems being faced and the main improvement needed right now are as follows:

  1. Fast payments to sellers/merchants: given that the majority of orders are booked for COD, fast payment protocols would greatly benefit merchants and is crucial for the growth of the industry. Currently the average payment time ranges from between 7–15 days and with additional delays, which are currently a common occurrence, the actual payment time goes up by at least another week if not longer. Bringing this number down to less that 7 days and ideally within 2 days from the delivery date is crucial for merchants who are primarily generally cash constrained.
  2. Speed & Price: 3PL’s need to offer multiple options for delivery at varying costs. COD needs to be made available for Next Day, 2-day, and Overland Delivery options. Currently shipping anything large and bulky is also very expensive and only a very limited number of overland/truck shipment options are available with COD. This makes selling heavy items such as Air Conditioners or 20kg packs of dog food to places such as Rahim Yar Khan very cost prohibitive.
  3. Predictability: all the major COD providers give tracking numbers and these are updated fairly regularly at least for deliveries in all major cities. The update cycles for second and third tier cities however needs to be increased immediately given that over 50% of all orders are shipped outside of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad/Rawalpindi, the three main cities of the country. Furthermore customers want the flexibility to have deliveries made at a time that is convenient for them. 3PL’s need to start offering solutions such as deliveries within 1 hour time slots for the foundations of eCommerce to be strong enough to achieve its maximum potential.
  4. Integrations with Ecommerce Stores: Given that today we have major eCommerce stores still manually creating AWB’s for their shipments and doing manual reconciliation, running integrations between 3PL and Online Stores is crucial. Currently the major 3PL’s offer API’s to their systems, however with a massive influx of ecommerce stores with limited resources especially on the software development side, 3PL’s need to start giving stores greater flexibility by offering plugins to stores such as Magento, WooCommerce, OpenCart etc. The ability to auto create AWB’s, and get delivery statuses directly can greatly improve speed and reliability. This will enable stores to become more efficient in their processes and help increase their focus on customer satisfaction.
  5. Open Box Deliveries: With COD set to remain the prevalent payment method for the near future, Open box deliveries could present a solution to help increase the trust levels within the industry. Riders, in this manner, would open the parcel in front of the customer and ask them to ensure the basic quality of the ordered items after which the customer has the option to accept or reject the parcel. Admittedly this operation is a very complex one to run at scale.
  6. Fresh/Cold Solutions: As the eCommerce industry develops, the market will move faster and faster towards food and groceries. Currently the large 3PL’s are not built to cater for such on demand services. Food ordering is already a fair segment of the local eCommerce space, however grocery delivery is still yet to become mainstream. Being able to deliver fresh/cold items will be crucial in this regard and concerted efforts need to be made to open up avenues for these markets.

PAYMENTS

Pakistan is still at a very early stage in developing its payments infrastructure. In recent months however major activities have allowed this to become a very exciting time for Pakistan’s payment systems. Predominantly COD still accounts for the majority of online transactions and unless legislation, seller responsibility and customer trust do not go hand in hand in the future, this will continue to be the case.

The current payment methods available in Pakistan are as follows:

  1. Cash on Delivery: This covers 90%++ of all orders in Pakistan. It is the dominant method used due to the unavailability of other means of payment. Customers are also generally sceptical of online shopping and COD provides a good starting point for their first few purchases. It allows a degree of confidence to the customer that in these early stages on online sales is extremely important.
  2. Card on Delivery (Swipe on Delivery): Recently launched as a collaboration with Daraz and Monet, the delivery rider reaches the customers doorstep with the parcel in hand and a credit card machine with which the customers credit card is charged and the parcel then handed over to the customer. This method is nothing more than a stop-gap measure to get customers to pay using credit cards without much of the benefits.
  3. Card Online: The traditional method of paying online. Currently these options are present for local eCommerce stores by UBL, HBL, and MCB. However the greatest challenge remains that most debit and credit cards issued by all but one bank in Pakistan are locked from purchasing online. The only way a customer can purchase online is if he or she specifically calls their bank to unlock the facility for a period of 1 hour.
  4. Payment through Wallet: This, in my opinion, is the option with the most potential for the long term. It involves the customer having a mobile wallet with deposited funds, then at the time of checkout, they select the mobile wallet payment option. This connects with the customer’s phone and automatically prompts their M-Pin or Mobile PIN in real time. Upon entering their PIN, the transaction is completed. The greatest challenge facing this options is however the number of active users with M-Wallets.
  5. Payment through Bank Accounts: Certain banks for certain stores allow direct payments for orders any and all placed. This is not a widely used or integrated system and requires the customer to login to his bank’s online banking system and make the payment in a manner similar to paying a utility bill.
  6. OTC (Over The Counter) Payment: In terms of an integrated solution this is the only available option right now via EasyPay by EasyPaisa, which now lets customers pay for their online order at over 65k locations across Pakistan.

Payments however to really get started need to provide customers with a safety net. An independent and trustworthy escrow service which is plugged into all online payment gateways will greatly increase the chances of customer placing orders online and pre-paying. Finally given the wide prevalence of COD — to really convince buyers to prepay you need to provide monetary incentive.

