It was on 25 April that news appeared that shopping malls and stores in capital city Dhaka will be allowed to remain open until 9 pm if they adhere to the Coronavirus health rules with the Dhaka Metropolitan Police revising the notice on the shopping hours amid the lockdown aimed at stemming the spread of the surging Coronavirus cases even as the Government has allowed stores to operate from 10am to 5pm every day and instructed the shop owners to maintain ‘strict’ health rules.
The authorities took the decision taking into account the ‘overall situation’, reportedly underlined Additional Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Md Munibur Rahman, even as reports suggested the Government notice in this direction took into account the lives and livelihoods of the people employed in the sector even as a second phase of a stricter lockdown was enforced since 14 Apr to 28 April to curb the spread of Coronavirus infections, with the Government extending the restrictions further.
However, it did not mean people started thronging the marketplace in huge numbers to do Eid related shopping amidst fear of catching the dreaded virus and rather depend on the e-commerce sites to fulfil all the their requirements prior to which, of course, there was no other option for the consumers but to depend on the digital marketplaces altogether as markets remained closed during the strict lockdown that came into effect on the very first day of Ramadan, as well as the Bengali New Year on 14 April with buyers starting to move to online shopping to purchase different items ahead of the holy festival of Eid-ul-Fitr.
Meanwhile, to give a further impetus to sales before the holy festival of Eid, online entities, e-commerce sites and brands have been offering discounts on digital payments as more and more responded positively to such offers which is reflected in the recent hike in digital payments.
As per Syed Mohammad Kamal, Country Manager of Mastercard, transactions in e-commerce in April was to be double that in the previous month even as figures for April was not available at the time of filing of the report even if data from the country’s central bank (Bangladesh Bank) maintained that online sales picked up in the middle of 2020 against the backdrop of the first wave of the pandemic with July 2020 logging Taka 640 crore in transactions in e-commerce before dipping temporarily in September to fall to Taka 406 crore and picking up again to touch Taka 663 crore in February this year.
Meanwhile, speaking to media, Anawar Hossain, Managing Partner of e-commerce site Kadambari Exclusive by Razbi, said he was hopeful of a further increase in online sales just before Eid even if shopping malls were open due to apprehensions among people of catching the dreaded disease.
It may be mentioned here that Grande Boulevard is one of the sites that is offering various discounts against digital payments with online customers enjoying a 10 per cent discount for using EBL or Midland cards even as clothing brand Le Reve has made an agreement with Standard Chartered bank as per which customers will get 25 per cent cash back after each online payment while to encourage online transactions, another e-commerce site Jeans Fellow maintained it would give its customers 10 per cent cash back if they pay through mobile banking for online purchases even as there were reports of various offers on payments through mobile banking platforms like bKash and Rocket, Dutch Bangla Bank and even Mastercard.
According to Ahsan Ullah Chowdhury, Head of Digital Financial Service of EBL, card transactions were getting less and less because of the decline in tourism, restaurant business and foreign tours even as transactions for online shopping rose significantly while the Bangladesh Bank has recently allowed e-commerce businesses in the country to remit abroad US $ 10,000 annually with concerned bank officials maintaining the remittance facilities for e-CAB member firms would facilitate e-commerce activities of the country.
The Bangladesh Bank has allowed members of the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) to remit abroad US $ 10,000 a year each to meet their legitimate current expenses even as issued an instruction in this regard, allowing authorised dealer banks to facilitate such transactions as per which the central bank has allowed the banks to issue refillable international credit or prepaid cards favouring a nominated official of an eligible firm with US $ 2,000 or equivalent even if the aggregate amount of refills and outward payment through traditional banking channels would not exceed US $ 10,000 or its equivalent in a calendar year, the circular said.
Meanwhile, according to industry insiders, sales of online entities got a significant boost on account of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country even as a large chunk of rural populace also reportedly resorted to online buying due to easy accesses and various offers by the online players to boost sales ahead of Eid.
According to e-CAB, the sales of products through the digital platforms went up 70 per cent year-on-year in 2020 thanks to the pandemic even as more than 160,000 deliveries were made in a single day in the country.
Speaking to the media, e-CAB General Secretary Abdul Wahed Tomal said they have around 1,500 members while adding that consumers purchased around Taka 3,000 crore worth of commodities online for their daily necessities in the last eight months of 2020.
“A new dimension has been created in the online business in Bangladesh following the pandemic. Though people can’t purchase desirable products ahead of Eid in festive mode as their income came down,” Tomal claimed while adding that a good number of entrepreneurs have taken the online route in last one year or so.
There are now around 500,000 Facebook entrepreneurs as well, maintained the e-CAB General Secretary while adding many entrepreneurs from rural background also went online with their business, thanks to the digital advancement.
“However, buyers are now uncertain following the lockdown whether the markets will be opened or not ahead of Eid,” said Tomal adding even if the consumers were then mainly purchasing essential commodities and Iftar items from online platforms but claimed that consumers will now start buying for Eid.
So even if the markets have opened up now, reports and views as shared by the industry insiders, if at all, indicate that online sales have picked up lately ahead of the holy Festival of Eid-ul-Fitr with many online entities also coming up with various exciting offers and discounts and just a couple of days left for the Eid, online sale is only going to shoot up further.