Bright days await e-commerce
Online purchase is witnessing high growth though half of the banks in the country still do not allow their customers to use cards for electronic payments citing security reasons, industry people said.
Such purchases particularly picked up last year, when the growth in online transactions was around 20-30 percent every month.
Yet the sector has failed to reach the expected growth trajectory mainly due to a lack of knowledge or awareness among people about online purchases, they said.
Only 10 percent of around 100 e-commerce sites that transact nearly Tk 200 crore a year are doing well as they were well-prepared from the beginning.
e-commerce means buying and selling products or services through electronic systems such as internet and other computer or mobile networks.
The industry people said the growth is high as the industry is in its nascent stage now.
People now mainly buy or sell comparatively low-cost products such as gift items, clothes, mobile phones and mobile top-up or airtime through the online systems, said AKM Fahim Mashroor, a former president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS).
On an average, around 800-1,000 online transactions take place a day, said Mashroor, also the managing director of an e-commerce site, Ajkerdeal.com.
Online purchase saw huge excitement before Eid-ul-Azha last year when an e-commerce firm—Amar Desh Amar Gram—came to light and sold 79 sacrificial animals online.
Online purchase through Facebook is also increasing, said Shameem Ahsan, the incumbent president of BASIS.
“It is high time that we made good use of e-commerce.”
There is a huge demand for clothes of local brands among people outside Dhaka, he said, adding that foreigners are also showing interest in the service.
Ahsan, who runs akhoni.com, an online shop, said: “We rent out virtual spaces as e-stores to manufacturers.”
Top-up services for mobile phones and online purchase of cinema tickets have also become popular, said Fida Haq, managing director of shurjoMukhi.com.bd.
Buyers can pay by debit or credit cards and mobile phones, he said, adding that some of the e-commerce sites offer the "cash on delivery" service. However, it is tough to offer such services outside the capital.
The overall ecosystem is not prepared yet for the industry, said Sayeeful Islam, chairman of the e-commerce sub committee of BASIS.
He also blamed the sector's slow growth on high transaction charges by banks.
“The entire process will have to be a lot easier,” said Islam, also the managing director of SSLCOMMERZ, which is a gateway for receiving payments.
Banks restrict use of cards for e-shopping, as there is a risk of forgery, said Dasgupta Asim Kumar, executive director of Bangladesh Bank.
Anybody can misuse the cards by stealing the personal identification numbers (PINs), he said. The central bank is wor- king on it and may take three to four months to upgrade the system, Kumar said.
The regulator plans to launch short message authentication service for online purchase soon, he said.
This type of authentication is essential for security, as the users can get a text message with every purchase made through cards, he said.