AWARENESS

Nothing will take off in the eCommerce industry in Pakistan unless buyers and sellers are informed and educated about their online buying and selling options and the scope that it provides them to enrich their lives as a result of its enormous reach and variety of available options. The major method for creating awareness and driving traffic towards eCommerce companies is by running ads online. Facebook, at this stage, is still the primary channel for such exposure, however over the last year there have been major changes have been witnessed. We have seen a greater influx of other marketing channels being utilised alongside facebook. Some of these have been listed below:

  • TV has been heavily relied upon by OLX and Kaymu.pk with Daraz.pk, Jovago and Carmudi also launching independant ads. Even UMall and TCS Connect have been mentioned in ads by their parent companies.
  • Billboards have been heavily utilised by FoodPanda and EatOye and to a smaller extent by Tohfay, Bytes.pk, Daraz, Lootlo, Dekhawa, Symbios.pk and TCS Connect.
  • Radio was used by several companies as well with Savers.pk who ran a fairly large campaign on the ariwaves.

In addition to online only stores marketing more aggressively, we have seen a greater influx of large local brands creating online stores to complement their retail outlets as well. The online presence of these stores has led to a greater acceptance of online shopping given the brands are already known physically and command a reasonable customer base as it is.

As we begin to see a greater number of marketing channels being used, the push towards online sales becomes more apparent. As always branding is a crucial first step in creating trust and the foundations for a healthy online market.

Conclusions

It is important to keep in mind that most of the challenges facing the eCommerce industry in Pakistan today are not debilitating to its future in anyway. With due diligence and the proper systems in place our partners in this field can collectively rise over and above current expectations but they cannot achieve this working in isolation from one another. Each section of this industry needs to work hand in hand, from the eCommerce marketplaces, to the sellers, the payment gateways and the logistics providers. If Pakistan’s eCommerce community wishes to achieve its rightful place in the overall scheme of things, all of the components of this industry need to start working together like a well oiled machine towards their collective goals.

f the above mentioned challenges though can be solved in a much more fluid manner by attracting more capital to the industry. Therefore with this I add my last tenant to grow the overall eCommerce industry:

REPORTS + INVESTORS

To really push the growth rate the industry we need to start attracting more investors. The overall dynamics of the country are sound and recent growth has been very strong. By investing more money throughout the value chain i.e in 3PL’s, Payments Companies, alongside the eCommerce companies we can grow the entire industry.

With a population of 200m and a growing broadband user base the fundamentals for the country to be a major hub for eCommerce transactions is very large. To attract investors we need to be more transparent and start publishing authoritative numbers on the growth of the industry. This will give any potential investors at every level from Seed to Private Equity insights into the industry and increase chances of investment.

The added investment will only act as fuel to power us into greater adoption and with the market entering its second stage of growth now is the perfect time for investors to gain strong returns with relatively small investment.

Tech Week in Pakistan (Issue 27: 29th September)

Tech Week in Pakistan

This weekly newsletter focuses on the most important new developments within Pakistan’s Technology Sector. To receive this newsletter on a weekly basis subscribe to our mailing list (no spam ever) or follow me on Twitter @adamdawood. Previous installments of the newsletter can be found here.

eCommerce Growing in Pakistan

A dearth of articles on the current position and potential of the eCommerce market in Pakistan shows how quickly its reaching public acceptance. According to articles in the Tribune and Dawn the sector is going to hit $1 billion in revenues within 3 years with sales growing by 15–20% annually. Large FMCG’s have also entered the fold with Unilever taking the first major step with its Wall’s brand offering free home delivery in major cities and the parent company started selling its goods with Daraz.pk.

The current market is estimated at between $25-$30 million annually, most of these transactions happen through the COD method, where the last mile logistics players collects cash from the customer. This method of payment is the most pervasive in the country with over 90% of transactions believed to be according to this method. Major growth is expected to come from second and third tier cities in Pakistan, with 50% of orders coming from outside Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad/Rawalpindi, and at Kaymu.pk 29% of orders coming from rural areas. Local 3PL’s are also integrated with eCommerce, with TCS running TCS Connect its electronics marketplace and Leopards recently acquiring StyleShop.pk a fashion focused e-tailer.

Major Players See Growth | Logistic Provider See Room for Growth | Making Inroads before Roads are Built | Dynamics of Online Commerce | An FMCG Cannot Live in the Past

Niche Online Models

With the large focus on online commerce across multiple media channels over the last few weeks, Online Pharmacies are an interesting business model for selling products online. Current players in the local market include Sehat and Dawaai. In a blog post, Sehat’s state’s that 70% of all orders in a pharmacy are for recurring or persistent conditions rather than one-off or immediate needs. Their average cart value overall from individual customers is PKR 2,300; for prescription orders only, the average value is PKR 7,400.

Sehat Blog | Pakistan Today (Sehat)

Markhor a local eCommerce site primarily focused on hand crafted shoes has recently launched a very well subscribed KickStarter campaign. The campaign has till now raised over $41k and with the funds raised they are looking to help the local artisans that create the shoes sold on their website.

