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In this issue

Its a market, and that’s an important distinction Look a little closer and it becomes apparent; although Amazon and Alibaba are e-commerce leaders in their respective markets, the two companies are different in several ways. E-commerce giant Amazon’s success in the West was due to it being a straightforward retailer. Most of what is listed online is its own inventory held at its own warehouses. China’s Alibaba, India’s e-commerce firms Snapdeal and Flipkart and other Asian e-commerce sites including those owned by Alibaba under the Lazada and Daraz brands are predominantly marketplaces. The firms themselves own very little of what they offer for sale online. In the case of Daraz in Sri Lanka, 95% of its online offerings are listings of independent retailers. Those marketplace participants include Sri Lanka’s largest consumer goods retailers like Abans and Softlogic retail, but also hundreds of small businesses from both here and overseas. Marketplaces empower enterprises. Businesses can list their products not just in local marketplaces but also in international ones. On the cover this month is the head of Daraz’s business in Sri Lanka, Rakhil Fernando, who discusses how in advancing the marketplace model for e-commerce, the company has several bottlenecks to bust before more people will be buying online. Less than one percent of Sri Lanka’s retail sales are done online. As more people come online, e-commerce will be in a frenzied battle for their custom. However, the other challenges for adoption lie in financial development for cashless payments, and overcoming poor logistics infrastructure. Then as more consumers start buying more stuff online, those who have built the supply chains and payment system for smooth order fulfilment at scale will win.

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