Connecting e-Commerce Stakeholders

The role of online business in Bangladesh and beyond
The role of online business in Bangladesh and beyond

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) organized a workshop on the state of e-commerce in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Supported by the Regional Office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), the workshop aimed at bringing together the most important stakeholders of online business in Bangladesh and discuss the prospects of regional, cross border cooperation. This is the third in a series of country workshops that eventually will cover the entire SAARC region. The previous activities took place in in India and Nepal setting the groundwork for the formulation of a comprehensive policy framework to promote e-commerce in the region.

Over 30 representatives from the private sector, smart-ups, financial institutions, academia and industry representative bodies joined for a day of original talk and information. Leading the debate was Shafquat Haider, an old friend of the Foundation and a key player at the SAARC Chambers of Commerce and Industry (SCCI). Setting the tone, FNF Regional Director Dr. Ronald Meinardus who was joined by Project Manager Rajat Kumar emphasized the strategic relevance of the meeting: “Digital transformation is a new focal area of all our programs and connecting e-commerce entrepreneurs across South Asia’s all but open borders is an intriguing perspective”, he said. “This is a long term endeavor, and Bangladesh plays a key role in this effort”, Dr. Meinardus said. Sharmila Kanta from the CII Head Office in New Delhi introduced the project’s objectives, while Samanta Farahnaz presented initial findings of her research on the state of e-commerce in in the country. She pointed to the various challenges citing infrastructure, skill development, payment systems, cybercrime and a variety of regulatory issues and taxation.

With the floor open to inputs from the stakeholders, participants witnessed an engaging and lively interaction with perspectives. The conversations went well beyond policy and regulatory issues as speakers shared first hand experiences from the field: Some key takeaways were:

  • For the 40 million bank accounts in Bangladesh, there exist only 9.5 million debit and one million credit cards.
  • Not all banks offer online transactions on their cards.
  • Bangladesh has a young and vibrant workforce. This, however, needs proper skills development to empower them to leverage ICT’s true potential.
  • e-Ccommerce should not be looked at as a stand-alone vertical, but as a part of international trade. Enabling regional e-Commerce would have a positive impact on regional trade.