Markhor KickStarter Page | The Markhor

Road Runner is a Lahore based delivery service which provides pickup and drop-off for any item that their customers are looking to procure. The service which launched in 2012 is turning into a staple amongst Lahori’s who want their DVD’s, cinema tickets or even groceries delivered without having to wait in line or go through the hassle.

Road Runner | Interview with Founders

BabyPlanet.pk is a e-tailer focused on the needs of babies and provides parents with everything they need from diapers to strollers. The company was incubated at Plan9 and is joining PlanX the PITB’s recently launched accelerator program. The company is supposedly received double digit orders on a daily basis and has 8 full time employees.

BabyPlanet.pk | A Whole New Planet

PetPeople.pk is focused on the needs of all PetParents with sales of pet food, toys, accessories and heretical items. The company launched 4 months ago and has since then has begun importing products directly from US based manufacturers to cater to the local pet market. Disclosure: I am a co-founder in PetPeople.pk

PetPeople.pk

Update on 3G/4G

Since the 3/4G auction in April, Zong is now commercially launching its 4G service. At a news conference Zong announced that it will be launching the service in 7 cities with packages starting as low as Rs. 350/month for 2GB and going upto Rs. 3,500 for 30GB. The company also announced that it currently has 866,000 customers on its 3G service. According to the Tribune and Telenor 46% of 3G usage is on Facebook, with the average 3G users consuming twice as much data as a normal EDGE user.

Zong Launches 4G | Expanding 3G Base

Other News:

  • A Conversation with the Founders of EayOye | TechJuice
  • Domino’s Launches New Android App | Play Store
  • Microfinance: Opening an account in a minute | Tribune
  • Pakistani helps Google Avoid Privacy Disaster | Tribune
  • Editorial on the YouTube Ban | Dawn
  • Daraz.pk Aims to be Pakistan’s TMall | BRecorder
  • Daraz.pk officially selling Samsung Products Online | ProPakistani

Disclosure Statement: I am currently employed as the Country Manager of Kaymu.pk, a venture funded by Rocket Internet. All news pertaining to Kaymu, Rocket Internet or any of their investors and holdings are released as and when they are reported in the media.

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Tech Week in Pakistan (Issue 26: 8th September)

This weekly newsletter focuses on the most important new developments within Pakistan’s Technology Sector. To receive this newsletter on a weekly basis subscribe to our mailing list (no spam ever) or follow me on Twitter @adamdawood. Previous instalments of the newsletter can be found here.

Branchless Banking showing Tremendous Growth

One of our startups recently started accepting EasyPaisa payments. I went to personally collect the amount as I wanted to see the process first hand. My nearest outlet was in an alley near the Arfa Karim Tower in Lahore, a 2nd hand mobile accessories shop. As I entered there were already two customers being served before me, both of whom were there for the EasyPaisa facilities. I waited my turn and noticed that the proprietor seemed to have completely ignored, his primary business to focus on EasyPaisa. I learnt from him while doing my transaction that for the last 18 months his EasyPaisa business has been booming. His shop primarily collects cash from customers who are using it to remit back to their families in the more rural parts of Pakistan. He gets paid 8.5% of the amount for any cash that he disburses to a customer (unclear as to if this is the total amount or the fee that the service charges the payee).

The latest SBP branchless banking reports that in the first quarter of 2014, 68.5 million branchless banking (BB) transactions worth Rs. 278.3 billion were carried out across the country. This shows a 27% growth in volume and a 19% growth in value of transactions. On average the number of daily transactions crossed 760,000. Figures reported in Aurora show EasyPaisa conducting 350,000 transaction per day or 46% of total transaction volume. All these figures point to strong growth in this sector so it’s no surprise that all major mobile networks have started branchless banking units.

By the time I had completed my transaction and had finished asking the owner about the service another 2 customers had come in behind me to send money using EasyPaisa.

UPaisa, UFone’s branchless banking service has also announced the ability to purchase Daewoo bus tickets in advance at UPaisa agents.

SBP Branchless Banking Report | Aurora | UPaisa Daewoo Partnership

FoodPanda Starts Online Payments

FoodPanda with the release of its new app has started giving customers an option to pay for their food with their credit or debit card. The service was first introduced in June and since then they have around 50 restaurants in Karachi that offer the facility. ProPakistani is reporting that their app takes more orders than other channels, 64% of its total orders were received via its mobile app during the month of Ramzan this year, which is a huge increase from 28% at the same time last year.

The Next Web | ProPakistani

Founders Institute Starts in Karachi

Founders Institute is looking to start a chapter in Karachi and attract young and experienced entrepreneurs to join its ranks and help them get funding. The programs biggest assets seems to be its ability to make introduction to investors based in Silicon Valley at the end of the program. If selected participants have to pay a one time fee of $450, which is meant to ensure only very serious startups apply.

The program is still in its test phase the first program is expected to begin in January if there is enough interest in the program from local entrepreneurs.

