Internet shutdown shuts e-commerce in Kashmir

For Yasir Nazir—IT professional and an impulsive online shopper—purchasing clothes, accessories, home durables and electronics used to be just a click away.

Nazir used to make purchases worth Rs 10,000 through online shopping mode every month. After 5 August his shopping habits have changed. “I now often visit departmental stores and showrooms which sell clothes, accessories and household goods. Everyday my hands are full of shopping bags,” says Nazir.

Pertinently, the Jammu and Kashmir administration had snapped the internet on 5 August across Kashmir on all the platforms hours before Government of India announced its decision to abrogate J&K’s special status and bifurcate it into two Union Territories, J&K and Ladakh. 

Farhan Kitab, chief spokesman, Kashmir Economic Alliance says. “We had lost a good chunk of loyal shoppers to the e-commerce as they were becoming more prone to online shopping. But during the past 2 months new-age online shoppers have started visiting our stores regularly  during the limited hours when markets are open,” says Kitab, who also runs a shoe showroom in the city center.

However, suspension of internet services has also brought operations of the Point Of Sale (POS) machines, popularly known as swipe machines to a standstill. Kitab says when internet services were operating smoothly, 50 per cent shoppers used to make purchases with help of digital payments, which is at the lowest ebb now.

“With a ban on SMS, we are unable to generate OTPs due to which the digital payments such as Paytm or other modes have become inaccessible,” says Kitab.

Faisal Wani, who owns apparel showroom at Ikhrajpora in civil lines here, says, “The customer-trader interaction has gone up. It has created a vibe of positive business sentiment as customers are moving around,” says Wani.

Zahoor Qari, president of Kashmir Courier Association says 3000-5000 shipments of online shopping products used to arrive in the Valley daily. These have stopped since 5 August due to the internet ban.  “Of 5000 shipments of online shopping products 50 percent share was of mobile phones. Now people purchase the handsets from showrooms.  Even shopkeepers are unable to get new stocks due to various reasons,” says Qari.

“Popularity of online shopping had increased to an extent that people in the Valley were even ordering medicines online. But now they have to visit the nearest medical shop or ask someone to purchase these medicines from outside the Valley,” says Qari.