The Financial Express

Online trade, driven by force of youth

Online trade, driven by force of youth

Many people can remember well the days of sending or receiving parcels through the postal department. Those boxes or packets wrapped in specially made paper used to mainly carry books and bundles of documents. They were known as parcel packets, delivered to specific addresses by postmen. Allegations of valuable parcels gone missing were not unusual. In time, the job of delivering parcels was largely taken by the private courier services. Apart from just collecting and sending goods to the intended addressees, for hefty fees, the courier companies found themselves as a part of commercial transactions. Persons in Dhaka now receive baskets of high-quality mangoes from Rajshahi-based suppliers in 2/3 days. It was unthinkable ten years back.

The courier services have made it a reality helping people save time and relieved them of many hazards. The internet-based online ordering of different types of goods and taking delivery of them at home belong, in theory, to this mode of business.  Belonging to the broader e-commerce(electronic commerce), they are also known as online business.

Essentially, not much different from conventional trading in assorted types of goods, its uniqueness stems from its reliable home deliveries. The only 'trouble' the shopping clients have to take is choosing their items online. Ranging from clothing, cosmetics, shoes to foods --- myriad types of items are on display on the pages of an online shop. Apart from home appliances to electronic goods, the collections hardly stop adding extraordinary items to the list. The Eid-ul-Azha sacrificial animals have occupied a remarkable place in the collections for the last couple of years. The clients can avail of the same items at traditional shops. With the outlets located in areas too far from residences, and requiring gruelling travels, collecting the preferred goods from shops online is now considered quite pragmatic.

Online shopping has lately become a part of life in capital Dhaka. During shopping for Eids, Bangla New Year and other festivals, lots of city residences, especially women, conduct their shopping job online. It's especially the people averse to remaining stuck in gridlocks and have an innate dread for frenzied crowds who find the online shopping opportunity as a blessing. During the peak of the corona pandemic shutdown in March-October, 2020, sizeable sections of Dhaka's middle-class residents had little options, except doing online shopping. Street vendors selling vegetables, fruits, meat, fish and similar other goods met the people's need of daily necessities. But for staple foods like rice, pulses, edible oil, salt, spices many took resort to online chains. The dread of physical closeness with other shoppers kept a number of super-shop visitors away from those outlets.

Youth entrepreneurs are increasingly entering the online shopping business. They are both males and females. Hundreds of young women in Dhaka have been in the digital-age business for over a few years now. Most of them are educated, come from well-off families and have the goal of proving their worth as being business-savvy. They want to break their stereotyped image that today's educated young women are fit for only teaching, helping hand to businesses and activities in the arts. Few could think that women, too, have business acumen,clear thinking and foresight. A new form of business requires a lot of innovative power and, also, courage to embark on previously unthought-of ventures. There have always been a few women in the Bangladesh society, who are gifted with business prowess --- though in traditional ways. They are now a highly admirable segment in the country's entrepreneurship. The new-generation women have trod a completely different path from the very early stage of their professional career.

Themselves being online aficionados, they were eventually drawn to the digital openings to entrepreneurship. After toying with the idea for some time, a few young women, in collaboration with their male contemporaries, started their online business. The whole process was an exercise in amateurism. To their utter surprise, the ventures clicked, literally from the beginning. They were welcomed warmly on the social media. Upon being benefited by their service, lots of clients came forward to remain beside them, thus helping them find a strong footing.

As time wore on, the demand for products and product variety soared. Some outlets themselves felt the need for increase in the supply of products. Initially, they dealt with petty clients with limited demands. In fact, many prospective larger clients viewed the online shopping outlets as just a means to make a quick buck. Their ideas finally took a jolt. The entrepreneurs also read the signs of their untapped potential for reaching more people. As businesses grow from a humble shape to a massive venture, the online trade operations continued to spread to all sides. On being compelled by the imperative of staying put in the fast growing business, and competitiveness looming, manyonline ventures transformed into purely professional businesses. With tastefully made advertisements put up on internet outlets, and drawing newer clients in droves, the online traders became convinced of their strength. They realised that it was time they could boast of their distinctive place in the country's mainstream business.

Like all sectors demanding continued investments, from humble to larger, the online enterprises, too, look to pouring of investments. It is good news to these businesses and their well-wishers that the online shopping's carving out a place in the country's commerce is now ensured. There is more news in the making. The other forms of online markets on the social media, like Facebook, continue to gain popularity. Called F-commerce, a new online supply platform may lay claim to a large share of the market. The secret lies in the fact that with 40 million users in Bangladesh, Facebook is set to emerge as a formidable market player in Bangladesh.

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