Online shopping is now a popular means of trading goods and services in Bangladesh. Online platform is used by many companies to showcase an array of products ranging from kitchen items, home appliances to clothes, shoes, cosmetics to cars and flats even! All this has been possible due to the expansion of information and communication technology (ICT). City dwellers prefer online shopping as it saves time by saving the hassle of sitting for hours in traffic jam and also as it saves money at times.
The growth of online business is evident both in formal and informal ways that includes business across social networking channels such as Facebook pages. The industry insiders estimate that country has around 200 e-commerce websites and at least 3,000 F-commerce (Facebook commerce) sites and that an annual e-commerce sale is approximately Tk 2.0 billion.
What facilitates this striking growth of online business is the easy access to internet and its increasing number of users. According to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), the total number of active internet subscribers reached 45.67 million until April 2015 while 44.22 million are mobile internet users.
In addition, extensive advertisement campaigns by online classified websites such as Bikroy.com and Ekhanei.com have create mass awareness among ordinary people about the potential of online buying and selling. Although shoppers are often discouraged by fraudulent activities, but the industry people claim that such acts are done by the third-party engaged in delivering the products.
The concept of online markets engages the third party retailers who serve between the sellers and the customers thus create new jobs. Currently, 10,000 to 15,000 people are involved with the sector, which the industry people expect to create employment for more than 0.2 million within the next five years.
Despite this tremendous growth potential, e-CAB and BASIS e-commerce alliance leaders argue that the proposed 4% VAT will land the local entrepreneurs into great trouble. Also they termed the large scale investment by the multinational companies in the growing online market as another challenge as it might discourage the local entrepreneurs as well. Such impediments might adversely affect this flourishing sector.
The industry insiders expect the government to recognize the e-commerce as an entirely separate and autonomous industry providing it adequate policy support and creating a local entrepreneur-friendly investment environment. For the rural people to get services at their doorsteps as well, the industry people looks upon to the government to tag post offices to the e-commerce companies.