Pakistan sees increase in digital payments during coronavirus lockdown

People reduce use of banknotes out of fear of contracting virus


Usman Hanif April 17, 2020
Representational image. PHOTO REUTERS

KARACHI: Digital payments in Pakistan have received a big push in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic as people are reducing the use of banknotes out of fear of contracting the virus.

Pakistan’s first e-commerce index, powered by Daraz, shows an increase in digital payments and a rise in demand for online shopping during the lockdown.

Data on the platform showed that digital payments in the country started picking up in 2019. On Daraz, digital payments contributed 32% of the total consumer spending and the use of e-wallets increased 8.2 times on a year-on-year basis.

Pakistan remains a cash-reliant economy and consequently collecting reliable data on the growth of e-commerce sector has largely remained a challenge.

JS Bank Country Head - Branchless Banking and Digital Implementation Noman Azhar told The Express Tribune that payments through the JS wallet rose 10-12% since the government and the State Bank of Pakistan encouraged the use of digital transactions amid the lockdown. “Traffic from branches has shifted to the JS wallet,” he said.

Carrefour Pakistan Country Manager Jean Marc Dumont pointed out that as a result of rising public health and safety concerns, a majority of Carrefour customers had been forced to adopt a cautious shopping behaviour.

“Conventional shoppers now prefer making payments through debit or credit cards rather than in cash,” he said. “This has also augmented cashless transactions at all stores and online orders increased in March,” he said.

The index showed that following the outbreak of the coronavirus in Pakistan, sales of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) on Daraz doubled and they were expected to rise further to 70% of total sales on the platform in the coming weeks.

“During this period of uncertainty, we have witnessed a shift in customer behaviour with demand for essential products growing rapidly, which is a strong indication that e-commerce can serve as a solution,” he remarked.

Telenor Microfinance Bank President and CEO Mudassar Aqil encouraged the public to adopt digital finance during the current crisis.

“Digital payments are not only a great alternative to cash but they also provide new opportunities to users such as digital credit, insurance and savings,” he said. “It’s time to turn this hardship into opportunity and adopt digital payments by opening a mobile wallet account.” 

Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2020.

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