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Ecommerce in Pakistan: Pandemic, Inflation, and Resilience

Jehan | Feb 13 2023
Ecommerce in Pakistan: Pandemic, Inflation, and Resilience

The year is 2023 and the biggest name in Ecommerce in Pakistan has just laid off 11% of its workforce. How did we get here? as the title dictates, the pandemic, inflation, and a sad collection of inevitable variables have had a lot to do with it.

But Pakistani startup founders are shrewd. At +92Disrupt in 2022, we brought together the founders of Kravemart, Bagallery, DealCart, Snapp Retail, and PriceOye and picked their brains regarding what would work for Ecommerce strategies going forward in a slowing market.

The Effects of the Pandemic and Generational Shift on Pakistan’s Ecommerce Space

In 2022, Pakistani Ecommerce startups raised the most funding in the country. This shows that local and international investors see potential in the space.

The hottest sectors of the Pakistani startup ecosystem in 2022

Source: Katalyst Labs

It is also because these founders have also laid the groundwork for how to tackle the biggest problems we’re facing today.

It’s all About Convenience

Kassim Shroff, CEO of Kravemart, spoke about how the pandemic made us look for convenience in everyday tasks.

Especially when it comes to grocery delivery, convenience is key. Kravemart is in a position where its main competitors are kiryana stores, and its target market can very well walk to a store and purchase what they require.

However, with the emergence of Gen Z, more people are beginning to find convenience in opening up an app and ordering.

Capture the Scrollers

DealCart is an example of an Ecommerce platform that is going after the middle or lower-middle income bracket, ideally, those who haven’t transacted on Ecommerce platforms before.

How do you secure that market? Well, COVID has definitely made it much easier to do that.

The pandemic had us all scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube. Advertising to them and getting them to start buying online was DealCart’s big idea.

As a result, COVID has helped shepherd a potential audience for the grocery-focused Ecommerce app.

B2B or not B2B

Snapp Retail works with small kiryana retailers to digitize their operations and its CEO, Moazzam Ali Khan iterates that the shift in attention towards e-Commerce platforms has more to do with an overall generational transition than COVID.

“For shop owners, the first generation, the fathers, are moving away (and) their sons and daughters are coming in (to their roles) … We’re seeing a younger audience (take over) … They are a lot more tech-savvy”

Hence, when Snapp Retail gets down to deploying its service, the conversation with store owners is easier. Driving habitual changes is also a lot more sustainable.

How to Advertise your Ecommerce Platform to a Younger Market

From influencer marketing and community-based approaches to full-fledged billboards and YouTube ad slots, there is no hard-and-fast route to advertising to Gen Z and millennials.

But some tactics seem to have worked better than the rest.

Offline Marketing for Ecommerce

Offline marketing efforts will get a lot more visibility if done right. And this is irrefutable when you look at the sheer number of commuters on a daily basis.

TV and radio spots, on-field activations, and billboards are a great way to put your Ecommerce platform on a physical pedestal. With the number of competing platforms – with two grocery-based services on stage – it’s important to define your brand and set it apart from the rest.

Offline marketing tools help achieve that quite effectively.

It Builds Trust

“PriceOye is the second most visited shopping website in the country. 38% of the digital population of Pakistan has visited us in the last two years” – Adnan Shaffi, CEO of PriceOye

An out-of-home campaign wasn’t really necessary for PriceOye because they were already pulling in an audience online. However, they saw it serve a different purpose: to build trust!

There are countless online platforms and it has become very easy for consumers to buy off of them, so how do you set yourself apart? Trust building! Out-of-home advertising shows buyers that you’re a legitimate organization.

Community-Based Marketing for Ecommerce

DealCart, like the others, relies on various channels; with that said, referrals are a big part of how they acquire customers.

Group buying is the aim. So, if you’re offering a great product at a ‘group price’, to avail said price, the customer must share the same deal with others; thereby, bringing in more users.

Another way to appease an already burgeoning community is to offer:

  1. Incentives
  2. Loyalty programs
  3. Points for sharing

WhatsApp… Really?!

WhatsApp has become surprisingly important for DealCart in its bid to acquire customers.

According to a Gallup study conducted with a nationally representative sample of adult men and women, 60% of the sample said that they spent at least 1 hour a day on WhatsApp.

DealCart’s target market is already comfortable using the app and since it’s now allowed sellers to set up catalogs and place orders, it’s a good way to bring in users and then transition them onto the app.

