Everyone by now is aware of the havoc that the coronavirus pandemic has wrecked on the Bangladesh garment industry. Large-scale order cancellations apart, there have been reports of factories closing down for good and thousands of garment workers being rendered jobless in wake of the same. Even though the exact number of retrenched workers is widely debated, it is a well-accepted fact that their number is quite substantial. Then there are also workers in many other sectors, formal and informal, who lost their source of livelihood due to the pandemic.
However, on the other hand, the rapid growth of the e-commerce and online shopping emerged as a saviour for many who lost their jobs during the pandemic, as around one lakh jobs have, reportedly, been created by e-commerce and food delivery platforms and their logistics partners in last one year.
According to reports, consequent to the substantial growth in online orders amidst the pandemic and lockdown, the online entities not only provided people the much-needed option of buying products and services from home without being exposed to the highly contagious virus while also providing large-scale employment opportunities to those who have been left jobless on account of the pandemic even as scores of people are flocking to the delivery segment to work as delivery staff or fill up other positions, which undoubtedly is a big relief to many in the country where millions of jobs were said to have been lost because of the pandemic.
It may be mentioned here that according to the Labour Force Survey of 2016-17, more than 2 crore youth (aged 15- 29) were in the labour market, of which 21 were unemployed. Over the years, many say, this number has increased substantially, adding to which has now been the newly unemployed on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the given circumstances, the boom in the e-commerce sector comes as a big respite as it opened up job opportunities for many in the logistic side of the business including as delivery agents.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the e-commerce sector has employed more than one lakh people,” reportedly, claimed the state minister for ICT, Zunaid Ahmed Palak, while speaking to the media even as reports suggest that Evaly — Evaly is technology company that specialises in e-commerce, food and grocery delivery, classifieds, accounting and inventory solutions, and other logistics — has added more than 700 fixed employees, of which 45 per cent are women while more than 5,000 new delivery personnel were also hired by the company to make the deliveries (from grocery to food to luxury items), in eight districts including capital Dhaka.
To deliver thousands of orders during the pandemic, we had to expand our workforce, underlined the Chief Marketing Officer of Evaly Arif R. Hossain while adding that e-commerce was keeping Bangladesh’s economy afloat in these difficult times while also providing employment opportunities to many people.
According to industry insiders, most e-commerce and logistics companies have onboarded delivery makers as freelancers even as for a single delivery, they (the delivery agent), reportedly, receive Taka 20 to Taka 75 while in the food delivery segment, one of the biggest employers is said to be Foodpanda, which witnessed 300 per cent year-on-year growth last year, the highest since it was launched in Bangladesh in 2013.
In the last one year, more than 10,000 new regular freelancers were added to Foodpanda, and its grocery delivery arms Pandamart and Shop, taking the number of regular freelancers, who are working across 64 districts, to more than 20,000, claimed reports.
We get Taka 38 for a delivery, and the payment increases when the distance is longer, explained a delivery agent of Foodpanda while speaking to the media even as a courier agent of Pathao — Pathao is on-demand digital platform and vehicle for hire company headquartered in Dhaka — claimed he earns Taka 5,000 in fixed salary a month and makes around 30 deliveries per day while he, reportedly, also receives Taka 15 per delivery.
“Pathao is committed to providing income opportunities to the daily earners, whose livelihood is now at the greatest risk… We onboarded nearly 1,000 new people during the pandemic,” said President of Pathao Fahim Ahmed while adding that Pathao has created access to incomes for several thousand food, courier and parcel delivery agents over the year while reports suggest that Daraz, one of the leading e-commerce platforms making more than 60,000 deliveries a day, recruited 3,185 employees last year and another 4,069 people in 2021 while as per Rahath Ahmed, Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Paperfly, a logistics solution provider where Indian logistic behemoth Ecom Express owns the majority stake, employed more than 1,000 people during the pandemic after receiving a vast number of orders.
Meanwhile, Chaldal, which is Bangladesh’s leading online shopping platform for household goods, reportedly, generated 1,250 new jobs to take its number of employees to 2,100 as its orders grew over 150 per cent during the pandemic and it expanded its services to new cities.
In addition to delivery persons, we employed people for warehouse, processing, quality control, and sorting, claimed CEO of Chaldal Waseem Alim even as reports suggest that in the last year, dozens of courier and logistics service providers have sprung up to cater to online deliveries of e-commerce and f-commerce platform, creating new employment opportunities for thousands.
“A rapid expansion of online business is occurring because of the coronavirus. As a result, a lot of new jobs are being created. The expansion will continue in the future, and more jobs will be generated as people will keep purchasing online even in the post-pandemic era,”stated Sayema Haque Bidisha, a professor at the Economics Department at the University of Dhaka, who went on to add that youth employment in Bangladesh was more than 10 per cent, and the pandemic has exacerbated the same, while underlining, “Creation of new jobs involving online business is very important, and the Government should incentivise the sector to help it create more jobs.”
The Dhaka University professor also urged the Government to bring the sector under a minimum regulation so that workers engaged in the same could receive some protection and benefits.
Meanwhile, in a related development, which is expected to give a further boost to growth of e-commerce in the country, e-commerce sites and brands have, reportedly, been offering discounts in digital payments even as online shopping has risen significantly lately on account of the ongoing lockdown as people prefer to order from the safety of their homes even if the upcoming festival of Eid is expected to give a further fillip to e-commerce and to tap this, e-commerce entities are offering the discounts on digital payments.
According to Syed Mohammad Kamal, Country Manager, Mastercard, transactions in e-commerce in April were likely to be double that in the previous month even as according to the central bank’s data, online sales picked up in the middle of 2020 against the backdrop of the first wave of the pandemic.
Even as the data for the month of March and April this year is not available yet, reports claim that July 2020 logged Taka 640 crore in transactions in e-commerce even if the figure fell to Taka 406 crore in September only to pick-up again to reach Taka 663 crore in February this year.
Meanwhile, speaking to the media, Abdul Wahed Tomal, secretary of the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB), said e-commerce had expanded over the last more than a year on account of the coronavirus pandemic and many new entrepreneurs have joined and learnt how to do business online.
The ventures will be able to use the experience to draw Eid customers, Tomal said while adding that the association was taking measures to solve issues related to product delivery.
So, given the views as shared by the industry insiders, e-commerce in Bangladesh is definitely expected to grow further in the coming days. And as perhaps could be expected, new employment opportunities will also increase consequently!