Application Form | ProPakistani | FI Events Calendar

Other News:

  • Matchmaking: Ap(p)t delivery | Tribune
  • Remote Interview makes it to BlackBox Connect Fall 2014 | TechJuice
  • HomeShopping Pakistan starts up HS Ventures | TechJuice
  • A whole new Planet: Baby Planet | TechJuice
  • Zameen.com rolls out mobile app for iOS users | TechJuice
  • Wi-Tribe Launches Hi App Pakistan’s First Communication Application | TechJuice
  • LCE opens applications for 2nd Cycle of Incubation | TechJuice
  • Lessons to learn from Frag Games Founders who have Raised 400K USD from Local Investors! | TechJuice
  • i2i Announces 5 New Teams for its Acceleration Program | TechJuice
  • PlanX: Lifeblood for Mid-Stage Tech Startups | PakWired
  • Applications Open for Acumen Fund, Pakistan Fellows Program| PakWired

Disclosure Statement: I am currently employed as Country Manager of Kaymu.pk, a venture funded by Rocket Internet. All news pertaining to Kaymu, Rocket Internet or any of their investors and holdings are released as and when they are reported in the media.

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Tech Week in Pakistan (Issue 25: 17th August)

This weekly newsletter focuses on the most important new developments within Pakistan’s Technology Sector. To receive this newsletter on a weekly basis subscribe to our mailing list (no spam ever) or follow me on Twitter @adamdawood. Previous instalments of the newsletter can be found here.

Line & Asani Start TV Ads

Line has begun television commercials within Pakistan and according to a press release by the company, its app has managed to get to the 2nd spot in the top free applications of the App Store within 3 days. This may be the first messaging app to start advertising in Pakistan, and the response seems to be very strong. It currenlt also stands at 5th in the Communications category on the Play Store. The Country Lead for Line said that “we will be partnering with local Pakistani artists and personalities to provide locally-tailored stickers and features for our users in Pakistan”.

Line App in Play Store Ranking Pakistan

Asani.com.pk a classified venture funded by Schbisted has begun its television and radio commercials in the last week. They are competing against OLX who regularly advertise on all major television stations. The classified market is an interesting one to start advertising so quickly as neither of these companies will be able to effectively monetize their product offering easily. Both OLX and Asani want to establish themselves as the respective leaders in the market and aim for revenues later on.

Line Launches to Top | Asani TVC

NEW-G & Injaz Launch Seed Funding Platform

New-G a collective formed to help promote entrepreneurship within Pakistan and Injaz an off-shoot of the Aman Foundation focused on building business leaders has come together to launch a program called Business Startup Launch (BSL). The program, though crudely named, wants to help bring about a program of funding entrepreneurs and providing mentorship. The program is said to have received 10 applications for the first batch, the number of batches they expect to run every year is not mentioned.

New-G | Tribune |

PK Startups

Two friends have taken it upon themselves to start doing interviews with local startup founders. These interviews by in large are very comprehensive and provide great insights into the challenges of setting up a business in Pakistan.

PK Startups | Shopistan | Caramel Tech | TinTash | Discretelogix | Arbisoft

Other News:

Disclosure Statement: I am currently employed as Country Manager of Kaymu.pk, a venture funded by Rocket Internet. All news pertaining to Kaymu, Rocket Internet or any of their investors and holdings are released as and when they are reported in the media.

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Tech Week in Pakistan (Issue 24: 10th August)

Apologies for the two week delay in the newsletter. Since my last newsletter I have taken the post of Country Manager at Kaymu.pk and with my team will build this Rocket Internet funded venture as Pakistan’s leading eCommerce firm. The weekly newsletter will continue to be published on a weekly basis.

This weekly newsletter focuses on the most important new developments within Pakistan’s Technology Sector. To receive this newsletter on a weekly basis subscribe to our mailing list (no spam ever) or follow me on Twitter @adamdawood. Previous instalments of the newsletter can be found here.

eCommerce across the Sub-Continent

The Economic Times of India had at the end of last month created an infographic on eCommerce across the sub-continent. The infographic focuses primarily on the Pakistani firms given their greater size and impact (did not include Indian startups). The author followed up the infographic by conducting an interview with Shaayan Tahir of HomeShopping.pk and a review of the eCommerce industry.

Homeshopping.pk is currently employing 60 people, with 40 of them being housewives who write content. This year they are expected to launch a home shopping TV channel to cater to the large number of TV viewers in the country. They also forecast their sales to reach $10 million this year.

Infographic | Interview with Shayaan Tahir | eCommerce Review

Daraz.pk Expands into Electronics and Beauty Items

Daraz.pk (funded by Rocket Internet — see disclosure statement below) has expanded their product lines from fashion, accessories and shoes into mobile phones and general household items. They have already partnered with Unilever to make their products available online. A Unilever VP stipulated that the eCommerce industry in Pakistan is expected to grow to PKR 4 billion over the next 5 years, from its current PKR 1.5 billion.

Daraz.pk | Unilever Partnership | ProPakistani

Warid Launches Mobile Paisa

Warid and Bank Alfalah have launched its answer to branchless banking, under the Mobile Paisa brand name. They have started with 10,000 agents across 500 cities and will be offering services such as money transfer, bill payment and a mobile wallet solution.

