Who knew the year 2020 would be a year of such changes? We are now living in an unprecedented world. As the coronavirus is spreading and the lockdown is extending, we are seeing its impact on society, economy and business.
During this global pandemic, the e-commerce sector has been experiencing unanticipated changes in demand, growth and revenue patterns. Most of these patterns, unfortunately, are towards a negative downturn.
Longer delivery time, stock-out due to interrupted supply chain and customer dissatisfaction has made entrepreneurs very worried. According to a delivery man, lockdowns in most areas and nonstop interrogation from law enforcement agencies, despite having an ID card, has made completing his deliveries an everyday challenge.
In order to maintain social distance, physical stores are closed. E-commerce sites are the only option for customers for their necessary shopping - including groceries, medicines, hygiene & personal care products etc.
However, entrepreneurs retailing non-essential or luxury items are agitated that any kind of layoff in the economy will bring a downward demand pattern.
Shajgoj Limited, an e-commerce site serving the beauty and personal care market has done a fantastic job by diversifying their products, focusing on hygiene and medical supplies. This sort of smart decision-making can give a lifeline to this sector, even when the country is expected to have a decrease in GDP.
However, e-commerce sites with physical stores still have to endure some loss.
On the other hand, industry insiders tout e-commerce as an emerging sector. In this consumer-driven world, some clicks on the gadget on top of a customer's palm gets them their desired essential products.
Entrepreneurs can take this situation positively. This is the time they can make consumers habituated to online shopping by gaining their trust, maintaining good quality, and allowing customers to realize their advantages, while retaining the old ones.
While smooth logistical support must be also ensured, customers will also have to understand the situation and have patience with the slight delays in delivery.
Employers are already very rigid about the safety of employees; proper PPE is being provided to the employees, especially to the delivery men who are physically travelling to the affected areas. Entrepreneurs are maintaining proper sanitization of the product till it reaches to the consumers.
From onboarding a product till sending it to the customer, hygiene is being maintained in every step. Digital transactions are always being encouraged to avoid any physical interaction.
Even though the country made a late debut in this sector, the industry has come a long way. The country is now home to almost 2000 e-commerce sites and more than 50,000 social media-based outlets, leading to delivery of 30,000 products per day.
Since this sector is still in the growth stage, it does not have the ability yet to endure this sudden shock. This sector consists of young professionals and entrepreneurs who came to the business with their final savings and many have even taken loans.
Many of these businesses were about to reach their breakeven point, meaning no retained earnings or reserve is there. In light of the situation, government support is something that everyone is looking forward to.
The government must come forward for this promising sector; with interest-free loans, special incentives, exemption from surcharge on existing loans, postponement of loan installment, for better cash flow and working capital.
The sector is playing a vital role in employing a massive population; the government must also ensure free movement and insurance for the employees working for this sector. Even though they are not frontline fighters, they still are warriors, fighting this battle; providing a steady supply of essentials to every household, along with contributing to the economy.
This sector is serving in three levels; B2B, B2C & C2C. It is expected to be the next key driver for economic development.
According to findings of E-CAB, in 2017, this sector grew by about 325% compared to the previous year, from TK4 billion to 17 billion. The market value is expected to escalate to TK 70 billion by the year 2021.
Thus, this sector should be kept in this track because it can become a lifeline to the falling economy. This sector must prosper as the linchpin of the fourth Industrial Revolution.
Nonetheless, being a part of the e-commerce sector at this moment is like being on a roller-coaster ride, where forecasting anything or even trying to anticipate anything feels like a gamble.
Understanding, accepting and acting according to the new consumer buying patterns would be the best choice. Hoping coordination and support from relevant stakeholders will bring a ray of hope for this sector in the long run.