E-COMMERCE PLATFORMS IN MAURITIUS HAVE SEEN GROWTH DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS, AND WILL CONTINUE TO GROW WITH THE RIGHT SUPPORT AND COMMITMENT FROM WITHIN THE ECOSYSTEM
Globally, e-commerce has been a force to be reckoned with for some time, and its use has recently been accelerating in Mauritius in the light of the Covid-19 crisis, with an uptick in consumer engagement and greater proliferation of such platforms.
On that note, the Masuritius Africa FinTech Hub (MAFH) held a webinar on May 28, 2020, on the theme ‘Opportunities & Challenges for FinTech in Post-Covid Mauritius: E-commerce’, which offered insights to the ecosystem on the growth and potential of e-commerce in Mauritius. The panel discussion was moderated by Lisa Dosooye, Head of Skills at MAFH along with panellists: Suyash Sumaroo – Founder, Moris Store; Delphine Lagesse – Group Strategic Innovation & Excellence Executive, IBL Group; Vishal Anand – Founder of Mycart.mu and Basket.mu and Yannick Ayacanou – Founder and Director, PriceGuru.
Highlighting the trends which have been emerging in Mauritius recently, Delphine commented that the crisis has forced people to buy online. She said, “In Mauritius, in the beginning, people were really scared, and supermarkets were taken under assault with people fearing food shortages. E-commerce groceries and digital food stores were being set up everyday, and at Winner’s we have seen an incredible surge in demand. Others such as my.t shop, eshop.mu and Moris Store and other platforms have also emerged. However, some of these initiatives could not be managed.”
She adds, “The purchasing behaviour of customers has changed. Before the pandemic, they were interested in quality, price and brand. Now, people focus on availability, price, then quality. The future of brand engagement will be interesting to follow, and user behaviour will continue to evolve.”
Sharing his own experience, Vishal said, “Mycart.mu saw orders increase exponentially during the lockdown. During Covid-19, our online chat support was there to help these people who had never used e-commerce before. Most people were paying online – debit card and credit card, Juice and my.t money were all being used. Before this crisis, we saw many people placing their orders on call – but the outbreak saw a very interesting change with people trying and succeeding in ordering online.”
Additionally, Suyash explained, “Using blockchain is important and, in our case, we are using it to implement tokens for loyalty programmes. We have teamed up with Hustlemania to provide an online loyalty platform as we wanted to make buying online a fun activity through gamification. However, capital constraints are huge. Banks are heavily regulated as to online payments. Transaction fees need to be lower. The Bank of Mauritius announced that they are working on a CBDC [Central Bank Digital Currency]. This could be a real boost to e-commerce platforms and activities here in Mauritius.”
According to the United Nations e-commerce index, Mauritius is well placed when it comes to readiness to purchase through e-commerce portals due to the reliable telecom companies, incubators and accelerators that are present here. At the start of the webinar, MAFH conducted a survey among the participants, and the results of the poll showed:
- On purchasing from a local e–commerce platform during lockdown:
- 48% of participants were using e-commerce before and have continued to do so during the crisis
- 21% said it was their first experience buying online during lockdown
- 31% said they have not tried it yet.
- On the Payment Methods front:
- 58% of participants have been paying through online banking platforms (9% through my.t money, 38% via credit cards, 14% via debit cards. However, 36% also made payments through cash on delivery, and 15% mentioned that they have not purchased online).
The crisis has given consumers an opportunity to embrace technology and this is a significant step forward culturally for the consumer base here in Mauritius. Having said that, traditional SME retailers during this period have had ups and down with trying to experiment going live with various platforms. Commenting on this, Yannick said, “E-commerce requires capital, great customer experience, data, market research and a hardworking team. SMEs should collaborate with existing platforms like PriceGuru as a go-to-market solution because we already have the database and the technology solutions, so it is easier to adapt. For example, on Amazon, more than 50% of the revenue comes from third party sellers, SMEs. They have been able to reach out to many consumers and grow their businesses while working with Amazon. I would encourage SMEs to go with existing players as they will benefit from it and it is definitely a cheaper route.”
As this space will continue to grow, the future of it also will evolve. Unemployment and job losses will impact on the purchasing power of consumers, which will decrease. Supply chain and logistics will also be affected due to lack of supply of imported items. Delphine concludes, “Digital literacy is important, everyone needs to be equipped with the right tools. Another issue is bad customer experience from customer service to online fraud – consumer protection units should be actively involved. To be able to move forward, all e-commerce players should come together and work together with the Government to put conducive regulations in place. In Mauritius, this space is accelerating, and it will change with consumers’ needs, we need to take this as an opportunity by including everyone in the ecosystem, only together can we achieve better results.”
ABOUT MAURITIUS AFRICA FINTECH HUB
The Mauritius Africa FinTech Hub (MAFH) is a fast-growing ecosystem where entrepreneurs, corporations, governments, tech experts, investors, financial service providers, universities and research institutions can collaborate to build cutting-edge solutions for the emerging African market. MAFH exists to pave the way for international FinTech companies and financial service providers to access the African market. Similarly, MAFH facilitates African FinTech ventures to do business across borders.