E-commerce and F-commerce in Bangladesh During Covid-19
F-commerce (Facebook-commerce) has been a growing field for the last couple of years. The emergence of F-commerce in Bangladesh came as a by-product of a digitalized Bangladesh. Bangladesh was, like any other country, crippled by the Pandemic wave. The Covid-19 still runs havoc throughout the world, and for a developing country like Bangladesh, the economic shock is nothing short of a disaster. However, Bangladesh made a tremendous improvement in E-commerce in 2021. While many lost their respectable jobs, others found their way through the internet. Here, we will get to know how many of the rising and promising entrepreneurs bringing change in E-commerce and F-commerce in Bangladesh.
What is F-commerce?
F-Commerce stands for Facebook-Commerce or an enormous marketplace on Facebook where local business owners and entrepreneurs open their pages and take orders online. According to Statista, A German company that focuses on consumer data, the number of Facebook users in 2020 was near 40 million. This number puts Bangladesh in the top 10 positions by the number of Facebook users. It may seem like the country is succumbing to a social media life, but the numbers also show the prospect of Facebook marketing. E-Cab (e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh) study found out that there were already more than 50,000 business pages back in 2019.
The F-commerce market size in Bangladesh was around Tk. 300 crore to Tk. 350 crore in 2020. In another study from that year shows transactions of Tk. 7000 crore occurred via different e-commerce mediums and Tk. 1000 crore of that amount was from f-commerce. The numbers are still growing because the pandemic has forced many business owners to adopt online service methods. The micro-businesses run by many households via Facebook and other online mediums are paving the way for Bangladesh to a new era of digitalization.
E-commerce and F-commerce in Bangladesh
As many experts predicted, Bangladesh was badly hit by the Coronavirus wave. The economy was at a halt. The people lost their jobs. The country was suffering from all the losses, from the economic as well as the mental perspective. Many businesses had to see the bitter end. Alternatively, people found the proper ways to integrate their business ideas with social platforms. According to the E-Cab study, the online sales figure went up to 70 to 80 percent in 2020. Currently, there are more than 3,00,000 business shops on Facebook.
While the offline stores failed to keep up with the pandemic wounds, the online stores and pages thrived. The main reason behind the boom of e-commerce and f-commerce is as clear as the clear sky that many people can not see due to ongoing lockdown. The masses were frightened because of the severity of the virus. They looked for a way to shop from home. All of this comes from the perspective of the buyers. On the other hand, the sellers who were either looking for a job or trying to start their business found out that going online is the way to go. From food items to raw ingredients, the exposure of many entrepreneurs began to soar.
”Rural to Global Ecommerce Policy Conference-2021”: The e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) organized and hosted this two-session virtual conference that focused on the current state of E-commerce and its growth. State Minister for Information and Communication Technology Junaid Ahmed Palak informed the audience about the number of people involved in the E-commerce market.
“Around 11 crore consumers of the country have been able to be connected with e-commerce in the last 12 years due to the correct implementation of the directives of the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Information and Communication Technology Sajeeb Wazed,” –Junaid Ahmed Palak .
He also gave assurance about cost minimization via air transports and loan assistance of Tk. 1 crore to hundreds of E-cab member entrepreneurs. Bangladesh Bank is planning to arrange loans at 4 percent interest for entrepreneurs alongside small businesses linked with startups. The up-and-coming entrepreneurs and startups will get benefits such as funds from the government and loan facilities to grow their business.
Women Marching Ahead Amidst the Pandemic
A very encouraging and inspiring event during lockdowns and deaths is the self-employment of women due to F-commerce. Before Covid-19, many women confined themselves to household chores. However, many women decided to start their business on Facebook because of their financial state. They not only became financially stable, but also their business showed exponential growth. Of the 3,00,000 online stores, more than 50 percent are from women entrepreneurs.
A large chunk of women came to know about Facebook entrepreneurship from the largest Facebook group dedicated to women entrepreneurs called Women and E-commerce forum (WE). Samia Farah, the admin, and president of the Women and E-commerce forum (WE) stated that:
“We started this group in 2017 and had around 50,000 members until March. Now we have over a million members”
“At least 300 women in her group earn more than Tk. 1,00,000 per month through F-commerce (Facebook commerce), with some even making more than Tk. 5,00,000. We have already signed an MoU with Ekshop, a digital one-stop platform, developed by the Access to Information (a2i) so that our entrepreneurs can get a license without the hassle of paying extra money to the brokers.“
She also added that:
Some of the entrepreneurs started with a capital of as little as Tk. 1000 and now making Tk. 40,000 to Tk. 50,000 a month. Some started their business to support their husband, and they can proudly say that they are doing pretty well.
E-commerce in Bangladesh: The Challenges
Even though the pandemic could not stop the emergence of F-commerce in Bangladesh, there are still some complications in F-commerce. The first one is tax evasion. As the businesses run on Facebook are not under the jurisdiction of tax laws, it is easy to evade tax. It is one of the fundamental problems with F-commerce. Another major problem is the lack of rural contribution to F-commerce. Bangladesh is still facing challenges like a lower rate of smartphone usability, lack of proper infrastructure, expensive mobile data price, no good business model to attract people from rural areas. Without globalization throughout the country, E-commerce will not grow as it is expected to.
Now, let us come to the problems during the pandemic. While the numbers are still growing, it is not applicable for every business. The businesses that are majorly dependent on transportation suffered heavily during the lockdowns as there was no way to complete their orders. Consumers only sought out to buy necessary and essential goods on the internet as they had less money to spend. It decreased the demand for fast foods, bakery items, ornaments, apparel, etc. The people also questioned the safety of the products and also the payment method. These problems did not remain as the owners and entrepreneurs adopted safer delivery services and online payment methods via SSLCOMMERZ.
The Next Steps
F-commerce is still growing, and the scope of E-commerce is also vast. It still needs plenty of work to improve these fields so that the majority can get easy access. As the Senior Secretary of Commerce Ministry, Dr. Jafar Uddin said:
“The Digital Commerce Management Guideline-2021 is being finalized, and the ministry is considering the inclusion of social media commerce entrepreneurs.”
The inclusion of social media entrepreneurs in E-commerce guidelines will substantially increase the size of future entrepreneurs and visionaries. Obaidul Azam, CEO of BFTI, suggested that a registration process for Facebook and other social media entrepreneurs can act as a trade license to enlarge the entrepreneurial world.
F-commerce can become the next big thing where people from all backgrounds will be able to apply their knowledge, talent and become financially capable. As for now, we can hope for the best and wait for the future of F-commerce to unravel. So, the future of E-commerce and F-commerce in Bangladesh is bright and it will bring many wonderful entrepreneurs.
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