Women entrepreneurship development is an essential part of human resource development. The development of women entrepreneurship is very low in Bangladesh, especially in the rural areas. Entrepreneurship amongst women has been a recent concern. Women have become aware of their existence their rights and their work situation. However, women of middle class are not too eager to alter their role in fear of social backlash. The progress is more visible among upper class families in urban cities.
When a woman is empowered it does not mean that another individual becomes powerless or is having less power. On the contrary, if a women is empowered her competencies towards decision- making will surely influence her family’s behavior. From this perspective, Syeda Kamrun Ahmed initiated to work on women empowerment, especially in digital businesses of Bangladesh, through the result of her hard labor, named ‘Bagdoom’.
Syeda Kamrun Ahmed completed her graduation from BUET in Chemical Engineering and had a MBA from north south university in the year of 2007. She got her involvement with ICT industry in the year of 2011 with e generation, a Bangladeshi software firm used to deal with European and American clients along with local clients. But she carried a dream to be entrepreneurs and to transform the dream into reality she started Akhoni.com as the Co-founder of it. Akhoni.com was a renowned ecommerce business of Bangladesh that has rebranding as Bagdoom recently. She is also the Chairman of Digital Commerce Related Standing Committee of BASIS
As being a young leader and her involving with BWIT Ms. Kamrun has the wish to encourage our women in digital business. She believes that if our women get the access in information and finance they can contribute our digital economy as like or event more than their counter part.
We had a chat with Ms. Syeda about the present scenario of women in digital commerce and its challenges to address.
1. What are the opportunities and challenges of women participation in e-commerce?
Ans: Actually we can describe e-commerce into two way considering its nature of investment and women participation one is Pure e-commerce and F-commerce.
Pure Commerce: A Pure Commerce mean the commerce that has all the support systems and infrastructure to attend its customer as a whole. It means, the organization itself maintains its own inventory with its own delivery system. An expert technical team is available for 24 hours for providing customer services. If the organization doesn’t have its own inventory system, it has to have a strong team to collect product by ensuring quality. In this case, to initiate an e-commerce business, a handsome amount of capital is required that can provide back up for minimum 3 to 5 years.
F-commerce: Another e-commerce is ‘F-commerce’. To start this business, at first a facebook page has to be created. Then maintaining a small inventory in online and utilizing social media, this F-commerce business can be set up. The interesting fact is that 50% of this business entrepreneurs are women. As this business can operated from home with a small amount of capital, the women participation in this business is huge. Currently, around 4, 000 to 5, 000 entrepreneurs are already engaged in this business. They don’t need expense the cost of infrastructure or marketing, which means this business can be done with a fewer capital but use the social media.
Here, it is proved that the major obstacles in women participation in business are the lacking of family and social cooperation as well as need of sufficient capital. Right now, these are the big challenges of them, I think.
2. What are the ways to confront these challenges?
Ans: First of all, parents need to change their mindset since childhood. Most of the parents in our country, think that girls can’t do well in science or ICT sector or in even business. Secondly, the girls need to have strong mentality, courage and confidence to face challenges.
Rest of the problems are ‘Access to Information’ and ‘Access to Finance’. In that case, if it is possible to initiate Single Point Online Service from where they will be able to get all the necessary information of starting a business.
There are many different banks and venture capital facility providers in our country, who finance in startup business or SME with flexible conditions. Most of the women don’t know the procedures. If they come to know these procedures, both their participation and success will be increased day by day.
3. As a young Digital Leader, what initiatives are being taken by you or by your organization ‘BASIS’?
Ans: For the expansion of Digital Commerce Industry, I along with my company ‘Bagdoom’ have some plans and activities. We usually help our partners in various ways. The major fact is that there is an opportunity to use our website or platform to promote the products in online which is absolutely free of cost. We recently made our partners connected with ‘Nibedita Insurance’ who provide necessary information, financial help and advices for women participation in business.
And, if I say in favor of BASIS, we are working with top level along with government level on different policies to establish ICT sector. So, this is really a big issue. Again in the case of capitalization, we have also some opportunities to work with SME Foundation and Midas or such type of companies to ensure access to financing.
4. What is your opinion regarding the logistic support to deliver the products in rural areas?
Ans: I think the logistic support is the main problem to deliver the products in rural areas, as it is very important issue to do e-commerce in rural areas. But, it is not only in Bangladesh. Some others countries are also facing same problems. So, I think it will take time to have the solution.
5. Do you face any difficulties being a woman as well as chief of a company?
Ans: I would not say difficulties, but things are different for men and women. Because they assume different roles in their lives. A woman definitely has to be a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister and many different roles. Men also have different roles, but in our society they are much less involved when it comes to managing family and taking care of children.
It all depends on your understanding with your family, particularly with your husband. If the understanding is good you would not face a lot of problem from your family.
6. Would you like to share the way to be an entrepreneur with our readers?
Ans: If you want to become an entrepreneur, do your homework. It is good to have ‘I can do anything’ attitude but then again you need to do a feasibility study before you start. Talk to people who have experience and have already built businesses. Take advice and learn things from them.
Building a sustainable business is entirely a different ball game. There will be lots of ups and downs and many people seem to understand it, but could not endure when reality strike. You better prepare yourself. Try to find out about challenges you may face in doing your business and prepare yourself.
Thank you so much, madam to share your thoughts with us.
You are welcome.