In other branchless banking news, it seems Telenor’s EasyPaisa, which started in late 2009, had by 2012 completed 100 million transactions with a total $1.4 billion in transaction volume.

ProPakistani | Telenor Results

Other News:

  • Nielsen finds Consumer Confidence is Higher in Pakistan | Pakistan Today | Nielsen
  • Pakistan Joins 3D Printing Revolution | Haq’s Musing
  • Government wants to make a working group to create a strategic plan of implementing an eCommerce gateway | Dawn
  • Promising Pakistani Startups | Asian Entrepreneur
  • Pakistan’s MicroFinance banking is better than Bangladesh | Pakistan Today
  • New Telenor CEO vows to increase innovation | Tribune
  • The Media in Pakistan | The Diplomat
  • Askari Bank Launches World MasterCard Credit Card | ProPakistani
  • PTCL Launches 36Mbps Evo | ProPakistani

Disclosure Statement: I am currently employed as Country Manager of Kaymu.pk, a venture funded by Rocket Internet. All news pertaining to Kaymu, Rocket Internet or any of their investors and holdings are released as and when they are reported in the media.

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Tech Week in Pakistan (Issue 23: 20th July)

This weekly newsletter focuses on the most important new developments within Pakistan’s Technology Sector. To receive this newsletter on a weekly basis subscribe to our mailing list (no spam ever) or follow me on Twitter @adamdawood. Previous instalments of the newsletter can be found here.

Pakistan Internet Statistics

After last weeks post on smartphone data and mobile subscribers, we thought we dig into data around Pakistan’s internet connectivity a bit more. The data is compiled with the help of Siim Teller of On Device Research, a mobile research company.

Average Internet Speeds

The speed at which we connect to the internet has risen by 68% over the last 2 years. Akamai, a CDN that provides optimisation services to internet companies and is responsible for delivering 15–30% of all web traffic.

Pakistan Average Internet Speeds

Age of Mobile Internet Users

BuzzCity, a mobile advertising platform which served 900+ million ads and served ads to 24 million unique visitors in Pakistan during the month of June also shares data from their service. Their platform states that over 75% of mobile internet users are under 30 years of age, with Nokia leading in terms of number of handsets online. Their data also shows one big error, in that Zong is not even mentioned as a carrier within their dataset.

Age of Online Users

Akamai | BuzzCity |

Other News:

  • A Candid Interview with Zeeshan Ali, Founder Zameen.com | ProPakistani
  • ‘We want to build a comprehensive entrepreneurship support ecosystem’ | Business Recorder
  • Upward move: Pakistan’s ICT sector to cross $10b mark, says [email protected] | Tribune
  • Pakistani-American Pioneered 3D Technology in Orthodontics | Haq’s Musing
  • Pakistani Brothers Spawned Multi-Billion Dollar Security Software Industry | Haq’s Musing
  • Warid Confirms Its customers About 4G LTE Launch in September | ProPakistani
  • USF Disburses Record Amount Subsidy of Rs. 4.2 Billion in 2013–14 | ProPakistani
  • Telenor Stretches its 3G Coverage to 10 More Cities | ProPakistani
  • Timepey Facilitates KPK Government in Distributing Funds to IDPs | ProPakistani
  • Eid shopping: Fashion’s virtual wheels | Dawn

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Tech Week in Pakistan (Issue 22: 13th July)

This weekly newsletter focuses on the most important new developments within Pakistan’s Technology Sector. To receive this newsletter on a weekly basis subscribe to our mailing list (no spam ever) or follow me on Twitter @adamdawood. Previous instalments of the newsletter can be found here.

Pakistan Smartphone Usage

Grappetite has released an infographic detailing Pakistan’s smartphone usage. The founder, Gertjan van Laar, believes that smartphone penetration in Pakistan is between 7–10% and that most telecom providers have an approximately equal share in it, though Telenor and Mobilink seem to have a slightly bigger part.

In terms of actual sales, all figures are always up for contestation. Another recent study by Aurora differs with the Grappetite figures in terms of brand leaders. Grappetite suggests Samsung is the brand leader, while Aurora states QMobile as the leader. All we can be certain of is that the smartphone penetration is rising, and due to the wide availability of sub-$100 smartphones, this figure will rise further in the coming months.

While the Aurora article is based on various reports and industry sources, Grappetite’s graphic is created using reports and statistics from sources such as the Worldbank, the PTA and the Association of Internet Providers in Pakistan, an online questionnaire with 15 questions, sent out to mainly urban people in Sindh and Grappetite’s own experience and observations as experts in the market.

Smartphone Brand Comparison

Full Infographic | Grappetite | Aurora

Total Mobile Users

The PTA has just released its latest mobile subscriber data. Upto May’14 there were a total of 139m mobile subscribers in Pakistan. This represents an 8% increase in the 11 months from July. Zong as expected is growing users a lot faster than the other MNO’s, owing to them winning both the 3G and 4G auctions, and heavily promoting their “Super” 3G service.

