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If you are an average Pakistani family specially with teenaged children it is advisable to keep a reasonable amount of cash at home.

This is now almost compulsory given the steady stream of delivery persons coming from different organizations to deliver what has been ordered on line by one member of the family or other.

The bell rings and when you open the door you are face to face with a young man holding out a parcel and informing you that a certain member of your family has ordered the contents and you are required to pay a few thousand on the spot.

This could go on all day and you keep collecting parcels of all sizes and descriptions. There are the obvious ones from fabric and fashion companies and then the not so obvious ones whose unusual shapes are intriguing and are an indication that they are the products of impulsive buying born out of attractive selling pitches on the TV screen or mobiles.

The buck does not stop here. Now even groceries and medicines are delivered at your residence and of course require more payments thus the advice to maintain a steady stream of cash at home.

You will be surprised to know that in the early days of Pakistan home delivery did exist and in fact in some cases surpassed the latest such services available in the present age.

I remember as a child living in what was once Jacob Lines and presently Gulshan-e-Zahoor (Lines Area) the frequent visit of the shoe seller who would bring his merchandise along with him and we as children specially close to Eid would excitedly try out various pairs hoping that what we choose fits the budget of our parents.

Yes those were days of austere living within budgets and random spending was not an option. Employment in the Middle East had not started and this mad race for worldly possessions was yet to begin. For the girls in the family the more important visit was that of the famous Churi Wali or the lady selling bangles.

She would arrive witha straw basket on her head filled with glittering bangles of different colors and sizes. The girls would surround her and try out various bangles. Mix and match would be the order of the day and after hectic efforts a combination of bangles would produce the perfect match. It were not just bangles that the Churi Wali mixed and matched.

She in some cases also served as the match-maker for the girls in the neighbourhood. Discreetly, she would share information of her customers with the mothers of suitable young men and serve as an intermediatory for successful conclusion of wedding proposals. A feat that surely cannot be duplicated by present-day home delivery services.

The home delivery service has lost its human touch with the advent of technology and is now popularly known as ordering online and e-commerce as a broader term. The customer and seller never meet but business worth billions of dollars is transacted. Today more than 60% of business is transacted online and statistics reveal that in 2021 an estimated 2.14 billion people worldwide purchased goods online.

According to a survey, 79 percent of online buyers shop at least once per month. In addition to that, 49 percent of online shoppers shop online once a fortnight, and 22 percent claim to do so every week.

The coronavirus pandemic was made to order for boosting online business. In the USA, for example, where weekend grocery shopping is an event the whole family always enjoyed things changed dramatically and during Corona, according to statistics, 42% of US families bought groceries online while the number of people shopping online worldwide grew 10% in 2022 to hit 3.78 billion.

Increases in online shopping during Covid-19 differ between countries, with the strongest rise noted in China and Turkey and the weakest in Switzerland and Germany, where e-commerce was already in vogue on a large scale.

What about Pakistan and where does it stand in all this? According to data released by Statista, a German company specialising in market and consumer data, Pakistan’s e-commerce market is projected to generate US$7.666 billion revenue in 2022.

With an annual growth rate of 6.09 percent between 2022 and 2025, the projected market volume would be US$ 9.1 billion by 2025.

We have come a long way since the buying of bangles and shoes at our doorsteps; haven’t we? Minus the human touch of course.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

Zia Ul Islam Zuberi

The writer is a well-known columnist


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