E-commerce Taking Off?

“It took me less than twenty four hours to sell our old car via clickbd. I got three calls in less than three hours after posting my ad on clickbd and by the end of the day I closed the deal. Why pay commission to car huts and middlemen when you can sell it by yourself?” Says a smug Protick Chondro Dey, a 22 year old medical student from Kamlapur. For those who aren’t familiar with the website, clickbd.com is the first and most popular e-commerce website in Bangladesh,in the mold of Amazon.com and eBay. Although this website has a long way to go compared to international standards, clickbd.com is the fastest growing online community of buyers and sellers with a listing of over four hundred thousand products.

The success of clickbd, cellbazar – run by grameenphone – and a few other startup sites, shows that Bangladesh is eager for the E-commerce revolution that has taken the rest of the world by storm. However, lack of policy support, poor infrastructure and low awareness among the people act as formidable barriers.

E-commerce is an internet-based platform used for electronic transactions. The system facilitates purchase of products or services over the Internet and other computer networks.

During the first half of the decade, before the government passed the Information and Communication technology Act, a considerable number of committees were formed and many meetings held to introduce e-commerce, but all efforts were limited to transferring the issue from one government agency to another, industry insiders say.

As per the Clause 18 in the ICT law of 2006, it was the government’s obligation to form a certifying authority within 90 days after the passage of the law. The main responsibility of this body is to regulate the e-commerce merchants who develop online sites.
Experts say online transaction would boost the gross domestic product (GDP) growth and thus help Bangladesh achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In the era of globalisation, the Internet makes the world smaller and e-commerce facilitates marketing and shopping from home.

Manpower should not be a problem, according to analysts. Bangladesh already has trained IT professionals. Its graduates are working with ISPs only for Tk. 4000 (60 dollar!) per month. This shows that Bangladesh already has an abundance of trained IT professionals. The spread of e-commerce would open new employment opportunities in the country.

Clickbd.com started its journey on 14th April 2005, and in five years the website has gained immense popularity among the masses. By 2010 it became the top e-commerce and online trading site in Bangladesh. Currently clickbd.com has over three hundred thousand registered users and a daily traffic of forty to sixty thousand, which is remarkable for a Bangladeshi website. It is not surprising since one can register and post ads for free, buy almost anything and everything ranging from clothing, jewellery, birds (that’s right, birds), cars, cell phones to high-tech gadgets that haven’t even hit the market yet. When it comes to cellular phones and used cars, clickbd reigns supreme over all the other budding e-commerce sites such as Cellbaazar and Lotkon.com. One can buy a brand new Sony Xperia X10 on clickbd within 25-26 thousand taka, whereas the ongoing market price would be around 30 thousand. It’s not just phones that are cheap in clickbd. Almost anything you can buy in a real store, you can buy from clickbd at a much cheaper rate. Since the sellers don’t have overheads costs like paying rent and electricity for an actual store, they can sell their products for much cheaper at the virtual stores of clickbd.

Clickbd.com was the brainchild of Humayoun Alamgir, the founder and chief software engineer of Clickbd. He is a graduate from Arizona State University (USA) in CSE who was inspired by international e-commerce websites like eBay and Amazon. Although Clickbd is yet to provide its members with a true online shopping experience, they have achieved tremendous popularity among not just tech junkies, but the masses. The mantra for their success is user-friendliness of the website, top notch customer service and of course no registration fees. According to Golam Mohiuddin, the senior software engineer of Clickbd.com, the online trading and e-commerce scene is about to change on February 15th, 2011 when clickbd goes through a major makeover.
“We are planning to launch a whole new bundle of services that’s going to revolutionize the way people shop online. We already provide direct purchases through nexus and MasterCard, but we soon realized that in Bangladesh very few people can afford one or they are unwilling to use their MasterCard for online shopping. So we came up with “Click-Cards”. Every registered user in Clickbd will have their own click card. It’s like an online bank account that you can recharge from time to time. For example if you recharge 20k into your Click Card account then you can directly purchase items worth 20k directly from the clickbd website. We’re also planning to introduce a “SecurePay” service, where buyers can pay Clickbd directly for their products upon delivery. This way we can save the consumers a lot of trouble,” Says Golam Mohiuddin.

Bangladesh Bank recently introduced online payment systems facilitating fund transfers and payment of utility bills on the net. The move allows people to use local currency credit cards for online transactions within the country. Although these services are being introduced on a limited scale, it is seen as the first step toward a full-fledged online banking. This move will certainly enhance the use of e-commerce and online banking services facilitating subscribers of all commercial banks in Bangladesh.

So what are the implications of all this for an average person? Imagine being able to buy things directly online and having them delivered at your doorstep. You can shop for anything you want, have it delivered to your home and pay only after it is delivered. It’s shopping without the fear of being conned, minus the traffic jam and minus the insecurity of carrying around large amounts of cash. A lot of businesses suffered severe losses after the inception of eBay and Amazon. The same could happen in Bangladesh, even more so because of the traffic and the insecurity.

It’s not hard to understand why E-commerce sites like Clickbd have enormous potential in a country where people are not safe carrying cash in the streets and travelling from point A to point B is a horrendous nightmare. Shopping from the comfort of one’s home seems like a temptation few will be able to resist.

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