Online stores get more hits

http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=227890

Online stores get more hits
Sohel Parvez

Online shopping is becoming popular in Bangladesh, encouraging new entrants to open e-portals for consumer goods and household essentials.

In the past one year, nearly a dozen online shopping portals or e-trading platforms launched operations, offering products and services from vegetables, clothes, computer accessories to books and travel tickets, said IT sector insiders.

The trend started after Bangladesh Bank cleared ways for payment by debit and credit card in the local currency.

“The extent of visits and deals made through these online portals is rising,” said AKM Fahim Mashroor, chief executive of bdjobs.com, a leading online job portal.

Bdjobs.com opened an online trading platform, ajkerdeal.com, six months ago to promote client merchants’ products and services to consumers at discounted prices.

Of the portals that came into operation last year, at least 10 received good responses. Some 5,000-10,000 visitors visit these online platforms on a regular basis, said Mashroor, also the senior vice present of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS).

Thanks to growing internet penetration, shopping portals have received impetus, widening scope for a buyer to purchase goods sitting at home.

An increased use of internet-enabled mobile phones also added vigour to online shopping. Some online stores have already kept provisions to place orders by mobile phone.

Now 50 lakh people use the internet daily and 25 lakh people have a Facebook account in Bangladesh, he said.

Bangladesh’s headway in online retailing coincides at a time when online portals account for a major share of daily retail trade in the developed world.

In China and India, these sites are becoming popular because of the convenience, according to IT sector insiders.

It gives customers scope to buy products at prices lower than the rates quoted in showrooms, Mashroor said. An entrepreneur can offer products at low prices because online platforms save on operational costs like showroom rent.

“So, it is a good platform for small and medium enterprises to market their products,” said Mashroor.

“Our aim is to build a platform to reduce the number of hands in the supply chain by selling producers’ goods directly to consumers,” said Ataur Rahman, director of Future Solution Business (FSB).

The company launched an online portal — amardesheshop.com — to sell vegetables, fish and handicrafts to people in urban areas earlier this year. Amardesheshop.com is a component of the Amar Desh Amar Gram e-commerce initiative of FSB, which took the step to establish an ICT based network to connect rural producers with consumers in the city and vice versa.

“The prices of vegetables and other products that we offer usually are lower than market prices,” said Rahman, adding that the firm receives orders online and over the phone and they deliver goods home on a weekly basis.

“When we started, we had 20 clients. Now we supply to 50 families in Dhaka,” he said. “Many producers are linked with us through our IT centres at production areas.”

Shameem Ahsan, chief executive of another e-commerce firm akhoni.com, said the company is registering fast growth due to rising demand.

“We offer products that are highly discounted,” he said, adding that already 10,000 people have bought products through akhoni.com since its launch in June last year.

Ahsan said the portal has the option to pay online by card or in cash for home delivery. It also provides discount coupons if clients visit the stores physically.

Some 150 merchants are linked with akhoni.com that promotes clothes, electronic gadgets, mobile phones, travel packages and restaurants.

“We receive many orders from different parts of the country,” he said.

However, some bottlenecks hinder the fast growth of e-commerce. Many banks, fearing fraud, still keep debit and credit cards inactive for online transactions for security reasons.

Mashroor said the central bank should prepare guidelines for banks and other service providers to prevent fraud in online transactions. For companies, there should be scope for insurance against frauds, he said.

At the same, the number of debit or credit card users is also lower than the current internet users, said Mashroor.

sohel@thedailystar.net

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