𝐴𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝐽𝑎𝑛𝑢𝑎𝑟𝑦 2022, 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑎𝑟𝑒 70 𝑒-𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑚𝑒𝑟𝑐𝑒 𝑏𝑢𝑠𝑖𝑛𝑒𝑠𝑠𝑒𝑠 𝑟𝑒𝑔𝑖𝑠𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑒𝑑 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑖𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑦
E-commerce is increasingly taking over the traditional ways of doing business around the world and the growth of e-commerce worldwide has been explosive, even more so during the pandemic with the global lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Likewise, Bhutan needs to be prepared for the opportunities and challenges that the rapid growth of e-commerce presents to businesses, regulating agencies and consumers.
According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA), it strongly supports the growth of e-commerce and is keen to see the private sector reaping the benefits and use it as a tool to overcome the problems posed by the country’s remote and rugged location.
“We are happy to see many young entrepreneurs establish numerous online businesses in the country; they have brought the world to the country by bringing in goods from other countries and our own products are also available online with our domestic e-commerce operators,” MoEA Minister Loknath Sharma said.
According to the minister, the ministry encourages the entrepreneurs to embark on this exciting journey and stands ready to render all support for the growth of the e-commerce industry, while also working to address the risks associated with it.
“I feel e-commerce really helps young entrepreneurs because we don’t require a physical shop and a large investment and the use of social media really helps to spread information about our products worldwide or to a reasonable amount of consumers” said Lhapsum Dorji, the owner of a startup business called Meow Ezay.
E-commerce also offers immense opportunities to the private sector to diversify markets and products, increase efficiency through ease of transactions, reduce cost by not requiring physical presence, and low barriers to entry among other benefits.
“I think it makes more sense for the interested parties to come together, club their resources and strategies as there is a better chance of survival because when there are more competitions only a few flourish and majority gets shut down; leading to waste in time and resources,” Kinley Wangchuk, the CEO of Azha Pasa, said.
According to him, some challenges faced in e-commerce include entrepreneurs not having access to talents who can build powerful web applications where Artificial Intelligence and latest technological trends can be incorporated, all e-commerce stores being Thimphu centric as they don’t have access to logistics that can move goods from Dzongkhag to Dzongkhags at a reasonable fee, and the trust issue every time as people are not used to shopping online.
“It is expensive to have one’s own inventory and therefore capital intensive,” Kinley Wangchuk said.
Meanwhile, as per the Guidelines on E-commerce, 2019, any Bhutanese citizen having attained the age of 18 years shall be eligible to obtain license and operate an e-commerce business.
According to MoEA, there were only two e-commerce businesses registered with them in 2018. The figure increased to ten in 2019 and then 39 in 2020.
As of January 2022, there are 70 e-commerce businesses registered with the ministry. This number is only likely to go up as the internet becomes more accessible and the use of mobile increases around the world.
Kuenzang Choden from Thimphu