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When the COVID19 pandemic broke out in Pakistan, it created a new economic reality and called for an increased reliance on digital solutions. Consumers who suddenly found themselves homebound and with limited access to brick-and-mortar stores, increasingly turned towards ecommerce platforms to meet their needs. MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises), which had operated on traditional models of business for generations, began shifting their operations online.

For trade oriented MSMEs, the impact was severe as opportunities for export declined and overseas buyers cancelled orders. Textile export dropped and expositions were cancelled.

In order to safeguard the MSMEs from the new economic climate and to enable them to continue trade operations, dExports - a program launched by Daraz in partnership with Alibaba.com in 2019 - undertook a number of initiatives including hosting weekly webinars and providing free-of-cost education regarding e-commerce and trade. dExports has also established business clinics to provide one-on-one advice to sellers and is actively supporting them with product innovation to adapt to the new market.

The program, which had been launched to give local sellers the opportunity to list their products on the platform and reach a large, global customer base, has played a critical role in helping MSMEs across the nation navigate trade during a post-COVID19 world.

During this time, the program has also helped sellers identify shifts in consumer trends; away from leisure buying and towards essential purchases - and adapt their assortment very quickly to the new patterns in order to increase their business performance.

“With the dExports program, I have been able to find business even when trade slowed down due to the pandemic,” said Awais & Qasim, brothers who jointly own ATMF co in the small town of Mian Channu.

A few weeks after he joined the dExports program and was listed on Alibaba as a seller, x dispatched his first order to the United Kingdom. Through weekly training sessions on how to improve the business’ performance, x says, he was able to remain updated on the latest trends and continue operations. “I am confident that in the future this will continue to bear fruit,” they added.

The dExports program started as a pilot project to assess the market potential in Pakistan, but today, it is the bread and butter for hundreds of MSMEs across the country.