Over the past few weeks, Dhaka has become a dangerous ground with armed bombers threatening buses, commutes, roads and hence transport. Random people are going missing here and there. You will easily find concerned parents sharing pictures of missing loved ones on social media, or Desperately Seeking Dhaka. Countrywide strikes have locked most of the people for a better part of the weeks, leading to extremely hectic traffic laden weekends. People are having to do most of their work from home. In general, hartals are bad for business. City-wide chaos generally (and obviously) mean fewer people at their workplaces, or flocking to stores, shops. But thanks to the internet, people no longer need to risk their lives to get their groceries, their dinners, or even household goods like clothing and makeup.
Over the past few years, e-commerce and online businesses have become increasingly popular in Dhaka. Almost daily there are new website domains being purchased, new Facebook pages being opened. Be it a printing business for T shirts and posters, an online boutique or a full fledged e-commerce site. To the young generation of entrepreneurs, e-commerce is a new form of business that doesn’t need heavy investment, a physical store. With a wealth or free resources and tools from the internet, resourceful youngsters and finding newer and better ways to provide quality services. In these days of political turmoil, people are avoiding the streets and keeping indoors. The author himself is grounded thanks to kidnapping in his area and not even allowed to go to the gym next door by his uber tensed mother. And for people like myself who always have a brownie craving or two.
“The hartals have increased number of orders we get from all our branches. Now that more people are home, we are getting around 4000 order per week, at times going up to 4200” says Zubair B.A Siddiky, the managing partner of Foodpanda, Bangladesh. All over the city, e-commerce sites are getting more views, more orders, and hence more engagement. Many who formerly shied away from ordering online are beginning to see its perks. The advantages are too sweet to ignore. You get to order things from the safety of your house so you get your goods in hand without having to be roasted on the streets inside public transportation. And with e-commerce/ social media commerce being a reigning trend, you have access to a huge variety of items, and that too at very competitive prices.
“The timing has made it crucial for e-commerce businesses and social media businesses in Bangladesh to show some nettle” says Mahabubur Rahaman, the founder of T-Zone. “With the use of by-cycles we evade traffic, and time constraints. With more orders now we can gain trust of people who are not familiar with e-commerce. It is a race which is meant to be won slowly and steadily.” There is a large number among our population who are not yet the most comfortable with use of the internet, and hence e-commerce. Many even distrust these businesses because they are unable to physically be at the stores to assess the product quality with their own hands. Their time indoors has now created an opportunity for e-commerce businesses to appear as a viable go-to for the those who are not accustomed to it. And through good services, e-commerce business and can win over those who still doubt the businesses.
While there are advantages, there are some drawbacks. While you, the customer can order from home, these businesses are having to take great risk delivering their products in this climate. Circumstances outside can cause delays in the delivery or even cancellation. Foodpanda had to narrow down the most risky areas and refrain from sending delivery men there for the time being. Aside from a few setbacks, 2015 has been a fresh start for many online businesses who had the chance to prove their worth to their target market.