PTA

Other News:

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Tech Week in Pakistan (Issue 21: 6th July)

This weekly newsletter focuses on the most important new developments within Pakistan’s Technology Sector. To receive this newsletter on a weekly basis subscribe to our mailing list (no spam ever) or follow me on Twitter @adamdawood. Previous instalments of the newsletter can be found here.

Connectivity Report

The connectivity scorecard aims to measure “useful connectivity” by making a link between connectivity and economic performance. Pakistan’s is currently ranked 25th out of 26 nations out of a list which mainly includes developing countries with large populations. The ranking is based on 3 components, consumer business and public which are measured in accordance to infrastructure and usage and skills.

The results for Pakistan shows that our strengths lie in consumer and business usage and skills, i.e. the ability of consumers and enterprise to use telecom services. The report goes on to say that Pakistan is ranked 4th in terms of mobile messaging. One might therefore make the assumption that given affordable 3G services, adoption by consumers of 3G services could be very high. The report mentions that unquoted polls predict 12–14m 3G users in the next 2 years; this prediction is similar to those made by Ovum in last weeks newsletter.

Overall the report concludes that Pakistan has all the required pieces for “success” and that the recent mobile broadband auction is a key ingredient to help in these efforts.

Pakistan Connectivity Ranking

Connectivity Scorecard 2013 — Country Report Pakistan | Issue 20 of Tech Week in Pakistan

Telenor Launches Direct Carrier Billing

Telenor has launched direct carrier billing for purchases on its app store thanks to Fortumo. Although we have not tested the service yet it does introduce another method to accept payments without the need for credit/debit cards. Telenor seems to be excited by the proposition of releasing this technology to their 35m subscribers, “The facility will play a big role in promoting online commerce through convenience and accessibility.” says the Director of Digital Services of Telenor Pakistan.

Direct carrier billing allows users to make payments by confirming payments with one click on their phone. As Telenor has all the information necessary to process the payment, this removes the need to send any text messages during the payment process. In markets where Fortumo currently provides direct carrier billing, payment conversion for first-time payments is close to 40% and higher for repeat purchases.

Fortumo | The Paypers | Policy Charging Control | Pakistan Payments Ecosystem

Pakistan Startup Report

In collaboration with the World Startup Report we have curated the first Pakistan Startup Report. For full coverage of the report please visit the following news sites/blogs:

  • Pakistan, A Frontier Market Experiencing a Startup Revolution | DYL Ventures
  • Right Time to Bet Money on Startups in Pakistan | Tribune
  • Now is the Right Time to Invest in Pakistan Startup | Dawn
  • Pakistan Startup Report and Wiki shine a light on Challenging but Promising Market | TechinAsia
  • Pakistan Startup Report Reveals the Country’s Incredible Potential | TechJuice
  • Pakistan Startup Report | PakWired

Other News

  • How well off are the Emerging Middle Classes | EuroMonitor
  • 16 Teams Shortlisted for Ilm Apps Challenge Bootcamp | TechJuice
  • Computerised Property Records | Tribune
  • Telenor Brings 3G Dongles With Daily, Weekly and Monthly Bundles | ProPakistani
  • Microsoft Donates Computers to the Garage School | ProPakistani
  • Being imaginative: PITB compiling games to make learning fun | Tribune
  • PTA to conduct quality of service survey for 3G/4G | TechJuice
  • Warid to invest $400 million in a year on LTE/4G technology | Tribune
  • ActiveShehri.com: Your Online Dropbox to Register Complaints in Pakistan | ProPakistani
  • Annual IT survey: Senior game product managers making good bucks | Tribune

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Pakistan, A Frontier Market Experiencing a Startup Revolution

Pakistan Startup Report Logo

With its startups considered to be “more hardcore technology than their Silicon Valley equivalents” Fadi Bishara of Blackbox VC believes that Pakistani entrepreneurs have tremendous potential. Pakistan’s startup community has gone through tremendous growth in the last year. Local startups have received funding from investors across the US and Europe and many have gone on to take part in accelerator programs across the globe. With the 3G and 4G auctions recently taking place, next year looks set to be a critical one as the number of internet users is expected to rise rapidly.

The sixth largest country in the world in terms of population with 60% of its citizens between the ages of 15 and 45, Pakistan is a demographic goldmine. It lays claim to the 4th largest middle class in developing Asia, after China, India and Indonesia, with consumer spending within the economy growing at a rate of 26% per year between 2009 and 2012.

Support System

Plan9, a government backed local incubator, is entering into its second year now and has proven to be a key instrument for the success of many local startups. Groopic, Appography and XGear, are all graduates of Plan9, have gone on to earn worldwide acclaim and success.

  • Groopic is a photo-taking app that uses computer vision technology to add the photographer in every photo. It has become a top 10 selling photo application in nearly 50 countries and reached the Number 1 spot in 3. They have recently added Kima Ventures on to their list of investors.
  • Appography is producing the next generation call center integrated voice response system (IVR). Having received funds from UK based investors they are incubated at Microsoft Ventures in London and will be headed to Silicon Valley this summer for Blackbox‘s Connect program.
  • XGear enables you to read and act on analytics from your car such as fuel management, behavior monitoring and live tracking by adding a small hardware port to your vehicle. They are currently crowd-funding the product and are marketing aggressively to US based fleets.

