As coronavirus pushes shopping online, e-commerce and f-commerce platforms are betting big on selling cattle digitally for the upcoming Eid-ul-Azha to get a slice of the cake of a market in which over one crore livestock are sold during the festival.
Makeshift markets for selling animals for Qurbani are expected to be less crowded this year as social distancing is set to bear paramount importance in fighting the lethal pathogen.
Several online platforms have already started campaigning with offers of "full-service Qurbani" as authorities in different cities are allowing fewer Qurbani haats compared with previous years.
Meat provider Bengal Meat has recently launched its online Qurbani haat at qurbani.bengalmeat.com.
"Though we have provided seamless service to our customers for the past five years, we have taken a different strategy keeping in mind the issue of social distancing and health risk during this hard time of coronavirus," said Sharfuddin Ahmed Chowdhury, head of sales, marketing and distribution of Bengal Meat.
People just have to choose the cattle on Bengal Meat's site and the rest -- halal Qurbani, meat processing -- will be done through the meat processor's team of professionals, he said.
Then the meat will be packed in three-kilogram units to be sent to the customers' homes.
"This will also minimise the health risk of slaughtering in open spaces and contamination during processing," he added.
The online payment option is also available at the website of Bengal Meat, which has been witnessing double-digit growth in this segment.
The online site works like any typical shopping site, allowing customers to go through a huge range of cattle to choose from.
A team of Daraz are currently working on profiling 350 bovines of five entrepreneurs that would soon be uploaded on its platform.
Videos and written descriptions, including age, weight, number of teeth, colour and gender, will be available for every animal.
"For the coronavirus situation I think online sales of Qurbani cattle would boom," said Shayantani Twisha, head of PR, media and communications at Daraz Bangladesh.
Last year, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba's subsidiary Daraz sold 70 of the 180 cattle uploaded on the site.
"From select entrepreneurs, we bring 100 per cent organic cows for our customers," she added.
The story of Qurbani cattle trading by Kakoli Khan, the owner of Shuddho Krishi, an f-commerce site that sells a variety of products ranging from vegetables to fish, would inspire any new entrepreneur.
Last year, she sold 54 cows using her Facebook site. Every small farmer has one or two cows because it meets their demand for compost fertiliser.
"I connect buyers with these farmers, who supply me vegetable, rice and other things from my business. As these local cows eat grass in the field, the taste of their meat is different. So, buyers are much enthusiastic about such livestock," she said.
She made a few lakh taka last year selling cattle and goats.
"Last year, I got another 100 requests in person and on my company's Facebook page for supplying cows or goats for Qurbani. But I couldn't supply them as I don't compromise on quality."
This year her target is to sell 100 cattle. She charges 8-10 per cent of the selling price as her commission.
Dhaka North City Corporation has decided not to set up a sacrificial animal market in densely populated areas inside the capital to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
In such a situation, Sheba.xyz, a popular online service marketplace, which used to supply butchers to customers, is now launching cattle sales.
There will be 500 cattle on its website for customers.
"Keeping the pandemic in mind, Sheba.xyz is providing full Qurbani service along with making the cattle available for purchase and getting it delivered home," said Samiul Kabir, chief strategy officer of the platform.
For those who want the option of sacrificing an animal in a group instead of the whole animal oneself, there is the opportunity of getting that specific share at a fixed price.
This year, Bikroy.com has targeted to sell several thousand cattle through its site. Last year, it sold 3,000.
"We do not sell cows ourselves. Various agro firms provide advertisements for selling their cattle on our site," said Bikroy.com's Co-Managing Director Eshita Sharmin.
This time the farmers of Dhaka and its surrounding areas are saying that bookings are being made shortly after advertisements are being placed on the site.
"So, this means that the buyers have already started choosing their desired animal for sacrifice. Probably this trend has appeared due to coronavirus," she added.
The platform charges only Tk 1,000 for membership of big farms for unlimited ads and does not take any fee from small farmers.
She hopes more than 10,000 cattle advertisements will be up on Bikroy.com this year.
Many buyers are also turning to online platforms this time because of the coronavirus.
Mohammad Shahed from Bashundhara area of the capital is planning to buy a cow from an online marketplace this time. "Social distancing is impossible in the makeshift markets selling animals for Qurbani."
Although going to such a market is a traditional and joyful event, he would opt not doing it this time around, he added.
This year 1.19 crore cattle have been prepared for Qurbani, up from 1.18 crore last year, Abdul Jabbar Sikder, director general, the Department of Livestock Services, told The Daily Star.
"We are encouraging different big farmers to sell online this year. If 20 per cent of the total sales can be made through digital platforms gradually, it will reduce the pressure on the makeshift markets," he added.
This year, 1.10 lakh cattle will be needed for Eid-ul-Azha, according to the department.
However, the demand for cattle would be 20 per cent less than that of the government estimate because of the pandemic, which ate away people's income significantly, according to the Bangladesh Dairy Farmers' Association.