4 min read

How to Buy

How to Buy
How people buy, and how tech intervenes, around the globe
The spread of social media, livestreaming, messaging, and payment systems has sparked a global wave of e-commerce innovation, led by startups, merchants — and their customers.

E-commerce isn’t the same everywhere. The spread of social media and livestreaming platforms, messaging services and payment systems has sparked a global wave of innovation in buying and selling, led by startups, merchants — and their customers.

This project for Rest of World aimed to understand and illuminate the divergent and convergent evolution of e-commerce as it spread around the world, using a simple structure: How to buy X in Y. I commissioned 12 journalists across Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia to capture unique e-commerce supply chains, from secondhand clothes in Brazil to baby formula in Vietnam, to high-end electrical goods in Kenya.

How e-commerce is bringing the sari back in Pakistan
Online marketplaces have revived interest in a garment more commonly associated with India.
How halal e-commerce became a $160 million business in Indonesia
From food to fashion to cosmetics, shariah-compliant retail is booming online.
How fish comes fresh from Colombia’s Pacific coast, via WhatsApp
Messaging apps and social media are feeding a boom among small e-commerce entrepreneurs.
How Instagram became the shop front for live crabs in Sri Lanka
“When I gave crabs to my friends, they loved it, so I decided to sell them on social media.”
How meat delivery startups are challenging India’s dietary taboos
Startups like Licious are streamlining the buying experience for Indian carnivores, getting chicken to customers’ doors within 90 minutes.
How TikTok influencers and YouTubers are transforming the used car market
Content is king for Southeast Asia’s billion-dollar used car platforms, where influencers are more trusted than used car dealers.
How Somali traders and a tiny airstrip are serving Kenya’s online shopping needs
A small airport in central Kenya has become a hub for high-end electronics imports.
How to buy U.S. dollars in Beirut
In Lebanon’s capital, you can order black market hard currency online, to be delivered by bike.
How to buy baby formula in Quang Binh
Many Vietnamese mothers don’t trust local suppliers of baby formula, so they turn to Facebook’s “carry on” stores, which import from abroad.
How to buy a chicken sandwich in Shenzhen
Livestream e-commerce is a $100 billion industry in China, with influencers selling everything from cosmetics to fast food.
How to buy a crop top in Florianópolis
Facing high inflation and falling earnings, many Brazilians have turned to online thrift stores to buy and sell clothing.