“The number of internet users in the country is now at more than 110 million. Due to the spread of the internet, e-commerce has reached across the country,” says Junaid Ahmed Palak; Government is now set to provide financial assistance of Taka 1.0 million to Taka 50.0 million to the entrepreneurs for e-commerce in the form of venture capital.
Despite general trading in COVID-19-led pandemic situation reducing in the country, e-commerce trading has increased remarkably said industry insiders and experts who harped on strengthening the key parameters of protection of consumer rights, quality, conformity, liability, distribution and secured payment systems to give a leg-up to the country’s promising e-commerce sector.
“During the COVID pandemic, the digital behaviour of the countrymen has changed a lot. This has become very much helpful for the expansion of e-commerce in Bangladesh,” maintains President of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS), Syed Almas Kabir, adding delivery logistics with fair prices and supply chain management are two key challenges for the business going forward.
If we fail to manage these two, the online shopping platforms will lose customers and e-commerce will ultimately be affected, Kabir notes.
In the pre-pandemic days, all discussions about e-commerce were largely centred on promoting it as a way of doing business. With the physical movements severely curtailed during the pandemic-induced shutdowns, e-commerce or online business remained the most feasible option for the end customers. Little wonder hence, compared to what it was before, this form of business has witnessed a 166 per cent growth during the pandemic period since the end of March. Bangladesh’s e-commerce has got into a better shape, especially during the lockdown enforced to slow the spread of Coronavirus as people started staying indoors and purchased almost all types of products through online platforms.
“In March, when the first coronavirus case was detected (in Bangladesh), we would get 2,500-3,000 orders daily. The number jumped to 16,000 when the lockdown began,” says Zia Ashraf, the Chief Operating Officer and Founder of Chaldal.com while the Executive Director of Shwapno, Sabbir Hasan Nasir on his part adds, “Initially, we provided online services from six stores. As the outbreak intensified, we began incorporating more stores. The online orders are going up and now we have 32 stores to serve our online customers.”
Chaldal.com, Shohoz.com, Ghorebazar.com, Bdticket.com, sheba.xyz, bdshops.com, daraz.com, pathao, bikroy.com, ajkerdeal.com, bagdoom.com, etc., are some of the popular shopping and e-commerce sites in Bangladesh.
“E-commerce always had a potential. This is now being realised at all levels due to the crisis of coronavirus. Due to massive demands, now we need to improve the supply system as well. Necessary policies are also needed…,” maintains General Secretary of e-CAB, Abdul Wahed Tamal, adding, “e-commerce has grown at a rate of 50 to 100 per cent in the last few years. In the last six months, the growth has been 300 to 400 per cent.”
The fact that number of internet users in Bangladesh increased 5.9 per cent compared to last year (as per BASIS) gave a further boost to e-commerce in the country. What’s more, in terms of ICT adoption index, Bangladesh is said to be ahead of India and Sri Lanka now. There are reportedly 36 million active social media users in Bangladesh and the f-commerce (Facebook) market size in the country is of Taka 312 crore.
Also Read: The return of the lockdown…
Giving a further fillip to e-commerce has been the strengthening and increased popularity of online and mobile payment systems. Since the online payment systems, including the Mobile Financial Services (MFS), internet banking and other gateways have been opened and commercial banks have come forward with their paperless banking through digital platforms for their customers, the online business and shopping have grown significantly, said a Bangladesh Bank official.
“The country’s fundamental base of online payment system has already been established. It has already taken off,” stated the official of the country’s central bank (Bangladesh Bank), who went on to add the inter-bank internet banking has jumped by nearly 214 per cent in the post-COVID period compared to pre-COVID in February.
Amazing growth & future prospects…
As per reports, the e-commerce sector in Bangladesh has swelled by over 30 times in the last five years even as suppliers’ and customers’ dependence on online platforms for business and purchasing products gave it a further boost.
According to the Bangladesh Competition Commission (CCB), the size of e-commerce in Bangladesh climbed to Taka 166.16 billion until August of this year, roughly 29.67 times the amount in 2016.
After 2016, the year-on-year online trade and commerce had started ballooning as the size of the business amounted to Taka 86.32 billion in 2017. The figure reached Taka 105.04 billion in 2018 and Taka 131.84 billion in 2019, the CCB data underlined.
Keeping this growth in consideration as well as the future prospects, experts and industry leaders called for a policy framework to be put in place along with measures to improve ICT’s present physical infrastructure, enhance pace of technology adaptation as well as extend the various fiscal and non-fiscal stimulus packages of the Government to this sector that usually mainstream businesses enjoy.
By 2023, this sector will be poised to grow into an industry worth US $ 3.0 billion, experts underlined but added to facilitate its uninterrupted growth and development, the Government would be required to create a supportive environment for e-business to run smoothly. Easing conditions for issuing licence to an e-business entity and levying VAT and supplementary duties on it more rationally are some of the measures that will help this sector get mainstreamed. At the same time, a sound e-commerce marketing and advertising policy has to be formulated with an eye to the privacy of data. Also, better and stabler internet connectivity, easier and a user-friendly online digital payment system are some of the pre-conditions for its expansion at a faster rate, experts felt.
They also said while formalising this sector, a line has to be drawn between e-commerce in general and its offshoot, f-commerce, that is, its Facebook-based version. This branch of e-commerce needs to be brought under strict monitoring through appropriate regulation and mandatory registration so that bad players shall be kept out of the f-commerce market which is valued at around Taka 3.0 billion.
Highlighting the immense potentials of the e-commerce in the country, State Minister for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Junaid Ahmed Palak states that more than 500,000 people will get jobs in the country’s e-commerce sector in the next five years.
“The number of internet users in the country is now at more than 110 million. Due to the spread of the internet, e-commerce has reached across the country,” the State Minister says, adding financial assistance of Taka 1.0 million to Taka 50.0 million would be provided to the entrepreneurs for e-commerce in the form of venture capital.
Meanwhile, in a recent development that points towards the increased popularity of the online platforms in Bangladesh, Global fashion brand Kenneth Cole along with local brands-The Brentwood and Marshmallow, have decided to market their products on one of the most popular e-commerce platforms of Bangladesh, Evaly.
Evaly inked an agreement with Classic Group, a renowned name in the realm of apparel manufacturing, which is also the official franchisor of Kenneth Cole fashion brand in the country.
According to the agreement, all the fashion and lifestyle products from these three brands will be available at Evaly for their customers. Chairman of Evaly, Shamima Nasrin and Managing Director of Classic Group, Shahidullah Azim signed the deal on behalf of their respective organisations.
For over three decades, the Kenneth Cole brand has defined the standard of global fashion with its distinctive New York-style and classic designs. The range of products to be available on Evaly will include exclusive footwear with Techni-Cole performance technology, comfort cushioning and superior leather uppers. Another highlight is the selection of stylish bags and backpacks which are the perfect blend of form and function and the exclusive watches known for their ‘timeless style’.
The prospects of the e-commerce sector have now led the Government to establish a Digital Cell (under the Ministry of Commerce) which is also working for an Advisory Committee to ensure consumer-friendly digital e-commerce ecosystem.
Through the Digital Cell and e-support centre, we will be able to face the existing challenges of this sector, said Dr. Jafar Uddin, Secretary, Ministry of Commerce to wind up on a positive note.
Hoping the e-commerce sector in Bangladesh will touch news heights in the days to come.