Some Bangladesh online trades see boost, some slump in pandemic

Shakhawat Hossain   | Published: 23:59, Jan 18,2021 | Updated: 00:12, Jan 19,2021


Mohammad Toton is struggling to regain his pre-coronavirus-outbreak income level as the number of calls for his ride service has dropped by two-thirds in the absence of a full recovery of the economic activities.

The mobile app-based company Pathao under which Toton is employed has been forced to introduce parcel delivery service by its registered motor cyclists like him in a bid to diversify its services and revive their income.

But the Pathao parcel delivery venture is facing a tough competition from the established electronic app-based service providers in that segment, according to officials of the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh and online service providers.

Online food and consumer items providers have overcome the initial COVID-19 pandemic hiccups to witness a substantial growth in the last six months.

Still, the overall job generation by app-based companies is not very significant, said an e-CAB director, Ashish Chakraborty.

He noted that the business of online grocery shops and food suppliers had grown while other e-commerce services suffered amid the COVID-19 prevalence like elsewhere around the globe.

In fact jobs have shifted within the nascent industry, he said.

Pathao, Foodpanda, Chaldal, Sobjibazar, e-Courier, Steadfast, Khas Food,, Rokomari, Othoba, Ajker deal,  Daraz, Evaly BD and Trinas Closset are familiar names among the app-based service providers under the Digital Commerce Policy introduced in 2018.

The e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh works to maintain a bridge between the government policy makers and the e-commerce operators to promote the online business in line with the policy.

But the condition of hundreds of Facebook-based individual online businesses that flourished earlier cannot be assessed by the e-CAB, which, along with online tour operators, suffered a major brunt of the economic disruption amid the 66-day nationwide shutdown since March 26.  

Foodpanda Bangladesh Limited has been able to recruit at least 350 new mid-level employees in the meantime as the demand for home delivery of food and consumer items has grown since the shutdown.

The company’s head of finance Aurangazeb Hossen pointed out that they needed active services of 10 types of executive-level employees to reach their last-end customers with supplies from its 35 thousand restaurant and shop partners when its seventh anniversary was celebrated in last December.

The number of its employees has gone up with the inclusion of new restaurants in its platform, he said.

Chaldal, an established online essentials outlet that now attends about 5,000 orders daily, has reported a spike in its orders resulting in the appointment of 300 new employees.

Along with online groceries, the volume of virtual medicine orders too has seen an almost sevenfold rise.

Online ride-sharing company Pathao has introduced food and parcel delivery services to make up for the losses due to the falling demand from commuters. 

Hussain Elius, Pathao chief executive officer and co-founder, hoped that the company’s parcel delivery operation would be successful despite competition from the established operators.

‘Better service delivery’ is, he told New Age on Monday, the motto the company is pursuing to win the hearts of consumers.

Online operators frequently give discounts and special offers to retain their consumer base, which is a key to the success of online businesses.  

But as many of the online traders were not serious about the quality of their products, the majority buyers have switched to the ‘cash on delivery’ mode in place of the original pre-paid orders preferred by operators.

e-CAB general manager Jahangir Shovon said that they were also learning many things by working with online business operators.

He expected that it would take another four to five years for the country’s online business platforms to be in a stable shape.

He observed that the interest in online trading both by established and start-up businesses had grown, which according to him was inevitable due to the COVID-19 situation.

He further observed that online business and job generation was increasing as the e-CAB calculated that the number of daily orders handled under online platforms had increased to 1.5–1.7 lakh from around one lakh during the pre-COVID-19 time.

The number of members in the association has also grown to 1,400 from 1,000 amid the coronavirus menace.

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