The availability of 3g services after the sale of licenses over two months ago spells a new era for e-commerce in Pakistan. Although over 60 percent of smartphone users in Pakistan still use wi-fi instead of 3g due to unreliable speeds, the cellular companies will be investing heavily in their infrastructure in the next few years to compete with one another to gain a larger share of the consumer base. Electronic commerce is the trade of goods and services through the internet, and although the industry is still in its nascent stages, the enormous growth potential can be witnessed by the sales figures of Kamyu.pk, an internet sales portal in Pakistan, which generates an average turnover of Rs 1.2 million daily, with a thousand transactions carried out every day. Pakistan has over 132 million cell phone users, which is roughly 74 percent of the total population, and 30 million internet users, with half of them using cellphones to gain access to the internet.
Pakistan is the sixth largest country in the world in terms of population size, with over 60 percent between the ages of 15-45. This means that a majority of the people are suited to adapt to evolving markets, and should welcome being able to purchase anything with the click of a button. But becoming a lazy consumer is not all that e-commerce has to offer; it provides limitless opportunities for entrepreneurs, both domestic and foreign, to set up profitable third-party businesses without needing vast amounts of startup capital.
The growth of e-commerce in India and its similarities to the Pakistani market can be used to replicate the exponential growth in e-commerce. India, like Pakistan, is one of the rare countries to offer cash-on-delivery as a method of payment for transactions online. Flipkart and Amazon, two of the largest online shopping websites across the globe, both recently announced an investment of an additional $1 billion and $2 billion respectively in India. The number of registered users of Flipkart in India stands at 22 million, out which 4 million access the website daily. Forecasts predict that out of a total population of 1.2 billion, the number of online buyers will increase to 39 million by the end of the year, and up to 128 million by 2018, which is interesting because only 31 percent of its population lives in cities. Currently, the major hurdle for both countries in the development of e-commerce is increasing outreach to rural areas. Of course, online businesses in Pakistan still have a long way to go before they become the major link between buyers and sellers, but they have become an exciting place to start looking. Investors and higher learning institutions would do well to keep an eye out on this fascinating new tech revolution- which is at least one Inqilaab sure to make a difference to the lives of this nation.