E-commerce has been seeing a tremendous rise in the country for quite some time now and the ongoing pandemic has only led to the sector's further growth.

Similarly, online shopping stores worked as a life-saver during months of the lockdown last year when people had nowhere to buy daily essentials and other necessary things. Daraz has remained one of the foremost online shopping platforms of the country in this regard - it has been catering to the needs of its customers continually and efficiently amidst all odds. Along with providing regular shopping opportunities online, Daraz has always stayed ahead bringing different campaigns which offer exciting deals to customers - its '12.12 Campaign' will be held on December 12. The Himalayan Times had a short conversation with Lino Ahlering, Managing Director at Daraz. Here are the excerpts from the interview

Could you briefly describe Daraz and the services it is rendering currently?

Daraz is an online shopping platform which works as a bridge between sellers and buyers in the country. We currently have 700 staff delivering a wide range of products including home appliances, accessories, and grocery items among others to customers from 47 cities spread across the country.

Has the pandemic affected the business of Daraz in any way?

I would say the pandemic has positively impacted us since we are online based and the orders for our products have grown significantly ever since the pandemic entered the country. I believe that people must have found it more convenient to buy products from us due to the travel restrictions in place, and since most of the physical stores had been shuttered during the first few months of the pandemic.

How do you see the current state of e-commerce in the country?

E-commerce has been doing great in the country for a couple of years now. I arrived in the country as the MD at Daraz in September 2018 after Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group acquired Daraz the same year. Particularly, I have witnessed encouraging growth in online orders at Daraz while more sellers have been connecting with us every month. Initially, the youth comprised the majority of our customers, but now people from all age groups make active orders for our products and this has also shed light on the growing awareness among the people of the country about the convenience of online shopping.

Moreover, the ongoing pandemic has been a boon in disguise to the country's e-commerce sector as many have found it really helpful.

Do you feel competition in the market with mushrooming e-commerce platforms in the country at present?

I would like to call it a healthy competition which is very essential for our collective growth.

Are there any challenges you have been facing in view of the ongoing pandemic?

The fear factor of contracting the COVID-19 virus has always been there. Hence, we have always made sure that every staff member follows all the safety measures like wearing masks, using sanitiser, and maintaining social distancing, among others during work. I'm glad to inform you that 85 per cent of our staff has already been vaccinated against the virus, whereas others are in the process of getting vaccinated.

What is Daraz doing to promote e-commerce in the country?

We have been working with different corporate sectors in recent times in order to bring more and more people into e-commerce.

For instance, we partnered with Sanima Bank to offer discounts to the debit and credit card users of the bank while buying products on the Daraz app. These kind of efforts that we have been doing for some time will help attract people towards e- commerce in the country. Likewise, we have been working with organisations like the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI) to promote Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) across the country to aid promotion of business of local entrepreneurs too. We recently signed an agreement with FNCCI for letting SMEs affiliated with FNCCI to use the Daraz platform free of cost for one year in order to sell their products to customers across the country.

We will be doing more of such agreements in the future too.

What are the other future plans of Daraz?

Apart from our annual Dashain festive offers and '11.11 Campaign' - the biggest single day online shopping event of Daraz which we hold each year on November 11, we now are preparing for our another annual online shopping event '12.12 Campaign' which will be held on December 12.

We have lots of exciting deals, vouchers and offers for our customers for the shopping event. For instance, customers can get exclusive discounts on thousands of products at Daraz, and we will be giving a washing machine as a mega giveaway by the end of December.

Besides all these, customers can enjoy a bank discount of 10 per cent, maximum Rs 1,000 debit card and Rs 2,000 through the purchase from credit card. Customers can also get a prepayment wallet discount of 10 per cent and maximum discount of Rs 500 at fixed hours during the campaign.

Our ultimate goal is to bring all the sellers and buyers of different products spread across the country into e-commerce through a single online platform Daraz to uplift entrepreneurship in the country.

A version of this article appears in the print on December 12, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.