Covid-19 pandemic and the current lockdown has changed the world of businesses, both physical and online. With the mass outbreak in different parts of the world and growing numbers of cases in our country, the operation of any form of business has become worrisome. Streets across the country wear a deserted look as mass gatherings have been suspended in view of the coronavirus outbreak.
To understand the impact of the current situation in the online business environment, Mr. Sodhan Manandhar, Co-founder of Sastodeal shared his perspectives on the current situation and prepared a brief note based upon that as below.
State of the business
Covid-19 pandemic and the current lockdown has changed the world of commerce.
Sastodeal, which was founded with the vision to bridge the gap faced by physical businesses to reach out to the curious customers by featuring different brands, offers and experiences online, had to pivot to Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) products to stay alive in the business. It had to face a new business climate and change its model depending on the need of the market.
Due to the online nature of the business, including resources such as their website and delivery mechanism, it was easier to deliver the essentials more efficiently. However, most of the business plans have undoubtedly been affected.
Online deliveries during the crisis
Amidst the changing environment and growing digital usage, online deliveries and platforms are here to stay. Although they were in an upward trajectory even before the current crisis, the form that it has taken can further push for its growth. However, for this to happen, certain issues have to be addressed by the government. For instance, the permit system has to be eased for e-commerce. Earlier, businesses had to go to the CDO and apply at their offices every Monday to attain the permits. Although the reapplication process is no longer required, the system of gaining permits is subject to frequent changes. Additionally, the permits gained by delivery personnel after fulfilling and abiding by the set process are still questioned and often stopped. All of this acts as a hindrance to the efficient delivery process for e-commerce.
Furthermore, in light of the situation of uncertainty, most of the staffs who can work from home are currently staying indoors and continuing to work. However, due to the operational nature of the business and the involvement of delivery personnel, operational staffs and management of Sastodeal often have to go to the office on a daily basis. This is an issue of grave concern because the personnel have to be readily available for deliveries and are, thus, exposed to the dangers of the pandemic. Since there has been no support from the government in terms of providing safety measures and equipments to these businesses, they are practically on their own.
To address the safety needs of their delivery personnel, Sastodeal has taken utmost precaution by providing necessary equipments such as gloves, masks and Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs). Additionally, it has also provided an Employee Essentials Fund for each employee to buy basic essentials amidst the pandemic.
Currently, Sastodeal has been making deliveries only inside the valley. They have not been able to serve outside valley since their delivery partners who are operating outside the valley have been closed. For the deliveries that are done, online payments have increased compared to the past but the mode of payment is still majorly done on a cash basis.
Amidst this, Sastodeal has also been providing donations to traffic police chiefs such as by distributing masks and hand sanitizers. It has been providing essentials as well as helping in relief distribution for different NGOs, INGOs and other companies. Further, it has also been helping the Covid-19 impact fund by contributing NPR 250 per transaction through IME and 15% of each transaction through NMB Bank,
Covid-19 pandemic has presented the e-commerce business with new sets of challenges and new ways to conduct their businesses. At this point, the government has to proactively step in to create an enabling environment for the e-commerce business to help conduct its operations timely and efficiently, which will further aid in addressing the needs of the current day crisis.
The above Expert Speak edition is based on the conversation with Mr. Sodhan Manandhar. He is the Co-founder of Sastodeal, an e-commerce company in Nepal.