Influencer Marketing for Ecommerce

Not every Ecommerce platform needs to advertise itself through influencers. But for some, it is a no-brainer. Bagallery is one such organization.

Mina Salman, the CEO of Bagallery put this quite succinctly:

“We’ve done a lot of influencer marketing because our market is more beauty and fashion.”

When selling products within niches like these, user-generated content is a great pull! Showing people various ways ‘real humans’ use products in your catalog is a sure-shot way to bring more people into your sales funnel.

Additionally, the results of an influencer marketing campaign are easily measurable through social media insights and data.

I Would Rather Risk COVID…

Even towards the end of the first wave of COVID, Pakistani consumers were still skeptical of buying online. They would still want to go out and see the product before they buy.

Mina Salman spoke about mixing her influencer marketing strategy with a host of other out-of-home and digital strategies. This also included an event catering to her target market: Glam Fest.

Granted that events such as Glam Fest were ofcourse held after the world had successfully tackled COVID, there used to be a ligering feeling: come rain, shine, or global pandemic, we like to see before we buy.

Now, Pakistanis are becoming more comfortable with shopping online, but we aren’t quite there yet. This is also why pop-ups like the Commons Karachi, Karachi Eat, and others have become so big of late.

The Mix of Offline and Online Efforts

It’s never going to be an either-or solution, it will always be a mix of both offline and online efforts. So, for instance, according to Kasim Shroff, one can conduct offline campaigns every 3-4 months to build a base of customers.

And once they start buying from you, it’s essential to use social media, email newsletters, and other tools to retarget them and keep them coming back.


Both forms of advertising can lead to an unnecessary marketing burn, especially for startups; hence, it’s important to strategize. You should:

  1. Know what your product/service is
  2. Know your competition
  3. Know what you need to achieve with your external communications
  4. Know your target market

There will also be a lot of trial and error involved. In PriceOye’s case, they started with an out-of-home campaign in Karachi, gauged the results, and then sanctioned campaigns in Lahore, Faisalabad, Peshawar, Multan, and then a second one in Karachi.

These campaigns also have to be geared towards specific areas in these cities to confirm the best results.

How Has Inflation Affected Ecommerce in Pakistan?

The Pakistani economy is reeling from political and social turmoil. How do our Ecommerce businesses in Pakistan prepare for a world where their customers have seen spending power decrease significantly?

Pakistan's Inflation Rate

Source: Trading Economics

Alternative solutions

A large chunk of consumers in Pakistan are now used to buying off of FoodPanda, Karavemart, PriceOye, etc. And where they were once used to purchasing a certain brand, those brands are not as affordable anymore.

The government’s policies on imports have also made it so that some of these brands aren’t even available to buy anymore. For instance, pet food scarcity was rife at the end of 2022.

Having said that, there are always alternatives. So where pet owners were buying Pedigree before, they can now buy a locally-made alternative in Waggles.

Simply put: it’s up to these platforms to stock alternate product options to cater to the readjusted spending power of Pakistan.

Grocery, phones, clothes, etc. are all essentials and no matter how bad things get, people will buy these ‘needs’

“For us, the play is still the same. People still need to eat, people still need to shop, and people still need to do their everyday grocery essentials.” – Kassim Shroff

Opportunities Created

Moderated by Mutaher Khan, the panel on Ecommerce in Pakistan at +92Disrupt followed up on this thought by asking if the bleak economic landscape creates new opportunities for lesser-known brands.

And yes, it does. Since there isn’t a lot of brand loyalty regarding masalas, eggs, and other perishable goods readily used by Pakistanis, stores and Ecommerce platforms have found that their independent brands have begun to sell well.

This is called private labeling: offering a cheaper alternative that is locally sourced and easier to provide to customers.

How Does Inflation Affect Large Basket Sizes

In the case of PriceOye, where customers have to check out larger basket sizes, there is a delta in prices that now means a lot to customers.

But this wasn’t always the case in the past. If phones and laptops are 2-3% more expensive in physical stores, customers would be okay with paying that if it meant that they got to hold and view the product before they purchased it.

This 2-3% matters a lot more now. And that too, for three understandable reasons:

  1. Consumers’ average disposal income has shrunk
  2. The expenses associated with commuting to physical stores are really high now (i.e. fuel)
  3. Other charges associated with buying technology are increasing (i.e. PTA tax)

Read about the +92Disrupt conversation on content creation here. Find out 10 must-have tech tools for remote work here!