Online shopping is swiftly transforming life in Thailand and the new lifestyle requires major adjustments, as a new generation lays down the terms for how the future economy will look. For everybody’s sake, the great leap forward should happen sooner rather than later.
Taxation, for example, needs to be effective and clear-cut, not the “cat and mouse” formula currently in use. The state has a duty here to prevent an “anything goes” culture from spiralling out of control at the expense of both the consumer and government coffers. The authorities must also boost efforts to stay one step ahead of sophisticated scammers who have found a happy hunting ground in cyberspace.
Thailand has seen an explosion of online shopping in recent years, as growing Internet penetration and cheaper smartphones have brought countless e-retailers within easy reach for millions, often via Thais’ unrivalled love affair with social media.
The boom in online shopping is in fact global, with everything from washing machines and televisions to fish sauce being sold online, in a retail revolution that is starting to sweep away traditional stores. The change is most noticeable in the buying habits of the younger generation, who prefer the convenience of browsing the endless variety in Internet aisles to the limited selection on offer in the high street.
The new environment will have profound impacts on delicate matters like privacy and business ethics. The opportunities for fraud will increase, along with taxation headaches.
Lax supervision risks turning the sporadic problems of today into deep-rooted issues that will be difficult to eradicate later. The government finds itself walking a tightrope of supervision and regulation, a balancing act that requires special knowledge and sensitivity from the appointed officials.
The arrival of e-retail giants will threaten the rampant, democratic nature of online business. The big fish are certainly better equipped in terms of delivery, storage and product ranges. Successful entrepreneurs like Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, advocate empowering ordinary people through Internet access. Of course, as one of the biggest fish in online retail, he stands to benefit more than most from such empowerment.
His next steps will be watched closely as the revolution gathers pace, putting his philosophy to the test.
The fact is that the online shopping trend looks irreversible, and everyone must play a part in ensuring it serves all, not just an elite group. The fast-advancing technology is democratising the way business is conducted, giving opportunities to people who never had them before.
But like anything that is untried and untested, the promise will be accompanied by flaws, which must be kept at bay by everyone involved.
Consumers stand to benefit from greater convenience and price-busting competition. But for this to happen, the new business landscape must encourage independent, new and small-time players.
New jobs must take advantage of the technology, not be held prisoner by it. The government must have a guiding vision, enforcing effective taxation, ensuring safety and security of online shoppers, and seeing to it that technological access is universal, not limited to a certain group of people.
A well-designed and operated system could help push unique or creative Thai products across borders.
Simply put, it’s up to everyone to make the new retail landscape a healthy environment. Easier said than done, of course, but Thailand should not sit back and let the opportunity to make a good head start go begging.
(Source:-The Nation, Thailand)