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Pakistani E-Commerce Ventures Look Global

Adam Dawood is the founding partner of DYL Ventures, a Pakistan-centric internet consultancy firm. You can find him on Twitter as @adamdawood.

Pakistani E-Commerce Ventures Look Global

The e-commerce sector in Pakistan is increasingly looking to global markets. Indeed, it started in 2002 with Tohfay (pictured below) specializing in delivering gifts to Pakistani residents from their relatives or loved ones around the world. It is now one of the most recognized brands in the Pakistani e-commerce space, and looking forward to greater growth with its redesign last year.

Then there is Tradekey, which is a B2B marketplace for connecting small- and medium-sized businesses across the world. Established in 2005, TradeKey has a member base of over seven million from 240 countries, and over 10 million buyers and sellers visit the website every month. The world’s third largest B2B portal, Tradekey is pushing China’s Alibaba.com hard.

Following the examples of Tohfay and Tradekey are newer sites like Daraz.pk and Labels E-Store (pictured), which both want to export Pakistani fashion to the world. Daraz.pk has just opened its cupboard to the international market, while Labels has been delivering internationally since inception last year. Partnering with DHL, both firms now deliver products to Pakistanis abroad, who are known for their high spending. Generally on trips back home to Pakistan, they return with large suitcases filled with locally designed clothes and jewellery, but now they can just as easily shop from the comfort of their home in any nation and have those items delivered internationally.

Pakistan ecommerce, Tohfay

Taking international orders is however not a small undertaking due to the legal ramifications. Zahid Jamil of law firm Jamil and Jamil stated at a recent conference that holding a customer’s personal information (such as their address, credit card details, etc) can be a breach of a country’s privacy law.

The European Union, for example, passed a set of data laws that require a company holding EU citizens’ data outside of its border comply with rules such as:

  • Users have the right to demand that data about them be deleted if there are, the EU states, no “legitimate grounds” for it to be kept.
  • Organisations must notify the authorities about data breaches as early as possible, “if feasible within 24 hours”.
  • In cases where consent is required organisations must explicitly ask for permission to process data, rather than assume it.
  • Companies with 250 or more employees will have to appoint a data protection officer.

That’s quite a challenge for Pakistani e-stores with customers in Europe. The penalties for non-compliance can result in a fine of up to 0.5 percent of the firm’s global turnover.

Despite that hurdle, there’s still a lot of scope for domestic and overseas growth. That’s why Pakistan is Asia’s next frontier for entrepreneurs and investors.



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