Online marketing grows in Kurdistan Region

Photo: AFP/Getty ImagesERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Electronic marketing is on the rise in the Kurdistan Region with business owners using a variety of online venues in an attempt to enhance and speed the sale of their products despite delivery and payment difficulties facing them due to the region’s inefficient postal services and limited availability of banking services.

The virtues of online shopping are that the sellers can market their goods to larger audiences and potential buyers can order products they are after from home or in the office. This marketing trend is popular in developed countries, but is still in primitive phases in the Kurdistan Region.

“The sale of goods online is never comparable to other ways of marketing. In online marketing, sellers can display their products in a very short period of time and to larger audiences and reach many more potential buyers, too,” Salman Idris, a man from Halabja with an online marketing page called ‘Shopping بازاركردن:’: on Facebook, said.

He was initially selling goods on commission for other companies, but now has his own business. He imports items from China and displays them on his page so customers from across the Kurdistan Region can see and order his goods. “The market is not active at the moment due to the financial crisis. But fortunately, our marketing is doing well. My monthly sales exceed $5,000.”

He displays a variety of items on his online page, prices ranging from 5,000 Iraq Dinars (IQD, $4.25) to 150,000 IQD ($127), and he sometimes imports products from abroad upon demand from customers.

It costs Idris $25 to $30 to advertise his products on Facebook.

Due to the lack of an advanced and widespread banking system and the lack of efficient postal services in the Kurdistan Region, online marketers use taxis and buses to deliver their goods to customers.

“Sometimes customers won’t answer phone calls from parties delivering the goods or will renege on their purchase and are not prepared to cover delivery expenses. In such cases, we ourselves have to cover these expenses. I hope the government improves postal services among different places and the private and government banking institutions pay more attention to the credit card system,” Idris said.

In addition to the online marketing pages on social networking sites, there are also some marketing websites in the Kurdistan Region.

“Electronic marketing has become very common in the Kurdistan Region. Anyone can open a page or website to sell their goods,” Rawand Abdulrahman said, who recently founded Bazarga Company to sell goods online.

For him, too, however, there are two main problems complicating online marketing in the Kurdistan Region – collection of payments and delivering the goods.

“We have set up a banking payment section on our website in a bid to resolve the payment problem. We issue a smart card for free to those registering on our website. This way, they can purchase goods from all the electronic companies registered with us. In addition, they can also top up their card through Bazarga’s special card, Asia Hawala or Zain,” he added.

Bazarga Company has only recently opened, yet more than 500 people have registered with the company, along with 60 corporations in the Kurdistan Region signing contracts with it to sell their products. Moreover, 12 electronic markets are coordinating with Bazarga in an attempt to solve the issue of collecting payment from customers.

“We have resolved the problem of delivery in our company, which has its own cars. And we have three types of delivery: Normal delivery services, which take 48 hours and are for free, quick delivery services, which take 12 to 18 hours and charge buyers according to the size of the product they purchase, and VIP services, which are for free for those spending $800 or more purchasing Bazarga goods,” Abdulrahman detailed.

“If the laws of the Kurdistan Region allow us, we will set up an electronic banking system in the future to permanently solve the problem of payment for online markets. Further, we will also validate smart cards in most shopping malls and supermarkets so that people don’t have to carry cash and are able to purchase goods using our smart cards,” he explained.

Bazarga Company’s executives say there are more than 50 websites and numerous online marketing pages in the Kurdistan Region, although there is no accurate or official statistics on these kinds of marketing venues.

“In developed countries, electronic markets are considered essential to the economy. The Kurdistan Region, too, should take steps toward electronic trade whose advantages outweigh its difficulties,” Dr. Luqman Osman Omar, economist at Salahaddin University, said. “In the Kurdistan Region, there is a problem of trust between people and banks. To resolve this problem, the banks should issue people with smart cards which will enable them to benefit from electronic markets.”