COVID-19 restrictions have disrupted Nepal’s economy – tourist arrivals, fell by 81% in 2020 . On the flipside, the pandemic has created new online opportunities. And emerging businesses going digital are seizing the moment. The online store, Sabzi Land which sells fresh organic fruits and vegetables from more than 50 farms, has seen its sales grow by 60% since the outbreak. Hurdles such as the bargaining and cash change no longer exist. More established online businesses have also enjoyed strong growth. Nepal’s largest online supermarket Thulo.com has seen sales surge by more than 200% from 2019 to 2020. Nepal Govt.’s proactive reforms following an eTrade readiness assessment done by UNCTAD in 2017 are progressive and helping e commerce thrive in the low industrial nation. In 2017, only 4% of online purchases were paid with a credit or bank card in Nepal. Since then, the government has helped build citizens’ confidence in making digital payments by making it possible to pay utilities’ bills and other public services online. Digital payment methods such as QR code and digital wallets have also picked up speed . An outdated legal and regulatory framework regarding consumer protection and privacy, was earlier hampering e-commerce uptake.
The trade and industry ministry has since drafted Nepal’s first e-commerce bill, which is ready to ve tabled once political stability in Nepal is restored. The share of people in Nepal using internet jumped from 20% in 2017 to 34% in 2019, according to UNCTAD’s latest Business-to-Consumer E-commerce Index. UNCTAD has recommended a robust digitising support and training system for existing and emerging women start ups inorder to sustain the momentum for realising the vision of a Digital Nepal.