How An Afghan e-Commerce Platform Helps With Humanitarian Crisis

How has Aseel’s e-commerce work been impacted since the recent political developments in Afghanistan?

platform, website and iOS/Android mobile application, were initially
designed to support and connect Afghan artisans, especially artisans in
rural Afghanistan, to the international market and customers. We
enrolled more than 40 small family-owned and women-owned businesses from
all over Afghanistan and sold over 10,000 handmade products to the
people in countries like US, Australia, and the UK. We used to ship all
our products through DHL, International Shipping Service, from Bagram
Airbase. Before the Taliban Takeover, overnight the US decided to close
Bagram Airfield and we lost our main supply chain. We were prepared
though and had found 3 other alternatives in case this wasn’t going to
work, for another few weeks we used those routes and after the Taliban

all the supply chain routes out of Afghanistan came to a stop. Now we
have to find ways of sending our products cross-border to Pakistan and
then ship them to the US and elsewhere. This means a much-prolonged
delivery time but most of our customers don’t really care much about
that because the prices of the vendors are Afghan prices, much lower,
and the fact that the products come from Afghanistan and they want to
support Afghanistan. In addition to us communicating with them before,
as soon as an order comes in and after on a weekly

basis.  After
the Taliban takeover, as a platform that was committed to supporting
people and development, we decided to use our platform as a means to
support our people. So, we launched the Aseel ‘Emergency Response’
section and sent an email to all our current customers, and started
getting donations. Our team executed rounds of distributions in Kabul
for the IDPs and families in need. We did have big rounds of
distributions in other provinces like Kandahar, Logar, Ghazni, Kunar,
Kabul and soon will have in other provinces like Helmand, Zabul, Mazar
and Herat, and we are supporting 5-10 families (who filled out
beneficiary forms) on a daily basis every day regardless of which
province they live in. Within 3 and half months, we have supported more
than 21,000 individuals in different provinces. We have organized teams
of volunteers (more than 300 individuals) in different provinces of
Afghanistan that can support the dissemination of these emergency
packages and a team of volunteers out of Afghanistan that can help us
make partnerships with donors, media agencies, social media, and so on.

Please share a little about how the app is helping with the humanitarian crisis.

Aseel iOS/ Android mobile application and website allow people to
purchase necessary aid packages and our team on the ground will deliver
them to the families in need inside Afghanistan. The aid packages were
designed based on our research from the ground and the people’s need
that include emergency food packages, emergency medical packages,
emergency baby care packages, emergency life packages, and winter
packages. The platform

also allows people to donate a certain
amount of money and let Aseel decide on buying the packages for the
affected families. Also, the app and website enable people to support
specific families inside Afghanistan through “Aseel Beneficiary Forms”.
This option is best for those who have relatives or their families are
still living inside Afghanistan. The donor basically fills out the Aseel
beneficiary forms, receives a beneficiary ID #, and then donates any
aid package. The beneficiary ID helps both the donors and the
beneficiaries to track the delivery of the aid packages. Furthermore,
the Aseel app and website also engage people from all around the world
to create fundraiser campaigns to support people in Afghanistan and
volunteer. For example, Pashtana Durrani, the executive director for
Learn Afghanistan, uses the Aseel campaign to raise funds for 145
displaced families in Kandahar province. In addition to the campaigns,
people can volunteer with Aseel regardless of their geographic area.
Aseel volunteer forms are available online for everyone who wishes to
take part in helping Afghan people with the current crisis.

volunteers inside Afghanistan will help with identifying the families
and delivering emergency relief to them. And volunteers outside the
country help Aseel with raising awareness on the humanitarian crisis
that is unfolding in Afghanistan to engage and bring in more people to
support war-affected Afghans. We know for a fact that our fintech system
which was in place way before this crisis started, custom solutions
development, and global connection with the rest of the world is much
better than large-scale international development institutions and
charity organizations. At the same time, we are an Afghan company that
was born out of Afghanistan and went on to try to become a global
company means that we can deal with the Taliban a lot better than
others, we understand scaling and growth from a startup perspective
which is a great fit for the current situations.

Have the Taliban caused any problems to your humanitarian work? 

have not faced any issues with the Taliban at the moment because we are
not supported by any international organizations and all the funds that
we have received so far have come from the donations made by
individuals outside the country. With no distractions, we had successful
rounds of distributions in provinces like Kandahar, Logar, Ghazni,
Kabul, Kunar, and we continue to have our distributions in other

How do you see the future of e-commerce under the Taliban?

There are two opposite things here, the Taliban and innovation & technology. The future of eCommerce businesses and technology as a whole depends on how the Taliban sees it. Indeed, technology is evolving so as the e-commerce, and it affects every country including Afghanistan. So far, the Taliban has set rules and boundaries on the ways that things are done based on the sharia law. Therefore, even if we have to continue to have an e-commerce business in Afghanistan, it has to be executed within the boundaries that the Taliban define. Moreover, for the e-commerce platforms to continue their operations in Afghanistan, the basic infrastructure which is the internet and the freedom of using the internet are needed. Issues with the banks in Afghanistan need to be solved first and the world needs to recognize the current government and be open to have trades with Afghanistan. However, with proper support and highlighting of our success, Aseel can operate in Afghanistan in any regime. We were never supported by any government or international institutions. We kept it that way intentionally given that that is the only way to have a sustainable platform that cannot be taken over by any institution. That is also the best way to do a global startup, self-made, not influenced by any external institution other than a fair partnership.

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Source: Wadsam

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