Online shopping is becoming a trend in Bhutan. With many international online shopping platforms available now in the country, Samir Pradhan has incepted Bhutanbuy, an ecommerce company, the first of its kind in Bhutan. Business Bhutan reporter Lucky Wangmo talks to him about his enterprise and how it is hoped to change the way Bhutanese shop.
- Please tell me something about your online business, Bhutanbuy?
A: www.bhutanbuy.com is an eCommerce company, a first of its kind in Bhutan where the concept of eCommerce is implemented to its fullest. It has been many years since ecommerce companies from abroad like Amazon.com, alibaba.com, flipkart.com are in operation and Bhutan is yet to start something along those lines. So, to give Bhutan its head start in this digital era in the field of eCommerce, www.bhutanbuy.com has been started with a vision to make shopping much easier and economical in this otherwise, very costly market. And, utilize the different avenues and facilities the Royal Government of Bhutan offers through its subsidiaries like RMA and BoB who have introduced Payment Gateway Systems to enable eCommerce in Bhutan. It is latest in its design and approach and above all, we aim at making shopping easier, faster and economical for all Bhutanese.
- How did the idea come about? And why did you come out with such an idea?
A: The idea was conceived many years back when I wanted to buy an item but could not afford it as the cost of that item was very high whereas it was available at lesser price elsewhere but because it wasn’t the right time to introduce such technology in Bhutan, I had held back. And my expertise on having acquired knowledge on eCommerce while I working as an eCommerce consultant with IBM helped me a lot to conceive and make this idea a practical reality.
- Why the name ‘BhutanBuy?’
A: Easy to remember and synonymous to what it actually does – let people buy.
- When did you start the online business?
A: I started the initial work in September 2017 and we could finish the development of the platform and other processes by April 2018. May to August we tested the system, other processes and did trial runs. Now we are confident to go-live on in September during the Thimphu Tshechu.
- Since your venture, how has the response been?
A: A little too early to give a definite answer to this question as it is yet to go-live publicly but whoever has seen the site so far has given rave reviews and words of encouragement are pouring in from all corners.
- Do you think people are more interested in online shopping such as Myntra, and Amazon?
A: Yes, people are but as you yourself might have experienced, the cons are the longer delivery time and use of credit card and payment in dollars and on top of that, no guarantee that the exact product will be delivered to you. There are also hassles with returning the received good there are defects.
- You told me that your Bhutanbuy has two sections. Please explain those?
A: Made in Bhutan: We are listing all the produce of Bhutan. It can be a handicrafts item to an industrial product – small or big. It is our sincere initiative to make available the local and international market place to our producers. We are listing them free of cost in our site along with free photography and product cataloging. Even the profit sharing is advantageous to the producers since we take just minimal percentage from Made in Bhutan products. We at www.bhutanbuy.com believe that Bhutan needs a market place for its products that are rich in quality (material, organic colors, handmade and many more factors that make Bhutanese products stand out) so that it can expand both qualitatively and as well quantitatively, in return boosting the economy through sustainable income generation and enthusiasm amongst the producers to get actively involved in their trade thus increasing employment and preservation of Bhutanese art and culture. And, in some way limit the degeneration of the skills and culture as most of them are abandoned due to non profitability and lack of market place.
Sale in Bhutan: Due to Bhutan being landlocked, the prices touch skies due to transportation, sourcing issues and time delays. So, to make products easily available at lower cost and faster without compromising the quality of the products, bhutanbuy.com is trying its best to be more efficient in all of the aforementioned factors and take the shopping experience to the next level. Our efficient logistics management and quick response time with comparatively low cost makes products available at much more economical rate to public and faster to meet their deadline, expectations and commitments.
- What kind of challenges do you face?
A: Many challenges along the way. Still most of the trade happens in barter system in Bhutan, which doesn’t have product packaging, cataloging, pricing structure, logistics and most importantly the trust that this system will work. The availability of products throughout the year is another aspect we had to plan really well and convince the producers that there will be constant demand for supply.
- How do you plan to compete with the other online companies like Myntra and Amazon?
A: I believe in competition but not comparatively. My idea of competition is to be efficient in what I am doing and take advantage of the advantages that I have over other competitors. And, I feel the winning edge in this competition is to make things easier for my customers.
- What are your future plans to sustain your business?
A: Make shopping easier and economical for general public and that’s the key to the sustenance of the company
- Explain the process of procuring an item when a person orders from your online company?
A: It is a simple three-step process: 1. Select the product from the site. 2. Pay online which is very simple using the Local Bank Account like BoB, BNB, TBank and others using the RMA payment gateway 3. Get the product delivered at your doorsteps.
- What are the kinds of fees you charge for those orders?
A: Our home delivery is free. Product cost includes the cost of the product, sales tax and duties if it is an imported product as per RRCO taxation policy thus each one of us are contributing to the GNH and to our country’s economy and the transportation cost till Bhutan.
- How much capital have you invested in your company?
A: I started this company with Nu 7,00,000, a small amount comparatively for an eCommerce company startup as compared to other eCommerce startups globally.