E-commerce is a strongly emerging sector in Bangladesh, thanks to the Digital Bangladesh initiative of the Government. And the number of women entrepreneurs, especially those with small and medium-sized businesses, are becoming increasingly involved in the digital space to sell their offerings it seems.
According to WE or Women and e-Commerce Forum — WE is a platform, which aims to address the needs of female entrepreneurs with its goal to help the female e-commerce entrepreneurs to sustain their businesses and empower them — more than 10 thousand female entrepreneurs are selling a wide range of products and services through Facebook pages and many female entrepreneurs are also selling products from their online stores.
The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, which has forced people to stay indoors during the countrywide lockdowns even as they continue to prefer shopping online now — Bangladesh Government has opened up almost everything lately — to avoid exposing themselves to the risks of contracting the dreaded virus while also successfully maintain the social distancing norms, seems to have given these women entrepreneurs a shot in the arm as far as their businesses are concerned.
Speaking to the media, Owner of F-commerce platform Safriana’s Touch — Safriana’s Touch sells women’s clothes — Layla Sarmeen underlined that as soon as she posted pictures of her locally-sourced products, everything got booked online in no time while adding such a tremendous response was something, she wasn’t expecting, more so considering the current crisis owing to the COVID-19.
As per Layla, since the starting of the second wave of Coronavirus pandemic in Bangladesh, Safriana’s Touch has sold products worth around Taka 4 lakh even if during Ramadan and before the holy festival of Eid, Safriana’s Touch registered sales of around Taka 3 lakh compared to the sales proceeds of Taka 50,000 for the same period in the pre-pandemic era.
The tendency to buy products online increased during the pandemic, added Sarmeen even as Tania Sultana of Biraz Bou, another F-commerce platform, said she sold saris and three pieces worth Taka 7.5 lakh amid the second wave.
The fact that the Eid sales season and the nationwide lockdown — Bangladesh Government imposed a nationwide lockdown and other strict measures on public movement on 14 April in an effort to curb the surge in Coronavirus infections — coincided gave a further boost to online sales as people started visiting online stores and F-commerce platforms from the safety of their homes to buy clothes and other items for themselves as well as gift the near and dear ones during the holy festival.
We are still receiving many orders even after Eid, underlined an excited Tania even as she thanked the WE- the Facebook group with 1.2 million members while maintaining that she and some other women in her region sold over Taka 52 lakh worth lifestyle products with the help of WE since the beginning of the second wave of the pandemic.
The fact that these women entrepreneurs had to endure the fallouts of COVID-19 of consequent lockdown last Eid as well, helped them to prepare better this time around as they sourced products beforehand, enhanced their marketing and worked on smoothening the delivery service, said Nasima Akter Nisha, President of WE.
…sales during the second wave and Ramadan were great, claimed Nasima even as HUR Nusrat, an F-commerce page with nearly a million followers, saw its sales double during Ramadan compared to the pre-pandemic levels.
“Our employees had to work round-the-clock to deliver the huge number of orders during the second wave that coincided with the peak sales season,” claimed Nusrat Akhter Lopa, who owns the page.
It may be mentioned here that Lopa, who started selling products through Facebook back in 2015 with a starting capital of Taka 1,200, sold several thousand lifestyle products during the Eid season even as some reports suggest that since early April, when the infection rate suddenly started to climb rapidly, thousands of orders poured in for lifestyle products while the Eid-ul-Fitr shopping season gave a fillip to the sales, which instantly turned the platform of Facebook into an extremely viable digital marketplace.
With a follower base ranging from 10,000 to over a million people, these entrepreneurs simply had to post a picture of their offerings or showcase on Facebook live to draw attention, underlined reports adding as a result, they typically received anywhere from 50 to more than 1,000 orders per day.
Thousands of women from across the country now sell a range of products through Facebook, particularly handmade traditional clothing along with homemade foods and, according to logistics aggregators and industry insiders, during Ramadan this year, around 1,000 female F-commerce entrepreneurs delivered an estimated 35,000 clothing items per day up till the day of Eid.
The co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Paperfly (Paperfly makes doorstep deliveries for its online merchants) Rahath Ahmed, maintained that they have been making a huge number of deliveries of F-commerce platforms run by the women lately even as he added F-commerce entrepreneurs now understand that they have to provide the customers good quality products to succeed in the long run.
As the quality increases, clients flock to these platforms and products are being sold out very fast, Rahath added.
Now, in a recent development which is expected to give a further boost to women entrepreneurship in Bangladesh, the Government is the proposed budget for financial year 2021-22 is set to increase tax-free income ceiling for women entrepreneurs to Taka 7 million from existing Taka 5 million.
According to Finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, the move aims to increase the number of women entrepreneurs and ensure economic and social empowerment of women.
“As a special incentive to the SME sector and also for the sake of development of the women entrepreneurs working in the SME sector, I propose to keep up to Taka 70 lac (7 million) of business turnover of the women entrepreneurs outside the purview of taxation,” the Finance Minister said while rolling out national budget before the Parliament, adding, “I hope both the women entrepreneurs and the SME sector will be benefitted from this tax exemption facility,” even as he went on to underline economic empowerment of women is of paramount importance in achieving social and economic progress and sustainable development of a country, to wind up on a positive note.