PETALING JAYA: Even as brick-and-mortar businesses are being shuttered, leaving many jobless, aspiring entrepreneurs are riding on the online shopping boom to make more money.
Women make up a huge portion of these “home sellers”, accounting for 72% of the 11,850 online entrepreneurs covered in a recent survey by e-commerce platform Shopee. The survey was conducted ahead of its “11.11 Big Sale”.
Online sellers focus on health and beauty products as well as women’s clothing and fashion accessories and are raking in an average of RM3,950 per month, according to Shopee regional managing director Ian Ho.
This represents up to three times the total wages a minimum wage worker makes in a month, and many of these entrepreneurs still hold a regular job outside their virtual stores.
This trend towards e-commerce is not unexpected given the restrictions on movement caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to economist Prof Dr Barjoyai Bardai.
“For instance, shopping malls are empty for now because people are afraid to visit them,” he told theSun yesterday.
Ho said the trend shows that e-commerce is creating new livelihoods and opportunities amid the economic challenges the country is facing.
The Shopee survey shows that even those who still have a regular job are taking the opportunity to make more money on side through e-commerce.
“For instance, 35.4% of online retailers who responded to the survey said they are still employed in their current jobs,” Ho said.
Each of them makes an average of RM2,750 a month over and above their regular salary.
Those aged 18 to 35 make up 70.7% of those who are running a business online – either on a full time or part time basis – are mostly Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia holders, a clear indication that tertiary education is not a criterion for online entrepreneurship.
Ho said selected online entrepreneurs have managed to rake in up to RM6,000 a month by selling Muslim fashion products, groceries, and babies and children-related items.
Of those surveyed, 5,406 are new in the game.
Rural entrepreneurs account for only 13.3% of online sellers but they have helped to widen the penetration rate quite extensively. E-commerce entrepreneurs are supplying to places as far afield as Pontian in Johor, Kuala Nerus in Terengganu and Kabong in Sarawak. All these businesses are driven primarily by women.
They focus on their hometown specialities such as keropok lekor, kek lapis, ikan bilis Pangkor, belacan and cencaluk, giving consumers wider choices online. Ho said these rural sellers are able to earn an average of RM3,200 in sales monthly.
While the trend towards online shopping is a good sign, Barjoyai said more could be done by the government to drive it further.
“For instance, the government should put in greater efforts to expand broadband coverage nationwide to help propel e-commerce.”
He said there should also be a dedicated delivery system to meet the needs of consumers.
Barjoyai also pointed out that e-commerce comes with some drawbacks. For instance, customers cannot try on items such as clothes before buying, and there is a time lag between purchase and receipt of the goods.
But for many online shoppers, that is hardly an issue.