e-commerce store for artisan
Image source: Flickr

Black Friday in 2016 left some good memories for many e-commerce stores in Pakistan. Daraz and Kaymu went passed Rs. 1 billion mark, and similarly, Yayvo was able to handle some 60,000 orders.

This was just the tip of the iceberg, and much more could be achieved this year.

However, no e-commerce store could adequately serve the customers in the suburbs of metropolitan cities like Lahore and Karachi let alone the smaller cities, towns, and villages where a considerable chunk of over 44 million internet user base of Pakistan is living, and where the next growth trend lies.

Who can reach them? Who posses this vast network of delivering goods? And above all, a significant factor is missing in our e-commerce industry that other than mobile phones, TVs, Cameras and designer clothes, how our handmade landmark items from far-flung areas of the country can find their ways to these online stores.

No existing private entity has the footprint so large to think about such a venture. Almost every e-commerce store is serving to a very niche, and the work of Pakistani artisans is still an area unexplored.

These nameless artisans create a lot of things that make Pakistan famous all over the world. Who doesn’t know about Multani Khussa, Peshawari Chappal, Handwoven carpets and rugs, clay dishes, wicker craft, wooden pottery, handmade jewelry and much more that I can’t recall at this moment?

The good news is that the government of Pakistan has decided to jump in with its own e-commerce store where all this can be bought and sold.

Universal Service Fund (USF) is seeking the interest of capable parties who can help them develop and run the e-commerce store that could majorly do the following;

  • Support and promote the work of artisans in Pakistan.
  • Expand the e-commerce footprint in the country.

The idea behind e-commerce store

e-commerce store for artisan
Image Source: Butterfly works

The step seems to be the follow-up initiatives of an earlier development when USF board had approved the implementation of a project meant to create a centralized Internet-based marketplace for various products of diverse groups that are working in different sectors in the country.

A USF spokesperson, Nosheen Masud told MORE News, “ Today, in Pakistan there is a massive gap at the end of the value chain for the cottage industry. Furthermore, there is no long-term initiative to support craft across Pakistan and no online e-commerce stores like Etsy and Ten Thousand Villages that enable people to learn about or buy innovative craft through artisans”.

“Artisanal craft represents a fascinating opportunity for livelihoods generation for thousands of producers and micro-entrepreneurs across Pakistan, particularly in the rural and peri-urban areas of the country. Materials, patterns, styles and other techniques are often unique to specific groups and tribes and represent deep cultural affiliations that have been passed through generations, surviving migrations, modernization, conflicts, and disasters. Engaging in support for the artisanal craft is an opportunity to preserve culture, create cohesion and reinstall identity in times of stress”, the spokesperson added.

The Universal Service Fund, through this platform, plans to enable the e-commerce ecosystem for artisans through product development, e-commerce training, and capacity building of artisans across Pakistan to grow and learn from exposure to local and national markets.

“In a sense, the USF plans to create an e-commerce based economic empowerment initiative that leverages the nascent work undertaken with a wide range of producer and small enterprise groups in a range of subsectors across Pakistan. The e-commerce website will provide an opportunity for artisans and small businesses to grow and learn from exposure to national and regional markets”, the spokesperson responded.

How will it function?

USF’s e-commerce store will be a government entity, but it will award this contract to run and maintain the outlet to a private firm or a consortium.

For the delivery mechanism, the government wants to rely on its vast network of Pakistan Post as its priority however, we have been told that it will also engage established private firms to do the job as well.

And just like every other e-commerce store in Pakistan, the payment gateway for this platform will include cash-on-delivery, payment through cards and other payment APIs available in Pakistan.

There are nearly 20 million artisans in Pakistan who don’t have access to digital outlets. By enabling them and giving them the right tech tools, the government can not only bring them onboard but also the e-commerce footprint in Pakistan can be enhanced drastically.

Although, this e-commerce store appears to be a very fancy initiative, however, all will depend on its execution and overall government’s behavior. Would they think like a commercial entity for making it a success story?

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