Whenever Pakistanis talk about the tech ecosystem in Pakistan, it is always in a gloomy mood. There's a good reason for it. Pakistanis don't have access to PayPal or Stripe, the world's leading fintech companies. Because of this deficiency, people outside Pakistan are reluctant to hand over money. Those fintech companies like Payoneer that do work in Pakistan are incompatible with resellers like Amazon or Walmart. Payoneer is mainly used for person-to-person payments in the freelance market and does not have an escrow option as it has weak dispute resolution mechanisms. There are many other ways to make money off the internet but which Pakistanis cannot access. For example, Medium.com is like a YouTube of writers. Whenever a person writes for Medium, he/she can be paid depending on the amount of time the blog post was read, commented on, and "clapped" for. But Medium only gives money to Stripe, which offers its services to thirty-four countries only, Pakistan not included (India has a beta version).
Considering how clogged and constricted the tech environment is in Pakistan, the recent tweet by Commerce Adviser Abdul Razzak Dawood was a source of jubilation all around. The tweet announced that Pakistan would soon be added to Amazon's list of seller countries, i.e., Pakistanis will now be able to directly sell on Amazon without resorting to "shortcuts." The shortcuts are very long, circuitous ways to earn the green bucks, whereupon the seller has to register as a company in the USA and set bank accounts. This can be around $300 and can take as much as $2,000 in European countries. Most Pakistanis do not even earn that much in one year, let alone save for investment. Many people take other steps, such as finding a friend in the USA, but that is a risky venture for Pakistanis abroad, so they refuse outright.
Pakistanis are talented and resourceful. They are also one of the most resilient and ambitious nations on Earth. In May 2020, the Google search "How to sell on Amazon from Pakistan" was searched 165,000 times, and this year in April, the search volume for the same query was 246,000. Similarly, many people have made it their permanent income, teaching others how to sell on Amazon. The most prominent example is that of Extreme Commerce and e-Commerce by enablers. Now the Amazon's entry into Pakistan has given everyone, from small retailers to factory owners, a chance to try their fate.
But there is the question of competition on Amazon. Those people who make their products will have to contend with those who are traders on Amazon. The traders will scour the market for products, order the high-selling ones from China and sell directly via Amazon without the products reaching Pakistan. But then there is space for everyone on Amazon. That why textile exporters are also very enthusiastic. But demand can be very erratic, margins can be razor-thin, and competition cutthroat. That is why Pakistani manufacturers might not be able to compete with their Chinese counterparts.
Lastly, Pakistanis need to be cautious. Right now, there is no sound data on how many Amazon sellers, traders, or resellers we have. People's interest is an indicator but not a substitute for factual data. Other emerging markets have been quite successful with Amazon, selling their produce at a high cost, bringing in millions of dollars. But considering the informally of our markets, this news needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.