“Digital platforms provide the convenience of time and choices”

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Zenisha Moktan Malhotra, the retail director of IMS Group, has been involved in the online business with the name ‘SmartDoko’.  In her exclusive tete-a-tete with ceotab.com, she says digital platforms provide the convenience of time and choices of products. Excerpts: 

What inspired you to get involved in the online business?

We believe this is the way forward for commerce. We have been in the “technology” industry for a while and absolutely believe in the benefits of tech. Digital platforms provide the convenience of time and choices that not all physical stores can and with the belief of serving our customers the best way we can, we were inspired to join the online business.

Why did IMS decide to acquire SmarkDoko? What made you stick with the name “SmartDoko?

We saw a lot of potential in SmartDoko with its platform but we knew if we added our investment and energy we could definitely make it better. Recent customers of SD can vouch for incredible service and timely deliveries from us now.

To answer why we stuck with the name ‘Smartdoko’, is because we felt it encapsulated a modern as well as a Nepali feel, which is at the heart of the company which focuses on giving Nepali service to the Nepali customer while providing modern solutions!

In your view, how has online shopping evolved in years?

With the pandemic, people have definitely shifted by and large, and are now very comfortable shopping and making payments online. Online platforms with competition have raised the bar and customer feedback has pushed them to improve rapidly. Now even the smallest of stores are selling online and understand the power the internet holds.

There are many online destinations in Nepal. Why should one choose “SmartDoko” for online shopping?

I wouldn’t say there are very many e-commerce platforms that operate with full regulations and legally registered to do online business. The few of us that are doing it have it slightly more difficult since the online market is flooded with illegal sellers. Choose us to support real business and the economy of our country. Also, choose us if you want the best service in Nepal.

How did you manage your service during the first wave of COVID-19? What were the challenges that you faced during the lockdown as it was the first practice of its kind?

It was difficult since it was the first lockdown we’ve ever had to deal with in our lives and we didn’t understand how to go about it. Ensuring the health and safety of employees and customers was a top priority. We dealt with it with “service” in mind and we knew what we were doing made people’s lives easier and that’s what we strive for in all of our businesses.

Did you see any growth in the business since the pandemic started?

Yes, especially in terms of people signing up. Earlier people had the mentality that only bigger purchases where specifications can be compared easily are to be bought online, now we have more grocery and daily essential buyers.

Are there any schemes/offers that you are planning to bring for your valuable customers in the coming days?

During COVID, the only thing we can offer is safe, hygienic practices and timely deliveries for our customers, however, under normal circumstances; we always have the most attractive offers for our valued customers for every occasion.

Could you tell us more about your ‘reward point system’?

Once customers enroll themselves to become a member and start purchasing the product, they can instigate racking up the member’s point. A customer receives 1% of the Total Value in the Points System, which is equal to 0.5% in monetary value. To redeem your Points, simply click on the “members reward” section which will be in my points. It’s a system where you basically get a discount for EVERY product you buy. The higher the value, the more the reward!

As there have been a few negative feedbacks regarding your platform, how are you planning to make it more user-friendly?

We have taken maximum feedback and have updated our new system to accommodate all these changes. It is currently very user-friendly and we have received rave reviews from old and new customers but improving is constant progress and we continuously work on it every day to make little changes in every update.

The major complication that customers face in Nepali shopping platforms is in the ‘return & exchange’ department. This has also known to be one of the reasons for them to skip online shopping altogether. How are you planning to solve this issue?

The return and exchange policy is overall an issue in the Nepali market and it is more vendor dependent. We too wish it would have been better, but at Smartdoko, we take physical damage and such issues right back, we try to exchange it with a gift card so as not to lose sales, but if a customer wants money back, we accept that too. However the “I don’t like it” returns we try our best to avoid since that is a 100% loss for us.

People are switching to online shopping now more than ever. However, you’re only delivering Covid-19 essentials and groceries during the lockdown period. Wouldn’t you want to optimize this situation by making all categories available since you’d already been getting traffic on your website?

As per government rules, that is all we are allowed to sell at the moment and as I said earlier, we are one of the few companies in Nepal that follow all legal instructions to the date.

Where do you see SmartDoko in the next five years?

Definitely a more improved platform, more products, more services, more customers. I think we are on the right track because we are building a very strong foundation so as not to falter when we grow!