People all over the world have been facing a great pandemic named Covid-19 from early 2020. They have also been suffering from grave danger towards their life, health, and great economic depression. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, almost all the countries of the world including Bangladesh are facing a difficult situation. National and local, both economies are slowing down, people are losing their jobs and a large number of lower-income people are facing extreme hardships all over the world. Along with small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs), informal enterprises are also encountering massive drops in their sales, which is about 55 per cent relative to the pre-Covid-19 levels in Bangladesh (Islam et al. 2021).
A good number of people in Bangladesh including women who have lost their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic are using online platforms to run their businesses. But it was not an easy task to make it out in our society. Business and trade through social media (online business) are attaining new heights in the world including Bangladesh during this situation. It is a new platform for social networking and also a potential platform for online business.
Nowadays, the traditional market has been replaced by the digital or online market with a greater scope and confidence of the consumers. In the Covid-19 pandemic situation, it has already been proved that there is no better market place to online and the whole world depends on online economic activities (Khan & Bhuiyan, 2021). In Bangladesh, conventional and store trading systems have decreased, on the other hand, online platform business and trading have increased remarkably and radically. CMSMEs women entrepreneurs have surprisingly increased with the help of online platforms which include Facebook pages that are called F-commerce.
Though Covid-19 is pandemic for the whole world, it is a blessing for online platforms, business entrepreneurs, especially for women entrepreneurs. Many small and medium entrepreneurs or individuals have started their business in virtual platforms appearing as E-commerce companies now. As a result, due to Covid-19 pandemic, the growth of ecommerce transactions has increased 10 times than normal.
Social media, the most upcoming concept in the current world, has not only been able to attract the attention of the young generation but has also been given due recognition by business firms. The features of social media have made it very convenient to the firms to interact with their customers and get their inputs there by assisting firms to provide better products and services to the clients. Firms find it highly beneficial when building a brand image is the question. Various social media platforms provide a lot of features and allow the business houses to access them with ease and leading economically to have the increased usage of social media. Growth in the usage of social media has resulted in creating challenges like trafficking, data availability, critical analysis by customers, and many others.
The Covid-19 crisis has accelerated an expansion of e-commerce or online business towards new firms, customers and types of products. It has provided customers with access to a significant variety of products from the convenience and safety of their homes, and has enabled the firms to continue operation in spite of having contact restrictions and other confinement measures. In the Covid-19 situation, numbers of E-commerce or online business customers and entrepreneurs have been raised in the developed and developing countries like Thailand, Singapore, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. In Bangladesh only, more than 150,000 entrepreneurs have entered in Facebook F-commerce or online business in Bangladesh.
In 2020, the amount of domestic E-commerce transactions will come to $2,077 million which was $1,648 million in 2019. Currently, there are approximately 2,500 E-commerce sites and 150,000 Facebook pages operating in our country and 80 per cent of the total online sales are taking place in Dhaka, Chattogram, Narayanganj and Gazipur.
Online business or e-commerce activities are increasing rapidly in our country. Many new sites are arriving every month. In the last few years, social media with Facebook brought a new look for E-commerce transactions. Anybody can be a Facebook entrepreneur by opening a Facebook page only. An individual with small capital can penetrate easily to this sector without facing any difficulty. Payment scheme COD (Cash on Delivery) is more preferable than others in Facebook E-commerce. Today the number of entrepreneurs from Facebook has exceeded about 1.5 lakh already in Bangladesh.
Despite the lack of support from the government and non-government formal institutions and agencies, these businesses have their own support systems or network. Many of our women entrepreneurs are part of the online entrepreneur forums, where they can easily get guidance.
The government has taken some initiatives to promote E-commerce and online business. Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the e-commerce project E-Banijjo Korbo, Nijer Bebsha Gorbo was launched in June 2020. The virtual activities of the e-commerce project E-Banijjo Korbo, Nijer Bebsha Gorbo project was launched with the initiative of the WTO Cell of the Ministry of Commerce, with the support of the Business Promotion Council (BPC) and E-commerce Association of Bangladesh (E-CAB). Thousands of young people have received training in e-commerce from the project across the country, and it has the potential to train more. The government has formulated ‘National Digital Commerce Policy-2020’, and ‘The Digital Commerce Management Guide-2021’ under the Ministry of Commerce of which the aim and purpose are to ensure transparency, accountability in the management of digital commerce, enable new entrepreneurs through building a fair competitive market, and increase consumer confidence by bringing regulation to the sector as there is no guideline to operate online business through social media like on Facebook or YouTube, etc.
However, many people including women have lost their jobs and source of earnings during Covid-19 pandemic, which has motivated them to start their online businesses. More than half of the people all over the world now extensively use communication tools of social media platforms. All these tools have great popularity in Asia including Bangladesh. In this situation, women entrepreneurs’ participation in Bangladesh in online platform business through social media has increased a lot. They are now trying to support their family doing business on this platform. In online platform business, women do not have to pay rent for any office. They can continue their work from home any time. This has made the online platform business much easier. Women who used to be housewives are now also emerging as entrepreneurs. They are even serving their family and trying to contribute economically along with their male family members. There are some examples of women entrepreneurs who are earning even more than their male counterparts. Thus, they are adding more value and becoming more empowered which is also a blessing despite the Covid-19 pandemic situation.
The writer is Senior Information Officer at Press Information Department (PID), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Bangladesh Secretariat