Logistics Remains A Nightmare For Ecommerce In Dhaka And This Startup Aims To Make It Tick

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Nov 2, 2015

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E-commerce has seen a big boom in recent years in Bangladesh. According to the e-commerce association of Bangladesh (eCAB), the sector has experienced tremendous growth since 2009, with the number of e-commerce websites increasing five-fold from a mere 100 in 2012 to over 500 in 2015. Along with the sites, there’s a whopping 2000 or so Facebook groups and pages buying and selling over the web. With the increase in internet penetration, government support and relaxed regulation, e-commerce is slated to grow even faster in the coming years and will be a major proponent of economic growth in the country.

However, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. There are many obstacles along the path and as per eCAB, developing the delivery channels to the consumers ranks number one in the list. Infrastructure remains weak and there is a severe lack of quality logistic service providers in the country. Therefore, logistics might very well be the Achilles Heel of the e-commerce sector of Bangladesh.

According to the e-commerce association of Bangladesh (eCAB), the sector has experienced tremendous growth since 2009, with the number of e-commerce websites increasing five-fold from a mere 100 in 2012 to over 500 in 2015. Along with the sites, there’s a whopping 2000 or so Facebook groups and pages buying and selling over the web.

Logistics has been a problem for e-commerce ever since the birth of the sector. All the countries in which e-commerce has experienced tremendous growth had to beef up their infrastructure and produce quality logistic service providers. It makes perfect sense after all. The whole point of e-commerce is convenience. The idea is that you surf the web, come across products you desire, buy them with a few clicks and wait for your product to be delivered straight to your door. No need to get out of your house and brave the elements.

Future of ecommerce in bangladesh 1200
Future of ecommerce in bangladesh | Click on image for more

Bangladeshi companies are getting the first steps right. They are creating easy ways for the consumers to browse through their selection and order products, but then things go haywire. The seller sometimes asks the consumers to pick things up from a specific location or the seller themselves go to the location of the client. There is no unified system. The sufferers happen to be the majority of the 2000 e-commerce stores operating over Facebook. “Our customers expect us to deliver the products to their doorsteps, but we are unable to do that most of the time”, says Tawhid Abir, the founder of Sticky Stickers BD, a Facebook store that sells unique mobile phone accessories. “We are only a three-man company and thus do not have the resources to operate a logistics system. The couriers are unreliable and it’s quite cumbersome to sign up with them.” Tawhid adds. It is evident that the logistic issue is ruining the experience of e-commerce.

The logistic services that are operating do not match the standards demanded by the consumers and the e-tailers. Many of the features that are taken for granted by the international community are unheard of in the country. Live tracking, automatic invoicing, same day delivery are features the sellers and buyers wished they had access to but unfortunately don’t. To be fair, there are providers which have the above-mentioned feature set but their implementation is lamentable rather than laudable. Anika, an e-commerce entrepreneur who sells women’s ethnic dresses over Facebook says, “Delivery is such a big problem. My customers complain all the time about how I cannot deliver products on time. Little do they realize that the logistic service providers are the ones at fault here. I have switched between multiple providers and all of them are so inefficient; it’s as if their whole system was designed to not be user-friendly.” She further adds, “Having a proper delivery service would really help my business grow.”

Logistics has been a problem for e-commerce ever since the birth of the sector. All the countries in which e-commerce has experienced tremendous growth had to beef up their infrastructure and produce quality logistic service providers. It makes perfect sense after all.

Pathao Logistics
Pathao Screenshot | Click on image for more

The logistic service situation in Bangladesh is appalling to the say the least. But every cloud has a silver lining. New start-ups are coming into the market with the promise of revolutionizing the logistics system and accelerating the growth of the e-commerce sector. One of these visionary startups is Pathao. With the slogan of making delivery easy, they wish to become the go-to partners for handling logistics for e-commerce companies and they have a lot going for them. They have a modern website, a working android app and the much talked about live tracking feature which allows not only the seller but also the customer to track the progress of their delivery. Hussain M. Elius, the co-founder of Pathao reiterates, “Pathao has the feature set of any world class logistic service; our software is top notch and we have an amazing team who have experienced first-hand the pain and frustration associated with poor logistics. We aim to make delivery hassle free for all and bring delight and joy to our customers. Currently we are only operating in Dhaka, but plan on covering the entirety of Bangladesh in the very near future.”

The logistic service situation in Bangladesh is appalling to the say the least. But every cloud has a silver lining. New start-ups are coming into the market with the promise of revolutionizing the logistics system and accelerating the growth of the e-commerce sector.

Pathao makes some bold claims and whether they are the saviour of e-commerce still remains to be seen. Only time will tell. But for now, they certainly come as a breath of fresh air. It is great to see that start-ups such as Pathao are tackling the important issues, when solved could unlock the true potential of the e-commerce sector in Bangladesh. Logistics is the perhaps the biggest of all problems when it comes to all problems, but payment is a close second. But let that be a discussion for another time. For now, let’s give the start-ups their fair chance and see how they take our country to new heights technologically and economically.


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Ramiz is a front-end software engineer, innovator, and data scientist who researches and analyzes tech startups and the art of entrepreneurship. Ramiz loves to keep up with all the latest tech blogs, the hottest silicon valley startup news, and the Bangladeshi startup scene. Ramiz is always on the lookout for interesting projects involving technology and he is open to collaboration. So feel free to get in touch with him over LinkedIn.

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