Potential of e-commerce hemmed in by bottlenecks

With the digital economy and e-commerce seen as a potent sector for employment and income generation in Bangladesh, the business insiders underscored the need for specific guidelines for doing fair business here.

They said the business has grown immensely thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But there are a lot of challenges including policy, infrastructure, internet and logistic barriers, fraud sellers and customer mindset in Bangladesh.

The president of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services Syed Almas Kabir shared that the e-commerce business experienced a significant 166 percent growth in 2020 as consumers moved online for their shopping due to the pandemic.

“There are 36 million active social media users in Bangladesh, of which 8.4 million are Facebook users. The f-commerce market is about Tk 312 crore,” he also added.

Shayantani Twisha, head of PR, media and communications at Daraz Bangladesh told UNB policy, fraud sellers, infrastructure (internet and logistic barriers), and customer mindset are main challenges for the sector.

“Daraz invested Tk 500 crore this year for infrastructure development and automation. Many people are unaware aware about e-commerce as it’s a new business platform in Bangladesh. They feel fear to purchase products from the platform. So, a massive awareness is needed. We teach people though our website from 2017 to build trust and awareness,” she added.

Shayantani added some companies are doing mistake willingly, providing duplicate products, cheating with customers. They have no right to do business. So, strong policy is needed here.

The experts also underscored the need for a “standard operating procedure” to flourish the e-commerce business here. Besides, a specific guideline is needed for the sake of both companies and consumers that will harmonize the growth of the sector in a manner fair to all sides.

They called upon the authorities concerned to take proper measures against the website operators who don’t provide conditions on the matter of product delivery time, receiving time, product loss, providing alternative products and payment problems.

However, despite having a sharp growth in sales amid the pandemic, Bangladesh dropped 12 notches in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)’s Business-to-Consumer (B2C) e-Commerce Index 2020 following infrastructure insufficiency.

According to the UNCTAD recent report, Bangladesh ranked 115th, down from 103rd in 2019. Among the South Asian countries, India ranked 71st, Sri Lanka 87th, Nepal 113, Bhutan 114th and Pakistan 116th.

General Secretary of e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) Abdul Wahed Tomal said the ranking is right. “We have growth in the sales of e-commerce but the rural infrastructure did not develop yet. The logistic services and supply chain are yet to connect rural areas in Bangladesh but in developed countries of the globe, the post offices play a significant role in the distribution channel,” he added.

Talking to UNB, Tomal said the business increased suddenly following the COVID-19. Many new companies are involved in the business. Similarly there are many challenges too. “Many companies come to the market with new products, offers, and business models. But we have no standard operating procedure here,” he also said.

Tomal added there is already a digital commerce policy approved in 2019 in the country. There are short, medium and long term plans including directives for public and private companies. Besides, there is an e-commerce cell under the commerce ministry which observes the sector too. But it lacks a standard operating procedure.

“So, we are now discussing with the “standard operating procedure” to flourish the e-commerce business. We sent a draft to commerce ministry, if it’s finalized. Than a consultation will be held among stakeholders and we will give feedback,” he added.

“A lot of people are engaged in e-commerce business. We have 1500 members and more than 1,00000 f-commerce. Besides, there are many companies who are involved in logistic and delivery services in the country. So, specific guideline is needed for all to maintain a harmony for fair business mentality.”

“As many website operators don’t give conditions on product delivery time, receiving time, product loss, alternative products and payment system in websites; we addressed it in the procedure. Besides, we noticed that some companies take orders from customers but they don’t have stock of products and customer care centre. There is needed a strong guidelines in this regard. And all companies have to follow it for the sake of consumers,” Tomal added.

He said the e-CAB has already trained up 5000 entrepreneurs in a course of 11 days. “We will 12000 entrepreneurs will be trained soon. Besides, we are arranging seminar, workshop virtually for them. Our 15 standing committees are working for startup in rural areas. The e-commerce activities raise 15-20 percent in rural area as well.”

“The business grew up 70-80 percent in a year during the pandemic. We hoped we can reach the position in 2025. Generally a company got 400-500 order a day but it raised 5000 during lockdown period. The informal sector should bring under formal sector. Around 50,000 new entrepreneurs were made during pandemic in the country,”

He added some 1.5 lakh products are delivered daily in the country now. Around 5 lakh products will be delivered in future. “It’s very difficult to tackle all allegations but we have to resolve brilliantly. All companies have to be brought under a platform to ensure payment and delivery system properly. We have to utilize 10,000 post offices across the country to address it as the government pro active here,” Tomal also said.

The Vice President of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) SM Nazer Hossain told UNB the sector is rising potentially in Bangladesh but consumers suffer too.

“We receive huge allegations from consumers. Of them, 80 percent allegations come from e-commerce platform. After getting the allegations, we get the number off when we call. Actually they fraud with consumers in various ways,” he added.

Nazer said customers turn away from the e-commerce due to hassle by the cheaters. “More women and silent consumers are harassed more as they don’t want to share the matter with others. So fair business must be ensured to flourish it,” he also added.

He urged e-CAB to cancel membership who fraud with customers. And the government has to play significant role in this regard.

Source: United News of Bangladesh