Small Firms Make the Case for E-Trade

By Domeisen, Natalie; Gillies, John et al. | International Trade Forum, January 1, 2003 | Go to article overview

Small Firms Make the Case for E-Trade


Domeisen, Natalie, Gillies, John, de Sousa, Prema, International Trade Forum


Across the developing world, pioneering small firms are taking advantage of new information and communications technologies to improve their business processes and expand their export markets for traditional products and services. They are also supplying high-tech goods and services themselves.

The case studies on the following pages provide examples of how applying technology with business flair can boost efficiency and profits - even in small firms.

It's not always necessary to use the most sophisticated technologies. Whether exporting gift items, specialty foods or luxury goods, "everyday" information and communications technologies such as e-mail, web sites, mobile phones and digital photography make a big difference.

Developing and transition economies are also offering skilled services in "new economy" sectors, such as software programming and web management. Enterprising young people, trained in technology, are helping their countries become e-ready and exporting e-business services around the world.

Opening the E-gates for Shopping in Nepal

The challenge for traditional retailers like MunchaHouse.com in Nepal is to develop an appropriate technological framework to offer online shopping as well as traditional shopping. By applying technology with business flair, the firm has addressed a market need. It aims to expand the export market by tapping into Nepalese communities abroad, and encourage them to buy gifts for friends and family in Nepal. It also aims to expand the domestic market by showing them the potential of online shopping through the packages received from expatriate contacts.

Founded in the heart of old Kathmandu, MunchaHouse is one of the oldest department stores in Nepal. Today, its online shop complements its traditional department store. Part of its success is based on building on a well-established brand and image. E-shopping includes merchandise of over 5,000 items in 25 major categories, including greeting cards and upload of photos for development and delivery. Since the launch of MunchaHouse.com in 2000, the company has developed a customer base of 4,500 members.

MunchaHouse.com saw how the Internet raises the possibility of serving Nepalese people in previously unimagined ways. The web site caters to the Nepalese community outside Nepal, enabling shoppers to select items from a wide variety of categories and items. These products are delivered to over 120 e-connected destinations in Nepal (a tall order for any mail order company), allowing them to bridge the gap between Nepalese overseas and their relatives in the Himalayan foothills. Delivery costs and time are much reduced compared with the international postal services.

MunchaHouse.com developed its online shopping with local expertise. The challenge they faced was to integrate conventional retail systems with online systems to handle receipt of specifications, samples, order placements, receipt of goods, storage, movement and payment. They developed a model with online directories, business/product catalogues, trade offers and promotion by event sponsorships.

Exporting ICT Services from Nepal

In less than 10 years, Nepal has undergone an ICT revolution. Back in 1995, the only web site managed and hosted by a Nepalese company was http://www.southasia.com Today, a search for the word 'Nepal' on Yahoo or Google search engines shows a multitude of addresses. Whether it's about Nepal's domestic news, travel sites, or geography, web sites are now perceived within Nepal as a business necessity.

ITNTI has helped Nepal make this transformation, creating the infrastructure for export markets to grow. As the country's most affordable web hosting service and a world-class information service provider, ITNTI set the stage for other services in Nepal.

ITNTI also offers e-business solutions in sectors ranging from agriculture to satellite communications. It provides services for development organizations as well as major European multinational firms. …

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