This year, Manisha Mahato will not go to the bazaars and shopping malls to do her Dashain shopping. The 39-year-old housewife from Chabahil used to visit New Road, Mahabauddha and Asan with her family in tow to buy things for the festival every year.
But rising Covid-19 cases in the Kathmandu Valley has made them change their minds. The Mahato family thinks it's too risky to jostle through the crowds on the streets in the city's markets. So they have decided to stay home and make their purchases on the internet.
“Considering the situation, I am planning to buy the necessary home appliances for the festival online,” said Mahato. She started her online experience after the lockdown, and she has decided to do her Dashain shopping too on the internet.
Online shopping is the only option for consumers like Mahato who fear to go outside due to the rapid increase in infections.
E-retailers are looking forward to a boom in online shopping during the coming festival season of Dashain, Tihar and Chhath as the pandemic forces people to remain housebound.
Subal Chitrakar, co-founder and operation head of Sasto Deal, said that the way people are preferring to stay indoors, online shopping is going to swell during festival time.
“Sales are expected to grow by 400 percent compared to normal times with the different offers, schemes and discounts as people are beginning to feel comfortable buying online,” he told the Post.
Beside buying essential goods, people’s confidence in buying non-essentials items from online sellers has increased in recent months, said Chitrakar. Demand for electronic items has soared as customers find it very convenient with their purchases being delivered to their homes and they are spared transportation hassles.
Surakchya Adhikari, co-founder and chief operating officer at Thulo.com, said sales are likely to jump by more than 30-40 percent during the festival. Demand for essential goods is comparatively high; but with the festivals approaching, people have started ordering non-essential items too, she said.
Sagar Dev Bhatta, co-founder of Mero Kirana, expects online sales of non-essential goods to rise steeply this festival season.
“We expect sales to double during festival time,” said Bhatta. Demand for electronic products has been increasing along with demand for clothes and kitchen utensils, he said.
Bhatta said Dashain spending would be down this year due to slowed economic activities and layoffs. “But this year online shopping is going to increase with people shifting from going shopping physically to purchasing things online,” he said.
E-traders have been offering lots of brands that are available in the traditional market, and people who gained confidence buying clothes online have been placing orders on e-commerce platforms, added Chitrakar.
“Many people tried online shopping during the lockdown, and these first-time buyers are turning into regular customers, fuelling the online trend,” he said.
Adhikari said that people prefer to visit the stores when buying clothes, but this year they may want to do their shopping online.
Customers put off making purchases till the festive season to make purchases due to the schemes, offers and discounts, and e-retailers too plan to launch their own offers despite the situation created by Covid-19. “It will also help us to attract new customers,” said e-retailers.
Consumer rights activists have called for strict monitoring of the sector so that customers do not get cheated amid the festival rush like in the past.
"It is essential to introduce at least e-commerce regulations since the festival season is approaching, and people are making their festival purchases online because their options are limited due to the virus," said Prem Lal Maharjan, president of the National Consumer Forum.
“There are chances of unscrupulous e-retailers taking advantage of the festival buying spree and delivering low quality, date expired, damaged or the wrong goods. So there is an immediate need for laws in the e-commerce sector,” he said.
The e-commerce platforms the Post talked to said they were planning to hire additional people on the operations front to manage the service smoothly by following safety measures, considering the growth in demand during festival time.
Mero Kirana has started hiring people both temporarily and permanently while Thulo.com is also planning to hire more delivery boys.
“We have been appointing delivery boys only 14 days after the interview and PCR tests,” Bhatta said
E-retailers have managed the logistic part expecting a hike in orders so that delivery happens smoothly. The service will grow much better and much faster in the coming days as almost all e-commerce platforms have started working on the operation side, said e-traders.
“As we have partnered with Flipkart, it will help customers looking for more options and meet their expectations,” said Chitrakar.
Mahato, who has always liked visiting the stores physically, said she never thought of buying goods online though her daughter used to tell her to do so sometimes. “Buying goods online, and that too during Dashain, was never on my mind. But the virus has given us no choice ,” she said.