We need a government policy so that the local companies can compete better in e-commerce sector

Shameem Ahsan, president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services and managing director of Akhoni.com, tells Mahfuzul Haque about probable improvements that can help the e-commerce sector of the country

In what state is the online trading sector of our country in, right now?
006Online trading or e-commerce basically set off its journey in October, 2010 when we from the BASIS sat with the governor of Bangladesh Bank to request allowance of credit card transaction because this type of money transaction was allowed in Bangladesh earlier. Through that meeting, the Bangladesh Bank issued an SRO and credit card transaction received official permission.
Later in 2012, BASIS along with Bangladesh Bank organised an e-commerce week in order to create awareness among people regarding e-commerce. Now its journey is stepping forward with 50 per cent growth every year.
There are now around 250 e-commerce companies, around 2,800 Facebook pages of e-commerce. We also launched BASIS e-commerce alliance in the last month with a view to bring all involved with e-commerce and payment gateways under one platform.
Another motto of the alliance is to protect consumers from being cheated.

E-commerce has become popular with many countries across the globe. For example, consumers in India pay the bills after receiving their desired commodities through Flipkart. In what ways are the consumers in Bangladesh being offered the products?
Now in our country around 80 per cent delivery is done by cash-on delivery, 15 per cent by bkash and five per cent by credit card. The sector is progressing; the consumers will be offered more facilities in the coming days.

What are the challenges that the sector is facing?
We see our telecom sector is now in the hand of companies from other countries. Similarly, Unilever accounts for almost all Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG). E-commerce is also on the same route. Companies like bikroy.com and ekhanei.com, I doubt whether they have registration in a proper way, have been trying to hold acquisition of the market by collecting information about consumers of the country.

India, China, Indonesia have made sure that companies from other countries cannot hold majority share to nurture the local companies.
If foreign companies are allowed haphazardly then they will take the control of the market by investing a large sum of money at a time. This will affect the growth of local companies. We need a policy from the government so that the local companies can compete.

Online market in Bangladesh is facing problems with stolen and fake products being sold in some sites by criminals. How can we overcome this?
I suggest consumers that they should buy products from trusted companies. They can verify the products before buying it. We the BASIS e-commerce alliance will certify these companies.

In e-commerce sites, we usually see clothing, books, vehicles and electronic gadgets being popular with the consumers. What else can the consumers look forward to from these sites in the future?
Besides these items I also find groceries, sweet items, boutiques, mangoes, handicrafts and cows to be quite popular with the consumers. Various food items are also being delivered online. Once trust will build up then every item will be traded online.

How do you see the future of e-commerce in Bangladesh?
If the sector gets policy support from the government then I hope it will become a market worth US $ 15 to 20 billion. Now the sector employs around seven thousand people and over the next ten years, the sector will be the home of employment for around 2.5 million people.
I also hope that we can boost export through e-commerce. At the same time we will also be able to introduce our own products like handicrafts, Jamdani and so on to global consumers.

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