ISLAMABAD, SEPT 17 (DNA) – The internet has most critical role to play in emerging business environment and has already been able to contribute more than 15% of global GDP. Likewise, digital economy and e-commerce are great opportunity for SMEs, which are back bone of Pakistan’s economy as there are more than 3.2 million SMEs, accounting for nearly 90% of all enterprises in the country. 

This was the crux of discussion by trade experts during the webinar ‘Ecommerce and SMEs Preparedness’ organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), in collaboration with International Trade Center Geneva (ITC) and Ministry of Commerce, here on Friday.   

The trade experts also highlighted that SMEs in Pakistan employ about 70% of the national labor force whereas exports by Pakistani SMEs account for 25% of total exports of the country. The true potential of SMEs can be leveraged if they become technology and internet enabled and thus, having the right eco-system and policy environment to trade internationally through ecommerce.

National Project Coordinator of ITC, Dr Tauqir Shah, while giving the overview of the Revenue Mobilisation, Investment and Trade Programme (ReMIT), which has been taken in partnership with ministry of commerce, said that ITC will strive to   enable small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Pakistan to effectively engage in international markets.

He added that ITC is the only development agency that is fully dedicated to supporting the internationalization of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). ITC enables SMEs in developing and transition economies to become more competitive and connect to international markets for trade and investment, thus raising incomes and creating job opportunities, especially for women, young people, and economically left behind communities.

Ms Aisha Humera Moriani, Senior Joint Secretary E-Commerce, Ministry of Commerce (MoC, informed the participants that the National Ecommerce policy is setting the direction for development of ecommerce, and it highlights SMEs as a key pillar. She added further that the freelancers are adding on to the ecosystem by creating huge remittances by contributing to the economic cycle of the country. She said that role of MoC is to ensure that public authorities and private sector can function and work hand in hand. 

While highlighting the regulatory challenges Director General, Competition Commission of Pakistan, Mr Ahmad Qadir, explained that the key stakeholders are e-commerce enterprises, financial institutions, revenue authorities, regulatory bodies and most importantly the consumers. He said that the consumer protection guidelines should be adhered to in line with the e-commerce policy framework.

Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Joint Executive Director, SDPI, earlier asserted that there are three most crucial areas for promotion of e-commerce including enabling infrastructure for online businesses in second-tier cities and rural areas; reducing fragmentation in tax regime faced by these businesses; and responding to customer feedback and experience in a more responsive manner.

Asfandyar Farrukh, Member National E-Commerce Council, Mr. Sheharyar Tahir, Head, External Affairs, SMEDA, Dr. Ghulam Samad, Senior Research Officer, CAREC Institute, also shared their insights and experience on participation of SMEs in global trade through e-commerce. They were of the view that fundamental issue is the financing faced by SMEs in reference to e-commerce policy.

The experts highlighted that the cross-border e-commerce provides a unique opportunity for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in countries and regions that may traditionally have found it difficult to reach regional and international markets and connect with potential buyers beyond their borders. SMEs development is directly linked with the development of cross border ecommerce.