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A seminar on “How to Expand e-commerce to Rural Areas” was held in three-day long IT expo “Digital World 2016” at International Convention City Bashundhara (ICCB), Kuril, Dhaka on October 19, 2016. The Chief Guest of the seminar was, Hedayetullah Al Mamun, Senior Secretary, Commerce Ministry of Bangladesh Government. Bangladesh Government and the guest of honor was Nahim Razzak, MP, Parliament Member Mofizul Islam, director-general (DG) of Department of Cooperative, Mohammad Abdur Rouf, chief operating officer (COO) of life style brand Aarong, Syeda Kamrun Ahmed, CEO and Co-founder of the e-commerce platform Bagdoom.com, Dr Zoe Mandich, dimension data, UK and Didarul Alam, managing director of esho.com took part at the panel discussion.

The session was moderated by Md. Abdul Wahed Tomal, General Secretary of e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB)

The key note was presented by Rezaul Haque Jami, Vice president of e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) and in his delivered speech, he said, The 80% consumers are in Dhaka where so we cannot get the best output till we connect this consumer pool with e commerce. But poor infrastructure and lack of logistic support have become major challenges for e-commerce business in the rural area of Bangladesh. Besides, payment system is another challenge for online shopping medium.

They also mentioned that gaining confidence of the customers, both at urban and rural areas, is also a major challenge for this growing sector. Sharing the journey of ecommerce in Bangladesh he said it was the year of 2009 when ecommerce started officially and it was a poor contribution in economy to mention. But now the monthly transaction is 400 corers and we 400 e-cab member now with 700 active ecommerce sites and 5000 Facebook pages related to f-commerce. So the development growth is impressive but the government attention with others concern towards this sector is adequate. In his presentation he tried to cover all the challenges to connect the rural with some specific recommendation to consider. Finally, he urges to have a ecommerce policy soon as possible to enhance the sector's movement towards development.

Pointing to the offline and online presence of ecommerce to get the rural Dr Zoe Mandich, dimension data, UK said Bangladesh can use telecom infrastructure to connect rural with e-commerce. He also said that they are using mobile phone at that can be used as a tool to connect. To get the trust she recommended to share more information the more you can. Finally, it need to be ensure that the rural people should have the facility to contact the buyer directly.

We have 128.93 million mobile user across the country. If we can segment that in terms of the technology they are connected and address them with different solutions that it may works said Dedarul hasan in his presentation. He recommends the IVR solutions to connect those who are not using high end feature phone. We also can take the advantage of mobile marketing here.

Focusing on the logistic support as main problem to deliver the product in rural Syeda Kamrun Ahmed said that logistic support is very important to do ecommerce with rural. Responding the challenge regarding trust she said that it is not only in Bangladesh some others countries are also facing same problem so It will take time. Talking about the technology she

Emphasis on the new technology that need to adopt for better service. In this regard she told about the mobile optimization and others latest. She also pointed out about the accessibility of internet and 3G in rural areas. Answering the audience regarding consumers right Kamrun said “BASIS is working closely with the government to develop some policies to solve the issues and we are optimistic to have it soon” She finally urged the government to ensure access to finance including easy term loans and collateral free loans for small entrepreneurs.

To address the lack of trust as an important issue to consider Mohammad Abdur Rouf suggest formulating policy guide and set standards to build trust between consumers and suppliers. He pointed the money collection is a major challenge to do ecommerce in rural that need to be address properly expand the ecommerce in rural. He added that there are lot of potential in rural to supply different product and that could be an important issue to consider.

Unfolding the potential of ecommerce in Bangladesh Rajeeb Ahmed, President E-cab said if we get the proper support from the government then the sector will contribute the local economy a lot. It also contributes to reduce the unemployment problem in Bangladesh. He urges to the government to open a ecommerce division in the ministry so that the sector could get a dedicated point to deal.

E-CAB is working with the Bangladesh Post Office to be able to use its network to deliver products, said e-CAB President Razeeb Ahmed. He also urged the authorities concerned to introduce courses on e-commerce get skilled manpower. He also raises his voice on payment gateway as a serious issue and expect its early solutions for the betterment of the industry. He also echoed the others regarding the issue of local post office as a hub to connect the rural as a payment gateway.

Mofizul islam said though the mobile is the tool to connect the rural but most of them don’t understand how to use this device to do business. So it should not the sole to get them involve with ecommerce. He proposed to set a single point to maintain the rural communication and other necessaries.

Nahim Razzaq, MP, who is also the Convener of Young Bangla praising the digital movements of the government to connect all with the development including the rural. He also informed that the government has a positive outlook towards ecommerce. And for so the government has lot of initiative and financing support to remove the digital divide and connect the rural. Ecommerce is sn opportunity here. So government will support the sector in terms of the faculties that the required.

Comparing with the others trade associations like BASIS the Chief Guest Hedayetullah Al Mamoon said E-cab will have to work dedicated to shape up the association professionally. He also agreed the facility of postal service as an opportunity to use for the financial solution. He also said that ecommerce sector is growing in Bangladesh where consumers trust need to build. He also said about the policy for the sector for its further expansion.

Coming to the end of the seminar, there was a question-answer session, where couple of questions was asked to the panelists of the seminar and the panelists also answered them. This session is as followed by:

Q. I purchased a mobile phone from a website, few days later I found some problems to use it. I tried to contact according the address mentioned in the web. But the address was fake one. After digging a lot I have got the peoples and ask for service according the service warranty. But they refused to do so. In terms of this situation what we should do?

Answering the question Mr. Reajjeb said still we don’t have any law and enforcement to address the issue. Till we have any law regarding this you can contact with e-cab secretariat and we will try to figure it out. Ms. Kamrun Naher supplement him in this answer and update the audience about the BASIS activities with government on this issue.

Q. How the local information Centre could do the ecommerce business?

Responding the question E-cab secretary Tomal informed that A2i is working in this issue and they are helping the UIC to get involve with this digital business. You can contact with them directly.

Recommendation

  • Introduced academic course on Ecommerce
  • E-commerce business guideline with consumer behavior
  • To have a national E-commerce policy
  • Separate division for ecommerce should open at the ministry secretariat
  • Single point solution to get the rural in business
  • Infrastructural improvement including Internet broadband and payment gateway
  • Encouraging using credit card for transaction
  • Established a business ecosystem
  • Access to Finance
  • Awareness campaign




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