Ever heard your friends, colleagues or family members expressing their wish to start their own online business, selling clothes (most likely) or other consumer products? I am sure you have, over and over again, but very few people actually end up executing these ideas. One of the bigger obstacles is that the internet seems to be a hard place for the non-techie person to successfully use.
People end up relying on Facebook to start their group/page, which usually fizzles out after a month or so. It also requires (as opposed to the good old times) money to keep things running on these pages, even if you somehow attract a fan following. Not a lot of people think about setting up websites outside the sphere of social media, probably because it sounds even more technical and costly.
Well, now there’s a Pakistan-based website building and hosting service offering a decently priced and easy to use solution, targeted at small businesses. The service is called BizClout and they are run by OneClout, one of the startups incubated at the LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship.
How it works
The process is pretty simple. You sign up for an account, and then using an easy-to-navigate dashboard, you can set up your website. The dashboard allows you to choose a template and then fill it in with your images and words.
You can easily add products to the website, with images, prices, payment methods and other details.
Once it’s all set up the way you like it, you just need to sit back and receive orders for your products and update your website/product listings as you please.
E-Commerce in Pakistan
E-Commerce in Pakistan is not $2 billion strong just yet (as claimed on BizClout’s blog) – but estimated at $25-30 million a year. That figure looks small compared to the high claim of the billions, but it is still significant for the size of Pakistan’s internet-users base and overall economy.
With e-commerce, online exchange websites and social media becoming more and more prevalent in Pakistan, the opportunity for businesses to expand their customer base via the internet has never been stronger.
The opportunity to grow via the internet is greatest for small businesses or start-ups. The internet can act as a level playing field where you don’t have to pay large sums of money for premium locations or spots on shelves. And with services like the ones offered by BizClout, you don’t need any technical expertise of your own to set up shop.
The idea that BizClout is based on is not so unique, or new. Countless such services exist on the internet, with many of them providing their basic services for free. Big names such as Weebly have the experience of working with millions of clients, and premium packages starting at $4/month.
In comparison, BizClout’s premium packages start at $9/month, and well, they just started getting clients. While creating the website might have become an easy first step, the real question is how these websites will be attracting traffic. This is where SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services come in, and there seems to be less emphasis on that somehow.
The other option for businesses in Pakistan would be to list their products on websites such as Daraz.pk that offer a platform for small businesses to set up pages on the their domain and do all the work for you. You don’t have to worry about most things: they even offer to come photograph your products for you.
And then there’s Facebook, that already has some success stories in terms of clothing and handicraft selling businesses that have had a decent response or at least viewership.
Is it Pakistani enough?
So, with the context of all this competition and pricing, what stands out for BizClout is that it’s being run in Pakistan and is targeted towards Pakistani Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). To that end, it’s worth examining how Pakistan-focused the business/service is (in appearance).
For starters, the name is not distinctly Pakistani (like Rozee or Daraz), and even the domain name does not come with a .pk at the end. The website-generation process is extremely generic (which makes it simple and fast), but could be used for any market. There seem to be no customized features specific to the Pakistani business mindset.
Perhaps, the only Pakistan-friendly feature that stands out is the availability of payment methods such as Cash-on-Delivery, which are not common in other countries. Also, PKR can be used as a listed currency and BizClout’s team can be reached on a Pakistani mobile number.
All that being said, being the first such service emanating from Pakistan counts for something, and if they successfully market themselves in the Pakistani market, there is definitely a lot of potential there.
Beginning of a long journey
If its international predecessors are any indicator, BizClout has a long journey ahead of it.
As they enable businesses achieve success via a web presence, OneClout would also have the opportunity to grow in different directions.
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