Online Business Transactions in Nepal
Will Covid-19 change the trends? Trends like going to stores and buying things, standing in the queue in the Nepal Electricity Authority office and waiting for your turn to pay the electricity bill or water bills and many more trends which we were following for several decades. Nepalese people still follow the traditional way of buying and selling commodities by visiting the market physically. But due to the current pandemic situation, these orthodox approaches shouldn’t be practised. The present pandemic circumstance is demanding the digitalization of daily works like buying groceries, paying electricity and water bills, reserving online tickets for travelling via roadways or airways or ropeways, admissions in schools and colleges, and many more others.
History of Online Business Transactions in Nepal
The concept of E-commerce started in Nepal when people residing abroad were allowed to send gifts and presents to their relatives living in Nepal. Namely, Muncha and Thamel.com are the beginners of the Nepalese e-commerce sector which allowed Nepalese to send gifts to their beloved ones. In the introductory phase, some online stores have appeared. But, the stores lacked proper online buying and selling process and only became able to spread awareness of E-commerce among Nepalese people By the passage of time, the e-commerce sector will flourish to a great extent in Nepal. Currently, there is a market of more than USD 80 million.
Complications and Challenges
Nepal has not become able to grab the benefits of E-commerce to a more extent, even if the world is getting digitalized day-by-day. It is because of various reasons. The research depicts that only 62% of the population has internet access. However, there is an exceptionally low-speed internet provided by internet services. E-commerce companies are only able to sway the market of some major town areas of Nepal. Traditional shopping habit is still dominant in Nepalese society. Without assessing the products intently by visiting the market, Nepalese customers do not want to buy products. Due to the problematic and confusing location structure in Nepal, e-commerce companies feel inconvenience during the delivery of goods. Regarding the payment system, cash on delivery has become a significant problem in the case of goods returned by the customer. It is gauged that, presently, over 85 percent of the payments for e-business transactions are conducted employing the cash on delivery method. Even though some online retailers have collaborated with specific banks for advanced online portions; it is as yet not as concerned as one would entail. E-commerce companies lack advanced delivery tracking system and are even unable to provide adequate and appropriate customer care services. The tax hikes on the internet & e-vehicles announced in fiscal budget 2077-78 may not help promote e-commerce.
Leading online shopping businesses such as Daraz, Sastodeal, Hamrobazar are even being backed by various drawbacks. Customers are complaining that goods available online aren’t of the same quality and measurement as displayed on websites. There is delayed or no response to customer complaints by these leading e-commerce businesses. Customer dissatisfaction has become the major drawback as in websites and applications of daraz, sastodeal, hamrobazar many sellers barely give enough product description & multiple/sufficient pictures of the product. Sometimes the item gets “out of stock” and then reappears automatically within a matter of seconds. Customers also say that there is no tranquillity over certain international cards for the top-up. Anil Basnet, the co-founder of Metro Tarkari, says the major factor behind the slow growth is lack of trust.
The number of complaints related to fraud against e-commerce websites and companies is rising in Nepal. There is a need for strict legal provisions as goods available online are not of the same quality and measurement as displayed on websites. Customers complain that some e-commerce companies are not providing value-added tax bills. Thus, Nepal lacks the sound digital, legal, and logistical infrastructure to be capable of offering reliable e-commerce services.
Current Scenario and its Scope
As social distancing is crucial to stop the spread of COVID-19, it has given an enormous scope to online business transactions. Since the government imposed a nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19 contagion, the online shopping trend has increased massively in the market. Besides daily essentials, even goods such as gold jewelry, clothing items, watches, glasses, and household items, among others, are being traded through online trading and social media platforms. Nepal Electricity Authority, Drinking Water Office & Nepal Telecom Corporation has also facilitated the online payment of fees through the E-sewa app. Nepal Electricity Authority also has enabled the online meter reading facility through the E-sewa app. With the improvements in internet sectors and the online payment sector, the Nepalese economy can get a sudden boom through online business transactions. Nepalese Youths can play a vital role in raising the e-commerce industry during this pandemic situation. The growth of the e-commerce sector can generate novel job opportunities for Nepalese people. With the increase in the e-commerce sector, new call centers will get established, and delivery boys will get employment. Transportation agencies will get new offers from online businesses. In this way, the rise in employment level leads to an increase in the national income of Nepal.
To elevate the Nepalese e-commerce sector, various measures should be undertaken. Firstly, prodigious public expenditure on this sector is indispensable. Mobile data and internet services should be made affordable for all groups of societies through the provision of incentives and subsidies to telecommunications and internet service providers. Secondly, the physical address system should be improved by the use of postal codes, by the proper numbering of houses and by improving the naming of the streets. Thirdly, online banking payment should be introduced and data privacy matters should be taken care of by Nepal Rastra Bank and the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. Through the help of neighboring countries, local businesses of Nepal can get higher outreach on a global level. FDI inflows from India and China on the Nepalese e-commerce sector can raise the export income of Nepal substantially. Fourthly, the accessibility of an uncomplicated e-payment system in export can also help advance the export sector. Moreover, provisions of quality control or vetting, respect of customers’ rights, data privacy, return and refund systems, and payment solutions all need to be regulated by law. Strong legitimate frameworks would also aid in attracting FDI and domestic investment in this sector. In addition to the above, the online interbank transfer also should be made easier by the banks to contribute to the e-commerce sector.
In conclusion, Covid-19 will change the trends noticeably if the pandemic situation continues and forces the government to lengthen lockdown. The government also needs to make a conducive environment for the e-commerce sector by making internet services affordable for all groups of people. E-business also should offer safe and secure online banking payments. Business owners must forge every single individual’s credence. The government also needs to implement strict rules and regulations against frauds committed by e-commerce companies. With the help of neighbouring countries, Nepal can globalize its local products on e-platform. Huge public expenditure on the e-commerce sector can create a sudden boom in the Nepalese economy during this pandemic situation.
Aashish Shah and Avaya Niroula are pursuing undergraduate degree in BBA at Mahendra Morang Adarsha Multiple Campus. Our research forte includes contemproary issues and their impact on Nepalese.