As Asia is going through a startup revolution, Pakistan cannot just sit idle and watch its neighbours (especially India, Singapore, Indonesia and Bangladesh) steal the show. A few entrepreneurs have already been working towards this and striving to put Pakistan on the global startup radar by setting up incubators and early-stage funds.
While their hard work is yet to yield good results, there are some other entrepreneurs already hitting the headlines with their early-stage ventures — not just in Pakistan, but in neighbouring countries as well.
E-commerce startup Daraz is such a venture, which has made good progress not just in Pakistan, but in Bangladesh and Myanmar too. Backed by Rocket Internet, the firm recently bagged US$56 million led by CDC Group, a development finance institution of the UK government.
Here are the edited excerpts:
What is Daraz all about? How is it different from other e-commerce players in Asia?
Launched in 2012, Daraz has become the leading e-commerce company in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar (operating as Shop.mm). Today, Daraz is the largest online shopping mall in the operating countries and expects to strengthen its market leadership.
Daraz brings together buyers and sellers from different locations into a unique digital marketplace. Its wide assortment in consumer electronics, fashion and beauty, home décor, sports and entertainment and other product ranges, makes it an exclusive one-stop shop for easy buying.
Customers can view product details and images in order to choose the right product, at the convenience of only a few clicks. Through our customer support and logistics network, we offer customers end-to-end fulfilment.
With almost 200 million Pakistanis, there is high demand for consumer goods, as there is no organised online platform to consistently find what one wants at a great price. So, it made sense to launch an online mall in the country.
Are you following a zero inventory model or an inventory-led one?
Daraz has over 50,000 square feet of warehousing space where it stocks inventory from several brands. There is also a high usage of cross-docking and consignment-based model where products are picked from the supplier and delivered directly to the customer with little or no material handling in between.
Having won the trust of customers and brands, Daraz has transformed the e-commerce sector and now offers brands and distributors operating in the country the opportunity to open their own online shop.
The Daraz marketplace allows all sellers to benefit from a number of advantages when they open an online shop. They benefit from professional client-oriented approach, with agents who are trained to know the entire product range, answer all customer questions. Moreover, the sellers do not encounter any logistics problems.
How many products are you currently listing on your platform? How do you source products?
Through its website and mobile app, Daraz Pakistan currently gives customers access to over 70,000 products offered by more than 1,000 brands in 60 different categories.
Beside our own sourcing team, we have a dedicated team which helps our marketplace vendors to bring their products online in all stages and offer them to our more than six million visitors every month.
Who does handle logistics and supply chain? Have you partnered with third-party companies for logistics?
We have our own logistics partner by the name of AIG Express and we have also partnered with third-party companies to ensure efficiency and smooth-sailing.
Of course, there are differences in the number of people being able to access the Internet and their experience with e-commerce. At the end of the day, everyone is looking for great and authentic products with the best prices.
Are you planning to enter other markets in Asia or new geographies?
Right now, our entire focus is on developing a healthy business with the best customer experience and an amazing assortment of products with the best prices for the 400 million people in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
What are the different kinds of payment modes available on the platform?
Our customer can pay cash on delivery (which includes credit or debit card payment on delivery in the big cities) or directly online while placing the order. We will shortly introduce new and innovative payment options like Easy Pay.
What is your view on the fast-growing consumer Internet space in Asia? What are the current trends you see here?
E-commerce sales in Asia are booming. The growing penetration of Internet-enabled devices is massively fuelling e-commerce. In terms of development, an interesting way to look at it is by comparing Internet penetration to e-commerce penetration. These are two metrics that follow each other and have a very strong correlation.
We also see that our customers are using our mobile app more and more which is the most convenient way of shopping with a smartphone. Besides the convenience, people love the instant notification of deals and direct access via their phone.
How did you come across Rocket Internet? How much funding did you raise from them?
Daraz Asia is part of the Asia Pacific Internet Group (APACIG), one of the fastest-growing Internet platforms in the region. APACIG is a joint venture of Rocket Internet and telecom major Ooredoo.
Recently, the holding company welcomed onboard CDC Group, a development finance institution owned by the UK government. CDC is infusing EUR 20 million (US$22 million) while EUR 30 million (US$34 million) is being invested by APACIG.
The CDC Group is focussing on supporting and developing businesses in Africa and South Asia.
What innovations are you planning to bring to your platform?
We have great innovations in the pipeline and are excited to launch them very soon. Come November 27, we will exclusively bring Black Friday – the biggest online sales event in the world – to Pakistan.
We do this in collaboration with Easy Pay and other great partners. Pakistan can expect big discounts on electronics and fashion items during Black Friday and will fall in love immediately with this concept. People can already sign up on daraz.pk/black-friday if they want to be first to know about deals and prices.
Indian companies like Flipkart are planning to go mobile app-only. How do you look at this trend?
Flipkart did this with their sister company for fashion Myntra. As already said, mobile is a big topic in the countries where Daraz operates and we see how people love to use our app. We expect a huge app growth in the next month and our customers can expect a lot from us regarding our mobile offers.