In addition to Plan9, the PITB, has also launched a freelancer co-working space dubbed “TechHub” and will be launching an accelerator program named PlanX in the coming weeks.

The success of Plan9 has also inspired one of Pakistan’s leading universities, LUMS, to set up the Center For Entrepreneurship in Lahore. They have three main objectives in mind: launching their business incubator, The Foundation; raising a sizeable seed investment fund and opening a network of co-working ‘Plug N Play Centre’s. While in Karachi, [email protected] in partnership with Google for Entrepreneurs will also be launching a new incubator in the coming months.

In addition to these incubators, DotZero in Karachi and Basecamp Peshawer have opened up co-working spaces in support of local startup ecosystems. They play host to events ranging from Startup Weekends to Civic Hackathons and have created a community where local entrepreneurs can get together to share ideas.

Market Conditions

Recently launching 3G and 4G in Pakistan, the government is hoping to kickstart a wide variety of industries in the country. The current 30 million Internet users, including 3.5 million broadband subscribers is expected to grow to 45 million high speed internet users by 2020. With 3G available in all major cities and 4G expected to be available by the end of the year, the increase in 3G/4G users is expected to rise to 110 million by 2019. Growth in internet users is widely believed to lead to an increase in online retail sales. Currently this stands at an estimated $15 million per year.

With over 200 cities and towns in Pakistan covered by local logistics companies, online retailers such as Daraz.pk and Symbios report 50% of their orders come from outside the 3 major cities of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Local logistics firms such as TCS, Leopard and Blue-Ex have been instrumental for the growth of ecommerce. These companies provide Cash on Delivery (COD) services to their clients, offering next-day shipping to all major cities.

Online payment methods are yet to be developed which is why COD accounts for over 90% of transactions. Major financial institutions over the last few months have announced a multitude of partnerships to introduce online payment methods. HBL and MCB, two of the largest local banks, have partnered with Visa and MasterCard respectively to offer merchant acquiring facilities for online retailers. Telenor, the countries second largest mobile operator and largest mobile banking provider under its EasyPaisa brand, will also offer retailers facilities to accept online payment. Lastly, 1Link, will bring in Direct Debit facilities to Pakistan. Even if online payment methods are introduced in full fervor, it will be a while before the Pakistani consumer gains the confidence to make the transition from COD to paying online.

Opportunities

Growth of local startups across various sectors has been staggering over the course of last year. Many segments have started maturing, and with increased competition, startups that were just in their infancy last year have grown substantially to establish their relevance.

Startup Opportunities in Pakistan 2014

Classified

The classified sector is arguable the most competitive with 3 major international investors competing for market share. Nasper’s was the first to enter the market with OLX, followed by Schibsted with Asani.com.pk and Kinnevik with Dekho.com.pk.

Retail

The retail market has shown a lot of growth in the last year with Homeshopping on the electronics side, and Kaymu on the listings side reporting over 1,000 orders per day. Fashion houses such as Daraz.pk have started international shipments and are now promoting Pakistani designers overseas. This segment is expectedly the most congested with dozens of competitor’s operating in both niche and mainstream markets.

Delivery

The food delivery business, estimated at PKR 15 billion ($150 million) has seen the most activity in the last year. Rocket Internet’s, FoodPanda has gone on to lead the segment and reported 4,000 orders via their mobile app alone in the first quarter of 2014. Their biggest competitor, EatOye was launched last year has gone on to double their transactions on a monthly basis. E-Takeaway a Danish food delivery business that has focused this year on expanding its global footprint, chose Pakistan as their first major market for expansion due to its growth potential. They entered the market by acquiring Urbanite, one of Pakistan’s first online food delivery companies.

Local Discovery

Karachisnob and their other cities equivalents have been the go-to websites for finding information on local restaurants, however, a recent crop of local discovery websites and apps such as KiaScenehai and Chalo have been giving the them a fair deal of competition. The new entrants are developing apps for the growing cohort of Android users in the country and offering updated cinema listings as well as the ability to purchase tickets through their website in certain localities.

Gaming

Pakistan has a very strong gaming community that has for years acted as an outsourcing center for US and European based studios. Having developed hit games such as Fruit Ninja for other companies, the gaming community is now creating games under their own brand names. Local gaming studios have had successes such as: “Whacksy Taxi”, which rose to number one on Apple’s AppStore in over 25 countries; “Mafia Farm” in 2012 and “Cricket Power”, the official game of the 2011 World Cup.

Car Sales

PakWheels has been Pakistan’s largest automobile sales website for many years, and has grown to be the 70th most visited website in the country. Recently Rocket Internet has launched Carmudi, which will be competing directly with PakWheels. Considering Rocket Internet’s financial backing the coming year may prove to be an interesting battleground for the two companies to compete in.

