A few months back, a news on social media caught my attention. I was literally poring over the news for almost an hour. I read it repetitively, although cannot distinctly remember the number of times I went through it. The news was about an e-commerce entrepreneur. Tania, an entrepreneur from Mymensingh, who had not even yet completed her graduation, but successfully established her enterprise - 'Birajbou.' The moment after reading the news, I found solace in my passion and my professional work, and I am fairly certain that we have many entrepreneurs around the country like Tania, who are trying to make a difference in their lives, to the communities they live in.
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic had an impact on the consumers' demand; productions and distribution were at the lowest; conversely, industries across the world faced a standoff until the very recent time it started to rebound slowly and steadily. On the contrary, e-commerce globally witnessed an unprecedented growth momentum. According to media reports, in Bangladesh, in 2020, sales in e-commerce platforms have increased around 70 per cent, and the market size of the e-commerce industry stood at approximately US$ 2.5 billion as of November 2021, which was only US$ 0.654 billion in 2016. Thanks to the government's vision of Digital Bangladesh and the eclectic approach taken by the pertinent stakeholders.
However, to sustain this growth, as our market demands, we should start pushing the envelope. If we look around the world, there have been tectonic changes in the field of e-commerce in regard to policy framework and innovation. Now, we should also adopt appropriate policies to make sure our customers and at the same time entrepreneurs, can reap the benefits of this booming sector in a way that will be advantageous towards building a digital economy for Bangladesh.
Recently, a few incidents related to fraudulent e-commerce business practices took a heavy toll on the country's overall e-commerce sector. This issue has been severely disparaged by the people, media, and industry experts. The trust deficit is also causing a likely obstruction to create opportunities for a digital economy which will ultimately increase the digital divide in conflict with the concept of Digital Bangladesh-Vision 2021.
So, what could be our way forward? It is undeniable that the e-commerce sector is the bridge between the Digital Bangladesh ambition (consists of the digital economy) and the society. This sector is continuously evolving, buffeted by new technologies and ideas, enabling people to get a convenient lifestyle. Keeping in mind the rapid growth and innovative nature of the field, the directives or legislations for this sector should be dynamic, global standard, which can be adoptable with the changes keeping in mind the interest of all the stakeholders in an eco-system (customers, sellers and marketplace).
There are a few components of regulatory factors, which should not be overlooked, such as taxation, privacy, content, and security. Successful e-commerce countries have created a friendly tax system specially for the e-commerce entities in order to encourage the sector and entrepreneurs to start their own businesses online.
For an emerging economy like Bangladesh, this kind of initiative may help thousands of young entrepreneurs to become financially independent. It is of utmost importance to develop a secured electronic payment mechanism in order for the businesses and the customers to feel more encouraged to use digital forms of payments. In addition to the aforementioned initiatives, e-commerce legislation should adopt policies that will provide opportunities of a cross-border e-commerce ecosystem. Since Bangladesh has a big export industry, including a strong supply of handicrafts, garments, ethnic wear, pottery, jute products etc. which are highly demanding in the international market and Similarly, cross-border import business model focuses exclusively on small, low-value consumer products for personal use which will not have an impact on the already regulated B2B commercial imports. Therefore, cross-border e-commerce as a whole will benefit the local seller, consumers and will also further contribute to the development of the economy at large.
In the introduction of this write-up, I have blatantly expressed my awe! I am truly inspired by the story of Tania. She is helping me to hold onto my belief that the day is not far when we will be truly empowered, riding on the opportunities presented to us in the era of innovation and digital technology. But to ensure this, it is imperative that the government, regulators, and the industry peers treat the e-commerce sector with utmost priority and consider formulation appropriate regulation to keep up the momentum this sector is currently enjoying.
The author of the article is chief corporate affair officer of Daraz Bangladesh Limited.