Booming sector for women entrepreneurs
Six years back, Marufa Akter Shorna had nothing but a dream. She was a university student then.
A dream to do something by herself haunted her since adolescence. Then, on July 7, 2014, she started her journey as an entrepreneur. Initially she started a fashion forward F-commerce site by making a page on Facebook named "Color Craze". Now "Color Craze" is a popular brand for handloom women's wear, with two outlets in the capital. As a chic part of e-commerce, F-commerce has become vastly popular by the massive use of the social networking site, Facebook.
F-commerce in Bangladesh
e-commerce is expanding very fast in Bangladesh in recent years because of the easy accessibility, thanks to the Internet. This sector is rapidly growing and attaining competitiveness in the local market. Apart from big giants in e-commerce in Bangladesh, like Daraz, Pickabo, Chaldal, Pathao and other prominent companies, there are a large number of businesses which run initially through Facebook or the Mobile Phone. Facebook businesses are named as "F-commerce". In simple words, facebook is used as a platform to conduct business. It is the latest form of online business which is becoming popular among the young entrepreneurs of the country because of its wide marketing reach. F-commerce in Bangladesh is phenomenal considering the statistics.
According to the IDLC Finance Business Review published in 2019, The F-commerce market size in Bangladesh is worth Tk. 312 crore. Fifty per cent of Facebook stores are owned by female entrepreneurs. More than 3,00,000 Bangladeshi stores are operating on Facebook. Page owners are able to earn between Tk. 10,000 and Tk 1,00,000 monthly. Most of the users of Facebook pages are aged between 18 and 26.
Some success stories
Marufa Akter Shorna (mentioned above) and her "Color Craze" is the success story of an F-commerce entrepreneur.
She said: “There were a lot of challenges in my journey as an entrepreneur. As an MBA graduate from Jahangirnagar University, there was both social and family pressure to choose a profession with handsome salary and secured life. However, to me, self satisfaction is better than social recognition. I am very happy as an entrepreneur”
“My first success was in 2019, when I set up my first outlet in Mirpur DOHS. Everyone in my family and friends applaud my success. But I don’t call myself a successful entrepreneur, as success has no limits. It is a journey and I am travelling through this,” she added.
Currently "Color Craze" has two outlets in the capital, one is at Mirpur DOHS and the other at Banani. The Facebook page, along with the two outlets, receives 150-170 orders from customers daily. There are 27 employees in two outlets, including the moderator of the Facebook page and handloom worker in "Color Craze".
"Color Craze" mainly sells handloom women's garments, including three pieces, sarees, blouses, cushions and other seasonal dresses.
Currently, there are 22 million Facebook users in Dhaka city, and more than 3,00,000 F-commerce pages in the country. Now, a customer easily completes his/her daily shopping by just clicking "add to cart and order" through any F-commerce sites.
Wasia Rahman Towa, an advocate of the High Court, expressed her pleasure after buying some items by placing order in online. As Dhaka is a city of massive traffic jams, customers always try to avoid the hassles of traffic.
Tasmeem Lucky, a university student, bought a half silk saree from "Color Craze". She said: “Because of a busy schedule and hassles of traffic in Dhaka city, I couldn’t go out for shopping. So, I opted to buy online.”
Customers think this type of shopping has its own charm. Finding a good deal while sitting in the comfort of your home is no less good than striking a bargain at a physical store.
Challenges and way forward
The F-commerce in Bangladesh is emerging rapidly. But still there are some challenges. The biggest challenge in the F-commerce sector is to earn the trust of customers. A lot of risk is involved in ordering a product just by looking at the picture and making the payment.
The sector suffers from lack of logistics and a sound transportation system that restrict F-commerce trading from expanding. The delivery service outside Dhaka is poor and mostly depends on local courier services.
However, there is no surveillance on the F-commerce sites and no legal structure. This makes the sector unorganised and defamation is a big issue.
In Bangladesh F-commerce is increasing very rapidly, yet customers are suspicious about the quality because of some cases of fraud.
Successful entrepreneurs, like Shorna and Hafsa, advise newcomers to work with sincerity, honesty and build trust of customers. They say these are very important to become a successful F-commerce entrepreneur and to face the existing challenges.
They suggest that newcomers should start their F-commerce with domestic products. Although working with domestic products is more challenging, this is more satisfactory. Newcomers should maintain the quality strictly and do everything to gain the trust of customers. The key to new entrepreneurship is running the business with confidence and integrity.
Low capital requirement
F-commerce businesses require lower capital to start than traditional business ventures. Conducting business online saves the cost of storing inventory, employing sales staff, renting out a place, utilities etc. An online business can suffice with a laptop, an internet connection and a smartphone.
Author: SADDAM HOSSAIN, Dhaka