Taxi/Carpooling

The past year also witnessed Rocket Internet’s launch of EasyTaxi in Pakistan. This app is the first in the country to offer private limo services. Initially launched in Lahore, the service has expanded to Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Karachi already. Another local carpooling app by the name of Savaree, was conceived and developed this year at a civic hackathon. It has recently been launched in Lahore and has already managed to gain a lot of attention in the local media.

Groceries

Aaramshop.com an Indian startup successfully set up an online grocery shopping system, via local neighbour stores. They are now collaborating with Pakistan to introduce the same concept locally. Currently only operating in Karachi, Aaramshop.pk is looking to expand as their competitors in the business are fast to enter the market.

The Other Side of The Coin

There are an estimated 12,500 Pakistani’s working in Silicon Valley, and those who return to become entrepreneurs are doing so with excitement about the number of opportunities still present. The working environment, though still challenging to operate in, is constantly improving and with the launch of 3G and 4G this year there is renewed hope from local entrepreneurs that the country is on the verge of an Internet revolution. With successful entrepreneurs continually supporting and mentoring the new cohort of startups, being assisted by the rise of incubators such as Plan9 and The Foundation, there is a strong possibility that in the coming years Pakistan can produce a company as successful as Facebook or Google itself.

Pakistan Startup Report 2014

This article is part of The Pakistan Startup Report that was prepared in collaboration with the World Startup Report and DYL Ventures.

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Tech Week in Pakistan (Issue 20: 29th June)

This weekly newsletter focuses on the most important new developments within Pakistan’s Technology Sector. To receive this newsletter on a weekly basis subscribe to our mailing list (no spam ever) or follow me on Twitter @adamdawood. Previous instalments of the newsletter can be found here.

Mobile Subscribers Update — by Ovum

Pakistan Mobile Forecast - Ovum

A presentation by Matthew Reed, of Ovum, predicts that Pakistan’s mobile subscriber base is set to grow from 144m users to 178m users by the end of 2019. Despite high speed mobile internet services already in the market after the recent auction, it seems that Ovum believes GSM subscribers will still continue to grow until the end of 2015, after which their decline will begin and be overtaken by W-CDMA users by 2019. LTE or 4G users are set to grow slowly at first, but are expected to see very fast growth from 2018 onwards.

Also a study titled “Connectivity Scorecard 2013” has given Pakistan a ranking of 2.06 out of 10 in terms of mobile broadband connectivity. Both these results shared at a conference in Islamabad.

Connected Pakistan — Broadband Predictions by Ovum | Connectivity Scorecard | ProPakistan

MoIT Releases Performance Report

The Ministry of IT, has released its annual report on the progress in the past fiscal year and its plans and ambitions for the upcoming year. We saw 4 major points of action in the report, apart from their review of the last years spectrum auction. There are no such deadlines for any of the projects mentioned.

  • The Universal Services Fund (USF), an organisation funded by the telecom industries, and run by the MoIT, is focusing on providing public access to the underserved and rural communities with access to computers and internet. Other focus also include laying of fiber optic cables across Tehsils headquarters in Pakistan and all towns with over 15,000 people.
  • The Cybercrime bill has been prepared by local experts, and sent to the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) for review and is expected to pass through into law this year.
  • The government also seems to be focused on establishing ecommerce payment gateways, with proposals being sent to the Ministry of Finance.
  • The Ministry is looking to setup technology parks in the country. All though there has been no information regarding the number of technology parks or their locations, they are in talks with the World Bank to help fund these facilities.

Report

Mobile Apps

EatOye, one of the largest food delivery services in Pakistan has just launched its iOS app, and says it will be releasing an Android one shortly. This step is a very important move for the company as the major player in this segment, FoodPanda says that 65% of its orders are now from mobile devices. Coincidently, FoodPanda has also updated its app this week, which is a lot more user friendly and has the ability to process online payment, although no restaurants currently offer this facility.

Lamudi, Rocket Internet property portal has also gone mobile and released its mobile app. The app is a world-wide release for the property vertical and hopes to capitalise on the growing mobile user base. It would be interesting to see if Zameen.com, which recently raised a large round of funding for expansion in Pakistan also develops and released a mobile app in the near future.

EatOye iOS App | Lamudi App | Zameen.com vs Lamudi

Other News:

  • Disruption Ahead: Mobile Wallets Soon to Disrupt Conventional Bank Accounts | ProPakistani
  • Mobicash Footprint Expands to More than 35,000 Retailers in Pakistan | ProPakistani
  • PakWheels.com reveals automobile industry trends | Pakistan Today
  • BizClout Launches E-commerce Content Management System Designed for SMEs | ProPakistani
  • Foortal is now SuperMeal | Facebook
  • Discovering Excellence in Technology | Tribune
  • Pakistani Startup Flashcall ready to mobilize the power of missed calls | TechinAsia
  • The Death of the Urdu Script | Ali Eteraz
  • KITE signs a new partnership | TechJuice
  • Telenor wants to promote local App Developers with Apportunity Competition | ProPakistani
  • Mobilink Discover — NUST Business Plan Competition 2014 Launched | ProPakistani
  • Bank of Punjab, ZONG and Inov8 Join Hands for Branchless Banking | ProPakistani

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