Bangladesh has come a long way in building a digital Bangladesh. Significant progress has been made in various sectors of digital or information technology in the last few years as a result of strong measures taken by the government. Although e-commerce is new in Bangladesh, but quite advanced. Buyers are becoming more and more interested in e-commerce. Especially in the COVID-19 epidemic.
There has been widespread discussion and criticism recently against several e-commerce companies, including Evaly, for delaying the delivery of goods to consumers on time with lucrative offers of huge price discounts. There were also allegations that many were deceived by Evaly's lucrative offer and in this context, Bangladesh Bank recently conducted an inspection program to monitor the activities of Evaly and several serious irregularities were observed. Bangladesh Bank submitted an investigation report in this regard to the concerned department of the government and in the light of this the government recently issued an e-commerce policy.
E-commerce is basically buying and selling products through the internet. In other words, e-commerce refers to the purchase and sale of all kinds of physical and digital products and services through the exchange of web and electronic data using electronic devices such as personal computers, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, etc. through the Internet network.
It is basically a modern digital medium of online business management, which facilitates coordination between different sectors of government, facilitates business transactions and communication and creates a wide range of employment opportunities across the country.
The sale and purchase of goods or services in the country using electronic platforms started privately in 2006. There was no government approval for online commerce then, as the use of technology has increased, so it has widened its spread rapidly and later in 2010, the government issued a notification on e-commerce.
Creating an e-commerce website does not cost much, because now it is possible to create an e-commerce website at a much lower cost. There are many companies in Bangladesh who create e-commerce websites at very low cost. So many people are now inclined in this business due to low cost and time.
The future of e-commerce business is very bright in our country, but we must overcome the problems in this sector and move forward. All products of the world including Bangladesh can now be purchased online. An audit of the e-commerce sector in 130 countries by the international organization UNCTAD shows that the number of Internet users serves as the main indicator of the location of the e-commerce sector in a country.
According to a report published by the International Telecommunication Union in 2015, the growth rate of internet users in Bangladesh is 14%, but according to the BTRC report, it is 39%. This shows that e-commerce activities are increasing rapidly in the country and new sites are coming up every month. However, not much research has been done on the current state of the sector and the exact number of e-commerce industries. However, an audit report found that the e-commerce sector in Bangladesh is slowly improving and transactions are growing at least 10% per year.
However, according to e-commerce organization e-Cab, e-commerce is growing very fast in Bangladesh. The growth of this sector over the last three years is about 100 percent, i.e, this sector is almost doubling every year. The number one position of e-commerce in Bangladesh is occupied by Alibaba of China.
Amazon, the world's largest e-commerce company, is also showing interest in Bangladesh. In our country, e-commerce buyers are mainly city-centric and of these, 80% buyers are from Dhaka, Gazipur and Chittagong and 35% of them are from Dhaka, 39% from Chittagong and 15% from Gazipur. The other two cities are Narayanganj near Dhaka and Sylhet is another metropolitan city. 75% of e-commerce users are between the ages of 18-34.
In addition, about 50,000 entrepreneurs are currently doing business on Facebook pages in Bangladesh and more than 20,000 of them are active entrepreneurs. According to the latest data, the e-commerce market in Bangladesh in 2019 stood at US$ 1,648 million and this will increase to US$ 2,077 million this year and the market size will be US$ 3,077 million in 2023. At present, about 7,500 companies in Bangladesh are directly and indirectly associated with e-commerce.
In the context of our country, since e-commerce is not yet fully established across the country, buyers are being forced to shop even if they do not want to. However, in some cases, the issue of bill payment has become completely online. Such as electricity, gas bills, salaries of people at different levels across the country are being paid through full mobile banking and it has greatly reduced human suffering and is not wasting valuable time. So many people are leaning towards e-commerce.
E-commerce has become a part of the life of the common people of developed countries; but what is the potential of e-commerce in Bangladesh? While some people are skeptical about finding answers to such questions, the reality is that the potential for e-commerce in this country extends far and wide and it is bringing a new dimension during the COVID-19 virus. We have no doubt that this virus is going to have a very bad effect on the world economy. However, the best solution is the development and expansion of e-commerce.
Not all e-commerce sites in the country today are trustworthy. There were allegations that some companies did not ensure the right products, delivery on time or the right price and as a result the buyers were deceived. For this reason, The Ministry of Commerce issued a guideline Digital Commerce Business Guidelines for conducting e-commerce business smoothly and efficiently aiming to bring transparency in e-commerce and restore consumer confidence.
The policy states that e-commerce companies must declare stocks of the product in advance and only advance orders for sale of the product can be taken subject to stock availability. In addition, if the customer takes an order for a product, provision has been made to ensure delivery within five days if the customer is in the same city and within the next 10 days if it is in a different city.
The seller will not receive the money before delivery of the product, the price has to be paid through Bangladesh Bank. The policy further states that in the case of online product sales, there will be no lottery opportunity for any vendor. All types of digital wallets, gift cards, cash vouchers or any other medium, which will be used as an alternative to money, must be traded with the permission of Bangladesh Bank.
Moreover, the E-Commerce Policy 2021 prohibits the conduct of multi-level marketing or network business through digital commerce. Drugs, explosives or any other prohibited items cannot be bought or sold digitally. In case of buying and selling drugs through digital, one has to get a license from the Department of Drug Administration.
At the same time, in the light of the policy of the Ministry of Commerce on e-commerce issues, Bangladesh Bank has issued a revised policy on online shopping or payment of goods and services charges of e-commerce companies and instructed all concerned banks and financial institutions to comply.In fact, due to the evolving globalization process, the popularity of e-commerce shopping is increasing day by day all over the world.
The fun of buying products with just a few clicks sitting at home is different, as human needs have changed over time, so has market demand. At present, people are buying products from the online market without going directly to the market. Due to the crisis of confidence in Bangladesh, the issue of purchasing products online has not yet been fully introduced.
Md Zillur Rahaman is a Banker and Freelance Columnist
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