Razib Ahmed Choudhury, a stamp-collector based in Noakhali, recently posted in Recycle Bin – a Facebook group that buys and sells second-hand products – he wants to sell more than 2,000 postage-stamps that he collected over the years.
"They were my precious. I had them for years. Then life became tough. I had no time to take care of them. At one stage, I lost my unconditional love for them. I gave one book of stamps to my niece. After a couple of months, I found that she had forgotten about the stamps and lost the book. So, I decided to give my stamps to someone who would love them and value them as I did. When I joined Recycle Bin, it gave me an idea to sell them at a low price so that a real collector could have them and cherish them. I could have just donated them, but I chose to sell because when you pay for something, you value it," Choudhury told The Business Standard.
He couldn't sell the stamps after his first post on Recycle Bin, but he received an overwhelming response and sold his stamps the second time he posted.
Tasnim Shifa (not her real name), a housewife, recently moved into a new flat with her husband. Spending plenty of her savings in purchasing furniture and electronics, she needed a source to buy some inexpensive items for her kitchen.
She posted in Recycle Bin asking if someone wanted to sell second-hand home appliances.
"Soon, I received a few offers. Interestingly the items they offered were in good shape and at the same time price was reasonable," Shifa told TBS.
Choudhury and Shifa are part of the million-member Recycle Bin family benefiting from this Facebook-based customer to customer (C2C) group.
Recycle Bin is now the biggest f-commerce flea market (C2C) in the digital sphere with hundreds of posts looking to sell and buy used products every day.
Emerging like the Flash
"I saw someone wearing an expensive saree worth around Tk50,000 at a wedding. From experience, I know that many of these sarees will be left in almirahs because the owner had already uploaded photos on Facebook wearing these sarees. At the same time, another group of people would love to have them if offered at a lower price. So, I was wondering if I could create a platform where people could buy and sell second-hand items at a lower price," said Florida Sharmin Shetu, a housewife and the founder of the Recycle Bin group.
The Recycle Bin group was thus created – unlike conventional businesses and startups – without much of a plan. But the way people embraced this platform came as a surprise to the founders.
"I created this group in October last year. I shared the idea only with an existing group that I admin, and pretty soon, we began to receive an unbelievable response," said Florida.
Within a week, more than 10,000 people began flocking in every day to join the group.
In just three months since the group was created, around nine lakh people joined the group –three lakh people a month. As of February 12, the group had about a million members.
"As we verify that the accounts joining are not fake, soon it became tough for me to look after the group alone. I added my husband and around 20 more people into the admin and moderator panels to manage the group," Florida added.
Florida's husband Masum Abdullah, another admin and co-founder of Recycle Bin, shared a statistic with TBS that shows that in between January 21 to 27, the group received 24,812 posts – more than 3500 posts per day.
All these posts were either seeking to sell or buy something second-hand.
"We never imagined that people have so many things to sell, and so many standard items could people buy at a reasonable price. It was a surprise," said Rana Rafiqur Rahman, another admin and a friend to Florida.
In a nutshell: How does Recycle Bin work?
Recycle Bin is a simple journey for consumers. You can buy and sell here almost anything.
Suppose you want to sell your used furniture and buy a new one. Put some good photos of your product and post them on Recycle Bin with a short description briefing the asking rate, buying price, and necessary information a buyer needs.
After a buyer confirms you, you will need to show them the product in a video call.
Now if you are a customer, paying for these items can be tricky. The group already found allegations that some customers did not receive products after paying in advance.
To save customers from deceit, "we have launched the 'Secure Pay' method for certain customers. Once customers confirm the purchase, they can send money to a designated admin number, and then we deliver money to the seller after the customer receives the product," said Abdullah.
The admins told TBS they plan to launch a delivery service to further protect the consumers' rights.
Committed to serving free
Tareq Ul Alam, a lawyer, sold three of his file cabinets in Recycle Bin this week.
He told TBS that his overall experience in Recycle Bin is "excellent".
"But I would say some fake buyers knocking and pricing my cabinets had been a bit troublesome," Alam added.
Such allegations of fake buyers and unnecessary hassles are not alien to this group.
Razib Ahmed Choudhury also mentioned that before finding his customer, he had to deal with numerous messages and calls from people who would not buy his stamps.
TBS approached the founders about such allegations. They replied that around 20 people (Recycle Bin team) are investing time in approving posts, allowing members to join the group and on the group's overall management to maintain order. And this service is entirely voluntary as of now.
But can this group survive on voluntary services? TBS asked its founder Florida.
"Continuing voluntary services with a big team is not a sustainable model. So, we have begun to endorse corporate sponsors recently," Florida replied.
From cover posts to admin attention posts, Recycle Bin is now approving sponsored posts.
"But we will keep providing the consumers with our services for free. We have no plan to charge them anything in exchange for facilitating this arrangement," Florida added.