The country’s e-commerce sector has witnessed an eventful year with some policy reforms and a robust growth with substantial number of new customers amid the Covid-19 pandemic, insiders have said.
They also said the year can be considered a turning point for the sector, as a number of consumers got accustomed to using the digital commerce platforms, and many new entrepreneurs entered the business.
Many traditional brick-and-mortar businesses also expanded their footprints in digital commerce arena this year, while consumers learnt to buy essential items, like – vegetables, fish, meat, rice, etc, from online sellers.
Besides, the year marked trading of local or ‘deshi’ items through the digital platforms, said Razib Ahmed, the founder president of e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB).
“The year 2020 was a turning point for the e-commerce industry of Bangladesh with two conspicuous changes taking place.”
During the Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdown, the e-commerce industry worked as a lifeline for the national economy, he noted.
“When everything was closed, delivery of various products by online shopping companies kept the country’s business activities going. As a result, we have witnessed manifold revenue growth this year.”
Another major development was rise in sales of local and traditional products on the e-commerce and especially social media platforms, said Mr Ahmed, who leads a Facebook group – Women and e-Commerce Forum – that promotes local products.
“The future prospect (of e-commerce) looks bright for at least next 10 years. There will be impressive and continuous growth in terms of revenue and market size,” he added.
The country’s leading e-commerce platforms include Daraz, Evaly, Ajker Deal, Othoba, Priyoshop, Chaldal and Deligram, while there are more than 0.1 million Facebook page-based digital shops.
Amid many positive aspects, there has also been criticism against some e-commerce traders for violating consumer rights through sales of substandard goods or long delay in product delivery.
Meanwhile, the government is about to introduce an e-commerce guideline, which will obligate an operator to accomplish product delivery by seven to ten days.
Besides, the Bangladesh Bank made e-commerce payment easier for buyers from abroad, allowing the local entrepreneurs to reach more customers.
Abdul Wahed Tomal, general secretary of e-CAB, said 2020 has been the year of e-commerce, which proved its necessity and capability throughout the year.
“We (e-CAB) along with the government agencies launched some noteworthy campaigns, like – Digital Haat for selling sacrificial animals during the Eid-ul-Azha, digital mango fair, and onion selling programmes, to help people stay home without disrupting their daily life.” According to the trade-body’s data, the e-commerce operators made total transactions of about Tk 160 billion this year, which is almost double than that of previous year.
Responding to a query, he added that the association is mulling to enhance monitoring over the f-commerce operators to ensure consumer rights.
Fahim Mashroor, former president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS), said although the year has been an eventful one for the sector, it cannot be termed a ‘boom’.
“I don’t see any reason to term the recent e-commerce trend a boom,” said Mr Mashroor, who is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of popular e-commerce operator AjkerDeal.com.
“Actually most of the businesses remained suspended during the hard lockdown period, when people used the digital commerce platforms for buying their essentials.”
He opined that the ‘new normal’ situation taught many people to use internet-enabled services. It can help the local e-commerce sector, which is still city-centric, grow in coming years.
The e-commerce sector is expected to grow further in 2021 following rise in number of internet users.
He, however, emphasised easing logistics facility and ensuring reliable internet connectivity in every corner of the country.
According to data available with the Bangladesh Competition Commission, the size of the country’s e-commerce reached Tk 166.16 billion until this August, which was only Tk 5.6 billion in 2016.
Bangladesh ranked 103rd out of 152 countries in the global E-commerce Index 2019, published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).