The Financial Express

E-commerce suffers on supply crunch

Poor manpower, lawmen's whim also act as deterrents

| Updated: April 11, 2020 17:05:45

A file photo shows a biker delivering food in the city recently--FE photo A file photo shows a biker delivering food in the city recently--FE photo

Online marketeers have been suffering from supply chain disruptions, inadequate manpower and assistance from law-enforcement agencies amid the countrywide lockdown to check COVID-19, sector insiders said.

There has been a spike in e-commerce sales of commodities and health products like groceries, mask and sanitiser after the virus outbreak.

But sales of luxury products, including fashion items, IT services and cosmetics, and other imported products have suffered a big setback, the sources said.

The association of e-commerce platforms said there are not many sites that sell essentials or medicines because of its poor trend in Bangladesh.

According to online marketplace leaders, some key problems in delivery of orders, uninterrupted supply chain or sourcing of goods need to be addressed.

Now, people have come to terms that online shopping of essential goods and medicine is an effective way to prevent the spread of the corona superbug.

E-commerce Association of Bangladesh (ECAB) vice-president Shahab Uddin said security personnel in Dhaka are obstructing the movement of their deliverymen.

Members of law-enforcement agencies on the ground are not well aware of e-commerce and their services.

"So, they stop our people everywhere," Mr Uddin cited.

The ECAB has distributed stickers and badges for an estimated 5,000 deliverymen of some 100 e-commerce sites to work afield during shutdown.

According to the association, only 100 out of more than 1,000 members sell essentials, groceries and medicines.

AjkerDeal.com, a leading local digital marketplace that has started selling essentials during lockdown, keeps a close watch on how COVID-19 is impacting its supply chain and product demand.

"COVID-19 creates supply chain disruptions and could hamper demand uncertainty as well," said AjkerDeal chief executive officer (CEO) Fahim Mashroor.

He said most e-commerce sites have registered a spike in sales four to five times than usual. But neither online platforms get enough supply from sources nor can deliver goods on time due to transport problems and a lack of assistance from the government.

"Following the directive for an unofficial lockdown, all public transport is off now. As the delivery system is not working, e-commerce too is almost off now," Mr Mashroor mentioned.

A number of companies that import products from China, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, have sustained severe disruptions to supply chain.

Many consumers alleged that they do not get supplies of essentials in five six days after placing orders.

One such customer is Easin Huq who ordered an online shop for rice, lentils, egg and oil five days ago, but it is yet to deliver the item.

However, in normal situation, the products are supposed to be delivered within a day. Many city-dwellers often post similar allegations on social media that online shops do not deliver on time.

Mr Mashroor said e-commerce sites are not ready to handle huge pressures from consumers alongside problems of supply chain disruptions and a lack of manpower.

Their available infrastructures are not ready to handle this much of sale and buy," he told the FE.

ECAB general secretary Muhammad Abdul Wahed Tomal said they are in talks with the government high-ups about these problems.

"We've provided an e-commerce map to the authorities so that the nearest online marketplace can reach the doorsteps of people with their goods." The government's A2i wing is making a map with information so that local buyers can quickly place orders on their nearest online shops for products.

The association has also set up a 24/7 'support centre' for all to run e-commerce services smoothly.

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