Selina Akter Khanam, a government primary school teacher, made garlic pickle in 2019 and posted it on her Facebook page "Shily Super Shop". She received orders within eight days. It was the beginning.
At present, her online business combines a variety of products, such as homemade pickles, spices, herbal and aloe vera oil, aloe vera soap, nakshi kantha, rice, pulse powder, and haleem spices.
In addition to her teaching, the woman entrepreneur earns Tk20,000-25,000 per month from her business online. Her business has been made easier by Easy Shopping Ctg, a Facebook-based group.
When a member posts a picture of his or her products on this group, other members purchase the products by contacting the number given in the post. This F-commerce group has become a medium for selling products of about 15,000 entrepreneurs like Selina Akter. Of the entrepreneurs, 80% are women.
The large F-Commerce group of Chattogram has 1.38 lakh members. They are entrepreneurs as well as buyers themselves.
These entrepreneurs are selling their homemade food, oil, ghee, spices, cakes, bakery products, fish, meat, vegetables and other daily necessities. From consumer goods to clothing, jewellery, cosmetics, delivery, logistics and footwear, all kinds of luxury products are sold through this group.
Although the group was opened in June 2017, its activities started in full swing in March 2020. Since the coronavirus outbreak, this F-commerce group has provided additional income opportunities to many entrepreneurs. Not only that, many people who lost their jobs in the pandemic have found a way to survive by starting an online business through this group.
Md Rakib Uddin, an admin and chief executive officer (CEO) of Easy shopping CTG, says that by using the platform, entrepreneurs get an opportunity to promote their products for free.
"Every week workshops are held on the sales process in online F-commerce business. Using Google Meet, entrepreneurs are given ideas on various topics to facilitate business," he said.
The CEO said meet-ups, online fairs, and offline fairs are organised to promote the products of the entrepreneurs.
"We have so far organised four online fairs, four offline fairs and seven meet-ups. These have a role to play in creating new buyers as well as showcasing products," he added.
Rakib Uddin said that Easy shopping is also working to create links between entrepreneurs and banks to increase the scope of their business by taking loans.
"We are also working to provide guidelines to new entrepreneurs. In the future, we have plans to set up an e-commerce site and an offline super shop," he added.
Humaira Islam, another admin of Easy shopping, said every day one entrepreneur or another is given the opportunity to promote his or her products through Facebook Live from the group.
"Each month awards are given in categories of a top content writer, best seller and top all-rounder. In order to make the entrepreneurs of the group proficient in online business, Chattogram city has been divided into four zones - North, South, East and West. Each zone has a team leader who organises workshops with various entrepreneurs," she added.
According to the organisers, the group includes products as well as service providers. It has turned into a reliable platform for receiving all kinds of services, such as courier, parcels and driving.
Apart from entrepreneurs, buyers also post on the group mentioning their needs. Entrepreneurs, having products as per demand of buyers, respond to a post. In this way, a bridge between buyers and sellers has been created around Easy Shopping, they added.
"I started an online clothing business five years ago. But since joining Easy Group in 2019, the scope of my business has continued to grow. New buyers are created," said Popy Mirza, owner of Blooming Fashion.
"At present, products worth more than Tk1 lakh are being sold every month through this group. The monthly income is Tk20,000-30,000. This group has given women the opportunity to earn extra income by sitting at home," she added.
Saiful Islam, director of a car driving school, said, "For a year and a half, I have been posting about the activities of my organisation on Easy Shopping Group every day. I got most of the learners through this group. Easy Shopping is playing a big role in promoting and expanding the business."
Nasrin Sarwar Shathi, a moderator of Easy Group, said three admins, three moderators, two coordinators and eight zone leaders run the activities of the group.
A post is published in the group when it contains a headline, product name, product analysis, five pictures and a cell code. After purchasing a product, the buyer posts a review which contributes to the creation of new buyers, she added.