Besides marking a new chapter in our lives, the start of a new year is important for other reasons too. Often, we find ourselves doing two things: looking back at the events that shaped the previous year, and crafting new goals and visions for the year ahead. As such, the start of new year is more than an indicator of time. It is also a moment for reflection, and an opportunity to learn from our mistakes. So was it for Daraz, Nepal’s largest online shopping marketplace, which in 2018 provided Nepali customers with various opportunities to shop for the best prices. APEX talked to Lino Ahlering, the Managing Director of Daraz. Just like many of us, Lino had a lot to say about the previous year and the company’s vision for 2019.
What were key milestones for Daraz in 2018?
The acquisition of Daraz and its integration into the Alibaba ecosystem has been a huge milestone for us. Being part of the largest and the most successful ecommerce player in the world makes us proud and allows us to work with and learn from the best in the industry. We have entirely revamped our website and our app, which means a significant improvement in customer experience.
Besides, our workforce grew significantly and we celebrated many events with our customers in 2018. In particular, the campaigns we organized in the last quarter for Dashain, Black Friday, 11/11 and 12/12 were very special.
What challenges have you faced in Nepal? How do you plan to overcome them?
The Nepali market is very promising and local consumers have been getting increasingly acquainted with online shopping. We clearly see a lot of curiosity and demand among local shoppers, particularly since Alibaba set its focus on Nepal.
Alibaba would not have chosen Nepal had it not seen the potential here. Nevertheless, we are aware of the need to make more people acquainted with online shopping and to establish customer trust in online shopping.
Another challenge has been logistics. Besides our own delivery fleet Daraz Express (DEX), we work with a variety of logistics companies for deliveries and returns, but the massive success of our 11/11 campaign took us close to our limits. Some customers did not receive their orders as quickly as expected.
We take this very seriously and for 2019, a strong emphasis is on strengthening our own fleet through heavy investment in our logistics infrastructure, as well as improving our collaboration with other logistics firms and our sellers for fast and smooth delivery.
How did the Nepali market respond to international sale days such as Black Friday, 11/11, and 12/12?
Black Friday was already a familiar name in the local market, but Alibaba’s 11/11 or 12/12 were completely new, not only for Daraz but also for domestic shoppers. Hence we focused a lot on informing our customers about our exclusive offers, deals and new features.
During 11/11, we sold more than 70,000 items, including exclusive launches. For 12/12, we focused on a different experience by introducing Collectible Vouchers that are automatically applied to your order and on Daraz Mall, a separate section for top brands and sellers that have to fulfil higher standards, giving customers even more assurance and comfort with their shopping experience.
What does the future of Nepal’s e-commerce look like?
Nepal is a super interesting market, and having worked in the ecommerce sector for some time now, I am impressed by the curiosity among local consumers about e-commerce. The sector has been growing rapidly and it is becoming more professional. In 2019, for example, we will introduce digital payments to our marketplace, which will be a huge milestone for us as well as for our customers.
What is important is that regulators support developments in the field. Not only Daraz but also our competitors have to engage in closer dialogue with regulatory institutions in order to shape the future market. In general, we are optimistic that the government sees the potential of e-commerce. Local competition will also increase, which I believe is very good. We in Daraz are convinced that competition is important. It helps us stay focused and set ambitious goals. Moreover, having strong competitors has a positive impact on the overall ecosystem, as customers get more accustomed to online shopping and gain more trust in digital business models.
What is Daraz’s vision for 2019? What other things can your customers look forward to?
2019 is going to be very exciting, as we have planned many initiatives to further enhance customer experience. This will involve several campaigns, with 11/11 as the annual highlight, offering Nepali shoppers top deals across the board. We know that there is still a lot to be done, but we are working hard to provide better value to our shoppers with a wider variety of brands and products. We also intend to further improve our logistics for faster delivery. 2019 means more features, improved services, wider variety and, most importantly, better deals. We are excited about this year and Nepali shoppers have good reason to be equally excited.