The conclusion of a two-part article titled Prospects of e-commerce in Bangladesh
Bangladesh has considerably developed in the IT (information technology) sector. Many intelligent and highly qualified IT specialists have been working in the sector. These IT experts have been developing sophisticated software and computer technologies. They have gained practical experience in developing many important web-based programmes and online platforms. A section of them have also gained experience working for the world's reputed computer technology companies.
DOMESTIC ONLINE MARKET CAN BE CREATED: Some aspiring IT experts may think of developing the country's own online marketing platform for selling goods and services using online shopping Apps. Such start-up business requires considerable capital investment and logistics support from the government.
Government's post offices have a countrywide network, which is now on the brink of closure for various reasons - especially as people have stopped writing letters these days. Hence, their moribund operation may be rejuvenated through e-commerce across the country. Efficient and most reliable mailing service is a precondition to online shopping. Under government patronisation, the IT experts can initially form an online shopping platform and gradually make it popular. Once this domestic online shopping market achieves popularity, it can be converted into a publicly listed company in the stock exchange. Thereafter, this company may approach global market players like Amazon or Walmart for establishing joint venture or partnership with the company in an attempt to consolidate online shopping within the country.
FLIPKART'S EXAMPLE: In India, Flipkart was a very popular and a very successful online marketing company that was initially established by a few young computer engineers, who used to work in Amazon headquarters. They left their jobs and started online shopping platform Flipkart in India. Within a short time, this online domestic company became very popular and its reputation spread beyond India and many foreign firms came forward with attractive investment offers. Taking financial support at a cheap rate from an international investment company, Flipkart started its business operation in full swing and became a very popular and the 3rd largest virtual market globally after Amazon and Alibaba. As its business grew, the profit margin soared which eventually helped the company to go public. This online shopping company's business was going so well that at one point of time the company was valued at US$ 15.5 billion. As a result of such spectacular growth, it became the takeover target of the world's online giants Amazon and Walmart. Both companies joined the race desperately to take over Flipkart, which raised its market value to $20 billion. The Flipkart management had been continuing negotiation with Walmart and Amazon and at a certain point, the deal with Amazon was almost final and Amazon was ready to disclose the takeover news as a price sensitive information (PSI). Subsequently, some internal issues arose over the trading of the company's shares. The Flipcart Board of Directors changed their mind and decided to sell to Walmart. By taking over Flipkart's operation, Walmart is now in steep competition with Amazon in capturing online shopping market in India. Both companies are competing each other to offer the best quality online shopping services.
Bangladesh's IT professionals and experts may review Flipkart's success and actively consider establishing the country's mainstream online shopping platform.
E-COMMERCE LAW: Any initiative can only be expected to be successful if proper control and regulations are in place. Similarly, very strong and effective e-commerce law is necessary for successfully launching a modern marketing platform.
In general, necessary laws are enacted and adequate control is established and then any new programme is launched. However, the opposite scenario is also common in Bangladesh and consequently, desired benefit can hardly be achieved from any new venture - rather a chaotic situation prevails. When rules and regulations are practised from the very beginning, people easily accept these as a standard practice. But when any facility is hurriedly introduced without necessary rules and regulations, people do not want to be regulated later on, when required. To cite an example, mobile phone was initially made available in our country without establishing proper control and regulation. People's safety, security and identity were greatly compromised and as such it became a big threat. In order to overcome this situation, when the government took the initiative to make mobile SIM (subscriber identity module) registration mandatory, a chaotic situation emerged and the government had to face problems in bringing all mobile SIMs under registration.
Another example, internet use has been made easily available and wide for everybody in the country without placing proper control and legal bindings. As a result, this facility is sometimes being abused to create social unrest. When the government enacted the ICT (information and communications technology) Act, it was vehemently opposed by all quarters. This situation could have been avoided if appropriate rules and regulations were in place prior to launching these facilities.
While introducing e-commerce, careful measures should be taken so that similar situation does not arise later. Appropriate e-commerce Act must be enacted prior to allowing online shopping business. No facility in the world is without limitations. Though e-commerce has innumerable advantages, it has some limitations too. Protecting consumer's right in particular is the main concern in online shopping. Customers place order online, so they have every right to receive the goods and services as desired. Convenient return option is another important feature in case of online shopping. If the customer is not satisfied with the purchase he/she has made, there must be an arrangement to return that purchase. Besides, payment methods of the purchase and refund are also important. Apart from this, the risk of hoarding is likely to be associated with e-commerce, which sometimes may cause national threat, especially when staple items are allowed under e-commerce. By addressing these key issues, an e-commerce Act should be enacted as a primary measure of encouraging online shopping in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is economically developing rapidly and people's lifestyle is also changing keeping pace with this development. Alongside economic development, change in people's lifestyle should be supported.
The Digital Bangladesh branding has created enormous opportunity for online shopping and as such, e-commerce is knocking at the door.
Nironjan Roy is a banker.
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