Nepal is not dissimilar in terms of the media landscape from any other country in the subcontinent, where we can see a steady progression of both mobile and internet penetration much beyond what the traditional media has achieved in the last few decades. With almost 135% mobile penetration (thanks to SIM duplication & tourist economy) and 60% internet penetration which is further growing fast in the post-Covid world, it’s not about ‘when’ but about ‘how fast we can reach out to them as advertisers with the comprehensive digital touchpoints beyond social media.
Now, the Nepali digital ecosystem adapted much faster with a nearly two-fold increase in digital transactions as major eCommerce platforms like Daraz&Sasto deal leading from the front and coming forward to deliver day-to-day grocery products through their platforms. A case in point is Daraz, a part of Alibaba group companies, did their single-day sale campaign in November 2020 and registered NPR 25 million worth of transaction in the very first one hour of their business, as per their official press releases. Similarly, the Sasto deal went ahead and partnered with the Government of Nepal-owned Food Management and Trading Company Ltd to start delivering orders on their behalf. Sasto deal also has a partnership with Flipkart India. Besides these two organized large ecommerce players, there are multiple other platforms like Hamrobazaar, Gyapu, Metro Tarkari, Thulo.com, and Mero Kirana who have their own niche segment and giving seamless services. Besides all of them, there are a few who have adapted their business models with a digital approach, the large traditional superstores have developed their own mechanisms, which they tailored to go with the digital shopping trends. This includes one of my clients, who is now taking orders directly from their website and Viber, with a proper online payment mechanism in place.
According to a report by Nepal Rastra Bank, the e-commerce sector conducted business worth Rs. 1.20 billion from 168,627 transactions in a one-month span. The central started collecting data of online sales only from mid-august as per the national publication who has published these details recently.
Another area, which saw steady growth, is the banking sector. Banks have registered more new accounts as people are going more into the online transactions, which includes SMEs largely; they have started salary disbursement via online platforms making it mandatory for even lower wage or contract staffs to have a formal banking account. Online payments and mobile wallets like esewa, fonepay, IMEpay, Qpay, and Prabhupay gaining good user-based, and merchants accepting these methods of payments without any hesitations. Let me site you my own example. I regularly go and buy bakery items from my local store which has started accepting one of these mobile wallet payments but does not accept Debit/Credit Cards, as it is easier to operate and receive instant acknowledgment of payment. I have just read an article where one of the key commercial banks has taken special efforts to convert the whole vegetable market into the QR code-based payments mechanism and I feel, this is just a beginning.
Almost 70% of the phones in use in Nepal are smart versions. My mom, including many others in Nepal, never had to go through the transition of feature phones. Most of them, straight away use their smartphones. I am sure, this is even true for many in the sub-continent unlike countries like Japan, Korea & other European nations who had to upgrade along with the evolution of mobile phones. As Nepal also has a large Overseas Migrant Workers (OMW) ecosystem, staying connected via phone has become mandatory as most of their family members, friends, neighbors are working or studying outside. And for many, it is more cost-effective to use messaging apps like Messenger, Viber, IMO to connect with their loved ones. Viber has a claimed user base of 10 million and IMO has a substantial reach amongst migrant families whose family members are working in Gulf countries. Moreover, Whatsapp is largely popular among business colleagues.
In the recently conducted survey to understand consumer insights, it was interesting to see that for a large population in Nepal, Facebook is equivalent to the internet with more than 12 million registered users from Nepal. BothTikTok and Instagram is gaining good admiration among the younger population and engagement. With fresh TVentertainment content available almost at the same time and OTT platforms still in the emerging phase, people are viewing YouTube largely for entertainment requirements. As a father to a 6-year-old, I know, there is a deficiency of children’s content in Nepali media, so the only solution is YouTube. You can see from the numbers that Nepal has high telecom and ISP penetrated with many other mobile apps which are also having good reach among the Nepali audiences. Some of the other apps which has a large user base are Pathao, when it comes to ride-sharing and food deliver, Foodmandu for food delivery, SHAREit has claimed over 8 million monthly active users. Truecaller is also quite popular among higher socio-economic families. With education going online with the launch of my second teacher, the online education platform based in Nepal. There are many other private schools using global platforms like Edmodo. Zoom and Google meet is quite often used for business meetings and education institutes to connect with their students. While there is a number of online pharmacies like Hamropharma, who are now even looking to explore online health consultancy services.
All these have brought in changes in the behavior of different cohorts, students are now more digitally engaged in terms of gaming, education, and music and have been the key influencer to initiate digital journeys for their family members. Parents with kids like myself are looking for work-life balance and at the same time searching for activities to entertained and engage children. While young professionals are highly busy during day due to work from home schedules but their favorite pastime is using social apps and look for offers and deals while browsing the internet. Let’s take the example of Reshma, who is an entertainment junkie, always seeking entertainment content on different online platforms. While Sujan is a skill projector, who is looking for tutorials and training videos and like to showcase his newly sharped skills online and uses social apps for displaying those newly learned skills.
With the accelerated push of the economy towards digital in the post-Covid world, Nepal ecosystem is ready to leapfrog into the next level. The question is not so much about when, it is more about how we as advertisers need to shape the future to be ready to go with the flow. Trend in the advertising business that was even clear before the pandemic, was the move from traditional media to digital touchpoints. The pandemic has further accelerated this digital transformation journey. More attention is now focused on technology, e-commerce, data, and social media presence. Similarly, the pandemic has added reason for brand marketers to reduce the number of partners they have been working with to bring more value to their marketing expenditure. I also comprehend that going forward, advertisers will be increasingly looking for consolidation of their marketing partners for more integrated messaging and better effectiveness. All these are directing us to explore opportunities in real-time SEO, performance marketing, and 3Vs – Voice, Video, and Vernacular with an appetite to experiment with consumers who are open to ideas. It is crucial to understand that such thinking in automated media planning and buying is not just a passing trend but a solution that we cannot ignore any further by notwithstanding the challenges we are going to face with the evolving norms of data privacy for our advertising planning. All these indicate that Nepal advertising is ready for digital disruption. So, let’s get prepared for the new game plan.
This article is authored by Ujaya Shakya, Founder and Managing Director, Outreach Nepal and the author of ‘Brandsutra’.