By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
The e-commerce industry in Sri Lanka is likely to expand more than threefold by 2018, a top official from Google India said.
“By 2018, I’m confident that e-commerce will be around 3-4 percent of the total retail industry. That’s how we want it to grow,” Google India Director Nitin Bawankule said.
wOw.lk CEO Sheyantha Abeykoon noted that Sri Lanka’s total retail industry was worth around Rs. 300 billion, and e-commerce made just below 1 percent of it last year, and that e-commerce will grow much faster than the total retail trade.
Bawankule pointed out that e-commerce in India makes up 3.5-4 percent of the country’s retail industry, and around 10 percent in average globally. “The local e-commerce industry is still in its nascent stage. With the current levels of internet and smartphone penetration, all the catalysts are in place for growth. The real uptake in the industry started 5 years ago, and the industry has grown by 100 percent since then,” Abeykoon said.
He said that during its early stages, Sri Lankan residents had used e-commerce to get the best deals and offers, while expatriates had used it to send gifts to their friends and family in Sri Lanka.
“Now it’s not just about getting a daily deal, but getting a complete product basket. There’s a lot of scope, which is why a lot of corporates are investing heavily in this,” Abeykoon said.
He said that cash payments and delivery is another recent innovation, showing how the local e-commerce industry is adapting to local requirements.
Google and wOw.lk recently partnered up to create the Megapola website for the festive season, which will be online till April 30, with an ambition to attract over 1 million new e-commerce customers in the local market.
“Sri Lanka’s internet penetration is very high compared to other countries in the region. A lot of people lack trust in e-commerce, but when two multinationals like Google and Axiata come together, people will want to try it out,” Bawankule said.
He said that similar initiatives had worked to boost e-commerce in India, and other parts of Asia and the Middle East.
Abeykoon said that e-commerce in Sri Lanka is mainly used to sell home appliances and electronic products, while travel has not emerged as a growth area. Online travel booking has an over 40 percent market share globally.