Over the last few years, I have seen the rise and fall of several e-commerce sites or businesses based in Bhutan. I have some friends who are running their businesses meeting their ends, while some have failed. This has made me understand how e-commerce sites function.

With the travel restrictions due to COVID-19, it has spilled fuel over burning flames – making e-com sites even more lucrative and worth venturing into it. COVID-19 made several e-commerce sites to spring. Many more will come in the days to come.

In this post, I am going to share how they have created their dream e-commerce sites.  Here, I will be sharing the technical aspects of what it takes to have one e-commerce site.

What is an e-commerce site?

By technical definition:

Ecommerce, also known as electronic commerce or internet commerce, refers to the buying and selling of goods or services using the internet, and the transfer of money and data to execute these transactions.

Ecommerce is often used to refer to the sale of physical products online, but it can also describe any kind of commercial transaction that is facilitated through the internet.

Shopify

What do I need to venture into e-commerce?

It is purely subjective. It would depend on the scale of your business, the business infrastructure required,  the business model, etc. 

For example, it does make sense to buy expensive servers or invest millions in AWS for selling a few merchandise which you can do on Facebook for free.

working macbook computer keyboard
Shopping online is a trend.

Many platforms are available that one can use to run businesses online. A lot of people are using Facebook as a platform to sell their merchandise, and make payments online. These kinds of businesses are also a part of e-commerce (as per my understanding).

For running a chain of stores located in different regions, catering services to a wide range of customers, you probably will need something that can help you MORE than just selling your merchandise – for example, business analytics tools, customer relationship management (CRM) tools, etc.

For this instance, your business will be generating more revenue and would require more resources – systems to manage warehouses, customers, sales, etc.

So, what you need for starting an e-com business is purely subjective. BUT common requirements are the infrastructure that enables the exchange of information and process payment transactions between consumers and producers over the internet.

How can I get ecommerce license in Bhutan?

According to the existing licensing regulations, an individual/organization/agency must apply for a license in the required form (e-commerce application form) via online G2C services at www.citizenservices.gov.bt.

If you are not sure how to proceed, visit the nearest Department of Trade office.

Or reading Guidelines on E-Commerce-2019 may help you understand the process involved.

What platforms are available to start an online business?

There are a plethora of platforms you can choose from. To find the most appropriate one for you, you will have to understand your business properly.

Before choosing any technology, you must have to think of scalability, reliability, and robustness. 

If you can understand your business well, you will have to depend LESS on the assistance of any technical people. I say this because, if you understand your business well, there are thousands of platforms you can use to build your online business as easily as creating a Facebook account!

1. Social Media

YES, you can start your online business on Facebook or Instagram. Thank online payment services that make this possible. Create a Facebook business page, post your merchandise, promote your page to reach a larger audience. The same applies to Instagram. Let your customers make online payments.

I am sharing this because many people are doing this. And it works.

2. Create Custom Online Stores

This can be achieved in many ways. To start your own brand-named online store, you will need your own domain name and hosting servers. If you are from a non-technical background you find this too technical to understand. Let me break this way.

Firstly you need an identity for your online store so that your audience can remember. For example, solotshongkhang.com for your chili online store.

You will need software to display your merchandise. You can use free software, buy premium software, or ask your technical team to develop it.

Who provides this name and hosting service?

Just google “web hosting”. You will see plenty of service providers but you will need international cards to make payment. So the option is to check for local resellers if you don’t own an international card. If you are looking for .bt domain names, contact Bhutan Telecom.

Lastly, you will need a computer to install and store your software. This computer where your software is installed should be accessible to customers. This is what the hosting service is meant for (Because no one will let you use their computer for free, you will have to pay for it). Often domain names and hosting services come as a combo.

NOTE: Here, I am referring to the website/portal as software for easy understanding.

A little more about platforms to build an online business

YES, you can create an e-com portal using WordPress, Woocommerce, Shopify, Magento, etc. hosted on a shared hosting or Virtual Private Server(VPS) or on-premise servers. Most of the e-commerce portals in Bhutan are created on one of the above platforms.

OR you can ask your development team to build the portal from scratch.

silver imac displaying collage photos
Bringing everything online.

How to Integrate Payment Gateway to your Ecommerce Site

The Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan (RMA), the central bank of Bhutan offers free-to-use payment gateways for online business sites. The Authority provides separate APIs for website portals and mobile applications.

If you are wondering how to apply for RMA’s payment gateway integration, the process is quite simple. You will have to submit a duly filled-up Merchant Registration Form form which can be accessed from RMA’s website to the Payment and Settlement System Department, Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan.

Other requirements are mentioned clearly in the form itself. So don’t forget to read the instructions properly.

After your application gets approved, you will be given access to the APIs which your development team will have to integrate with your website or apps.

Conclusion

What it costs, needs or demands to build an e-commerce platform is what your business model takes to stand.

You can run businesses online on social media platforms or create your own custom sites using on-the-shelf tools or develop from scratch – depending on the requirements of the business.

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