What are your thoughts on Bangladesh's e-commerce scene?
We were one of the first players in the e-commerce scene. One might even say we are one of the pioneers. But when we started to work, we did not just think of our company. Rather we wanted to set a trend – a trend of going online to buy and products. When we started, the online marketplace in our neighbouring countries was flourishing. Yet in Bangladesh it was almost nonexistent. So besides building our own business, we also had to raise awareness about the e-commerce industry.
But right now, the e-commerce scene in Bangladesh is really exciting. There are lots of local e-commerce platforms in the market. Not only that, multiple massive foreign e-commerce platforms have started investing here. And more are on their way. The reason is obvious – they can see that this market has enormous potential. In the last couple of years, smartphones have also made up a huge portion of the market as a target for e-commerce.
The best part is that people in Bangladesh are starting to enjoy the benefits of the e-commerce industry of the country. It saves time and money, and makes our lives simpler. After the implementation of online payment gateways, we saw a slow rise in e-commerce. Thanks to mobile payment system, the pace of e-commerce picked up massively.
Our estimates show that e-commerce is currently now a Tk. 300 crore industry. Of course, the figure might vary a bit, but one thing is for sure – the trend is uphill and it will grow exponentially in the years to come.
How intense is the competition? What sets Bagdoom apart from other e-commerce platforms?
As I said, with more and more local and foreign players in the market, we are seeing positive competition. Everyone is trying to provide the best possible service at the best possible price. But we frequently see many e-commerce platforms facing problems in the planning and execution phase of their operations. Not Bagdoom though. Past experience has taught us to streamline the processes. Hence, we are able to make smart decisions at the right time.
Also, Bagdoom maintains strict quality control. All our products are double-checked before making their way to the platform for delivery. In addition to that, we work round the clock with our delivery partners to ensure smooth last mile delivery in the metropolitan areas. I think this really sets us apart from our competitors.
From Akhoni.com to Bagdoom.com – why the revamp?
When we started Akhoni, we were focusing on a different angle. One of our primary goals was to attract people to our portal and gain their trust. Our products were also relatively inexpensive. Hence, we branded our platform in a very different way.
Since the market has evolved a lot, we too are adapting. Bagdoom, our new name, is trendy, energetic, youth-centric and fun – in line with our brand manifesto. Our portal is for young adults who are tech-savvy and willing to try out new things. So I believe with the new name and brand identity, Bagdoom has a long way to go.
What are the challenges you now sense in this industry?
Over time, the challenges in this industry have changed. Neither online payment nor customer traction is the biggest issue now. Today the challenges are more mature. With many players in the market, the biggest challenge has become providing quality service round the clock.
The second challenge is dependence on cash-on-delivery (COD). Keeping the right amount of change for the payment can be bothersome. In addition to that, the courier picking up the cash is also risky. He might lose the money or get mugged – creating mistrust within the e-commerce industry. Surveys show that 75 percent of transactions are still COD.
The third challenge is ensuring doorstep delivery outside Dhaka in the shortest possible time. Many of the e-commerce business are even getting requests to deliver products overseas. I believe NRBs are a big market and we should also come up with a solution to deliver our product to them as well.
What's Bagdoom's game plan for the year 2016?
Our top priority this year is to overcome the delivery challenges that I mentioned. We are planning to run some major campaigns this year to encourage customers to opt for online payment. We also want to implement even stricter quality control regulation, which will lead to better service delivery. These are the aspects we really want to focus on this year.
Engineer-turned-writer, Shahriar Rahman is Sub-Editor of the tech publication of The Daily Star. He is also Head of Operations at HiFi Public