Digital Commerce Policy, Lockdown, Eid: Perfect storm for e-commerce?

Dhaka, Apr 25 : As city markets remained closed during the strict phase lockdown that entered into force on the very first day of Ramadan, as well as the Bengali New Year on April 14, buyers started moving to online shopping to purchase different items ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr, the biggest festival for Muslims.
The business insiders said their sales have immensely boosted thanks to the covid-19 pandemic across the country. Even rural people also move here due to easy accesses and offer prices in different products including essential commodities, home appliances and apparel items.
They also sought the government’s support for the facilitation of uninterrupted e-commerce services throughout the country.
According to the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB), the sales of products through the digital platforms went up 70 percent year-on-year in 2020 thanks to the pandemic. More than 160,000 deliveries are made in a single day in the country.
General Secretary of e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) Abdul Wahed Tomal said they have around 1,500 members. Consumers purchased around Tk 3,000 crore worth of commodities for their daily necessities in the last eight months of 2020.
“A new dimension has been created in the online business in Bangladesh following the pandemic. Though people can’t purchase desirable products ahead of Eid in festive mode as their income came down,” he also told UNB.
Tomal added that a good number of entrepreneurs has been created in the last one year, as many youths couldn’t join in jobs and many had been laid off.
“There are now around 500,000 (5 lakh) Facebook entrepreneurs here. Rural based many entrepreneurs have also made thanks to digital advancement. However, buyers are now uncertain following the lockdown whether the markets will be opened or not ahead of Eid,” he said.
He also said consumers are now purchasing essential commodities and Iftar items from online platforms. They will start to buy the Eid products from next week. Actually people are not now in festive mode to purchase products to enjoy. They also avoided buying Pahela Baishakh items. A rash of buying of products will begin soon.
“Though we get some fraud related allegations from consumers. But we are dealing with the government and traders to resolve the problems,” Tomal added.
Managing Director and CEO of Limited Mohammad Rassel said online shopping is getting popular in Bangladesh day by day. “Our order volume has got higher than earlier. It’s almost twice the previous year. We can’t reveal the exact order number. But in particular products, orders get higher in lockdown period than normal days. Now almost 40% orders are being generated out of Dhaka city. The number was around 20% before pandemic,” he added.
Rassel said they are getting higher orders related to Eid products including fashion items. “For delivery, we have a target to deliver them as soon as possible after successful order placement. We are delivering our products within 2 days. In some cases, it might take some extra time. Whatever, we have been working to deliver Eid products before the Eid,” he also added.
The E-valy chief said during lockdown, the main problem is to source products and deliver them at customers’ doorstep. Because maximum shops are shut and delivery service providers are often challenged by law enforcement agencies. So it is a big challenge now.
“The government is doing great for the boosting of e-commerce industry. We appreciate that they have already recognised this sector. In addition to that government is coming up with a law very soon. We hope that such law will bring benefits for e-commerce platforms, sellers and customers and mostly to the entire industry,” he added.
Talking to UNB, Shayantani Twisha, head of PR, media and communications at Daraz Bangladesh Limited said on a year-to-year basis, the order numbers have always increased exponentially. But in the last year of the pandemic, they have witnessed a new segment of people migrating to the e-commerce platform, leading to Daraz having 3-times more orders than the corresponding previous period in 2020.
“Eid has always been a festive season for us, one which promises a lot of shopping! Even amidst the strict lockdowns, we are going to deliver products within the promised delivery timeline, to any corner of the country,” she added.
Asked to identify some bottlenecks in Covid times, Twisha said they have to face “specific area wise lockdowns” imposed by local residents. “Also, during the lockdown, some aspect of the supply chain gets disrupted for which it gets difficult to deliver within the timeline,” she also added.
Sakina Begum, a resident of Maniknagar said she purchased different products including daily essentials from online shopping in the pandemic period. “Though, I have to wait for long days to get the products after ordering, I don’t have to leave home, that’s my benefit,” she added.
The Vice President of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) SM Nazer Hossain said the sector is rising potentially in Bangladesh but consumers are suffering too.
“We receive huge allegations from consumers. Of them, 80 percent allegations come from e-commerce platforms. After getting the allegations, we call the number but get off. Actually they fraud with consumers in various ways,” he added.
Nazer said many customers turn away from e-commerce due to hassle by the cheaters. It should be stopped. “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 members who defraud customers. And the government has to play a significant role to this end.
The Senior Secretary of Commerce Ministry Dr Jafar Uddin said they have already formed a digital commerce cell to implement the digital commerce policy.
“The final work of ‘digital commerce operation guidelines-2021’ is going on. We think to include the entrepreneurs of social media commerce in the guideline. The ministry took various initiatives to boost the sector,” he informed, reports UNB.