A 24-hour government-imposed near shutdown of mobile internet since Saturday evening aimed at limiting ongoing street agitations has severely affected online and app-based services, including those for ridesharing, food and parcel delivery, ticket purchase, outsourcing and academic courses.
There are some 3,000 Bangladeshi e-commerce and Facebook sites conducting yearly transactions of around Tk 2,000 crore.
Ridesharing businesses had been hit in the past week for roads being either blocked or congested for demonstrations and frequent users say there was hardly any vehicle available since Saturday evening.
“We lost more than 60 percent of our ridesharing and food delivery service orders in Dhaka and Chittagong yesterday,” said Sayeda Nabila Mahbub, lead marketing manager at Pathao.
“Our business is dependent on the internet and smartphones and our business has shrunk as there is no internet on mobiles today,” she said yesterday.
Another ridesharing platform, Shohoz, which also offers e-tickets and has been witnessing a monthly growth of more than 200 percent, said its service had nearly come to a halt.
“Though there is no internet outside of Dhaka, people are still trying and we were able to manage some successful rides,” said its managing director Maliha M Quadir.
Service requests have gone down in the last few days while the fulfilment rate is also low as people were fearful of bringing their vehicles out onto the streets.
“We have a reputation of being stringent in our compliance and verification process...as ensuring security is our main agenda,” said Maliha.
Uber refused to comment on the ongoing situation.
Amidst all this, The Daily Star found some people on motorcycles offering rides through verbal contracts.
Long-distance bus service providers have been on strike for the last few days and e-ticketing entrepreneurs say the internet slowdown compounded the situation.
Rezwanul Haque Jami, CEO of bdtickets.com, told The Daily Star that they sold only three tickets yesterday though their regular sale was close to 200.
Eid-ul-Azha was just two weeks away and more than 500 tickets are usually sold daily in the lead up to the festival, he added.
Bagdoom, a leading online shopping platform, said it was facing challenges in delivering products as a lot of time was being spent on the streets. All it could do was sending SMS to customers apologising for the delays.
Shomi Kaiser, president of the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh, said she was in favour of mobile internet being blocked under the present situation.
“Definitely, we are facing challenges and our members are losing business, but we might overcome all this within a few days,” she said.
Expatriates also found it tough to connect with their near and dear ones through mobile phones and had to dole out more from their pockets to use landlines, said market insiders.
Shafiul Alam Biplob, who outsources mostly for US companies, said though he used broadband at home, mobile internet was a backup to maintain communication.
“Those outside of Dhaka mostly failed to provide any outsourcing as there was a lack of broadband connectivity,” he said.