Bangladesh achieved commendable success in e-commerce during pandemic: Speakers


Dhaka, Dec 16: Speakers at a webinar on Tuesday lauded Bangladesh’s incredible growth and success in the e-commerce sector during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to prompt responses from the government.

Better Bangladesh Foundation (BBF), in association with BBF Global, organised the webinar titled “Current State of E-Commerce in Bangladesh during Pandemic” as part of BBF E-Commerce Summit 2020, where the speakers described how the country thrived during the crucial period, overcoming the barriers of lockdown with the revolution in the e-commerce industry.

Posts and Telecommunication Minister Mustafa Jabbar joined the virtual summit as the chief guest, while Hafizur Rahman, Additional Secretary and Director General of WTO Cell of the Ministry of Commerce, and Bangladesh Bank DGM (payment cell) Ali Kamran Al Zahid spoke as special guests.

Utilising the opportunity

“There was a time when people could not even imagine how e-commerce would become the future. People were so used to rely on the first hand, offline experience when it came to trading products – and now, everyone is acknowledging the benefits of e-commerce, especially during the pandemic,” Jabbar said.

He said when e-CAB was founded, people doubted its reliability as a trade body that is directly connected to the technology. “We thank former Commerce Minister Tofael Ahmed for approving e-CAB, which is a proven success especially for the role it played during the pandemic,” the minister said.

Adding that the ministry has 9,000 post offices around the country and access to every single house through this network, he noted how farmers believed in the postal service and financial gateway like Nagad to sell their products to the merchants in Dhaka without hesitation.

He said fraudulent practices can tarnish the trust and urged everyone to ensure clarities.

“We need to utilise this huge opportunity to serve people even better and we can explore this field with the help of the Commerce Ministry and e-commerce associations.”

Addressing that reputed organisations often get defamed due to some fake e-commerce activities on social media, Jabbar said that he, too, experienced similar situations when Bijoy Bangla software got pirated.

“As Facebook and other social media platforms do not operate according to our rules and we don’t prefer shutting their operations down as many entrepreneurs, especially the women around the country, are now actively operating e-commerce as entrepreneurs, the Advisor to the government on Information and Communication Technology Sajeeb Wazed Joy recently talked about having a new guideline regarding the matter,” he said.

Reminiscing his memories of the Liberation War on the glorious occasion of the Victory Day, he said that almost all patriotic Bangladeshis, including then postal service members, participated and fought in the 1971 Liberation War, assisting the freedom fighters by carrying equipment inside their postal carriers and delivering to the freedom fighters.

Integrating e-commerce and postal service

Additional Secretary and Director General of WTO Cell of the Ministry of Commerce Hafizur Rahman said the COVID-19 pandemic taught us the process of overcoming the barriers during a major crisis situation.

“We became able to initiate some unique trade ventures through e-commerce during the crisis situation such as collecting fruits and vegetables from farmers to even cattle during Eid-ul-Azha and virtually sold to target customers,” he said.

The Ministry of Commerce is initiating a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to further improve the e-Commerce system and already operating a megaproject at Upazila levels in collaboration with local administrations, using digital labs through which adequate training is being provided to more than 2,500 entrepreneurs from an estimated goal of 5,000 entrepreneurs and the project is now estimated to provide training to 12,000 entrepreneurs, Rahman said.

“They will join a readymade marketplace and get continuous assistance from support centres that we established.”

Praising the activities of the Post and Telecommunication Ministry, he said if we can integrate postal service in the delivery process of e-commerce transaction system soon, which is an internationally proven and practised idea, the industry would be benefited even more.

Growth during pandemic

Representing Bangladesh Bank, DGM (payment cell) Ali Kamran Al Zahid said that online trading and e-commerce transactions performed unimaginably well during the pandemic.

Noting that the e-commerce financial chain between merchant and customer alter heavily due to its dependency on the COD (Cash on Delivery) method, he said: “To ease the situation, Bangladesh Bank is soon initiating an Escrow service so that most of the transactions get electronically monitored.”

Chaired and moderated by Better Bangladesh Foundation Founder and Chairman Prof Masud A Khan, several other speakers also shared their stories representing some of the biggest Bangladeshi e-commerce ventures including Daraz Group Chief Operating Officer Khondaker Tasfin Alam, Nagad Chief Operating Officer Ashish Chakraborty, bKash Chief Commercial Officer Mizanur Rashid, Nagad Chief Public Affairs Officer Sulaiman Sukhon, e-CAB Vice President Sahab Uddin Shipon, BBF Chief Coordinator in the United Kingdom Rohema Miah and entrepreneur Ishtiaque Doza.

Nagad COO Ashish Chakraborty said, “During the lockdown, when many banks could not perform their usual operations, Nagad relentlessly continued its service across the country and helped e-commerce to operate and cater to the people properly, along with taking full responsibilities for its dedicated workers. This prompt initiative helped e-commerce to thrive during the pandemic.”

CCO of bKash, Mizanur Rashid said, “bKash started its operation 10 years ago and now more than 300,000 people are now directly and indirectly involved with us. The e-commerce industry with organisations such as bKash, Nagad, Daraz etc was stepping forward – but it rapidly transformed into a necessary service during the COVID-19 situation. Our data showed that many e-commerce organisations earned 3 to 4 times more economic growth in the last six months, which is extremely commendable.”

Praising the steps taking by the government, Daraz CEO Khondaker Tasfin Alam said, “The revolutionary activities of e-commerce mediums during the pandemic when e-commerce became and operated as essential services, that would not have been possible if the government did not lay its foundation for the last five years.”

Expanding e-commerce

Sahab Uddin Shipon, vice President of e-CAB said that at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in Bangladesh when everything had to be shut down, e-CAB collaborated with the Ministry of Commerce, Access to Information (a2i), Dhaka Divisional District Commissioner and other organisations in the government to make a business continuation plan.

More than 100 companies got involved to provide necessary services to the people that denotes 50,000 deliveries in the initial stage of the lockdown. “We also initiated Digital Haat during the Eid-ul-Azha and became successful with 27,000 cattle being sold. We also initiated virtual Aam Mela through which we saved the mango farmers from great loss,” he noted.

“Twenty percent of the population in Dhaka shifted to their villages during the pandemic who are digitally connected. They can also get connected to the e-commerce revolution if they get the necessary internet facilities. We request the ministry to accelerate the broadband internet service and 3G-4G mobile network services to utilise these people,” he added.

The webinar was supported by Daraz group as Diamond partner, bKash as Gold partner and Islami bank and Assure Group as Silver partners, while The Daily Star, Channel-I Online and news agency UNB joined as media partners and BBF world news joined as online partner.