E-commerce shows ray of hope for SMEs

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Worried over livelihood for her family after losing job amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Tahmina Chowdhury, a middle-aged lady, had a sigh of relief because of the e-commerce platform ‘Anondomela’ which helped her become an entrepreneur.

Anondomela, an online marketplace of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for entrepreneurs, has created linkages between entrepreneurs and marketplace that helps the country’s small entrepreneurs being self-reliant by offering fair prices and various selling options.

“I worked as a merchandiser. After the outbreak of Covid-19, I lost my job. But I have good knowledge in dress and saree, especially in Jamdani saree designing. Due to financial crisis, I was not able to start the business properly,” said Tahmina, owner of the Pindhon.

In her horrific situation, online platform ‘Anondomela’ became a ray of hope in Tahmina’s life. Through the platform, Tahmina is now running her business across the country and bearing all expenses of her father-in-law, mother-in-law and sister-in-law and her two sons.

“My husband is working at a buying house company. But his income is not very well. We have no children. But we have to bear the expenses of my husband’s parents and his widow sister’s family,” said Tahmina, a dweller of Norda area.

Now, Tahmina is running her business from home with reputation. During the Covid-19 pandemic, her monthly income was Taka 12,000 to 15,000. Now, the income has increased to Taka 15,000 to 20,000.

Two girls are working with her and she is getting the jamdani sarees and dresses made by six weavers.

Tahmina informed that she took part at the Dhaka International Trade Fair (DITF)-2022 through the Anondomela platform.

She said easy access to information and communication technology (ICT) immensely helped people across the country in overcoming the hardships rendered by Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to implementation of ‘Digital Bangladesh’ by the present government.

UNDP has launched Anondomela (www.anondomela.shop) as a free-of-cost alternative marketplace. Entrepreneurs are hosting their products on the site, which allows buyers from the comfort of their homes to order products directly from the SMEs.

Talking to BSS, Additional Secretary of the Commerce Ministry and Head of the E-Commerce Cell AHM Shafiquzzaman said during the miserable days of lockdown and virus panic, normal life and even emergency services were hampered in almost everywhere in the world and Bangladesh was not an exception.

But, the people here enjoyed the blessing of ICT to make life easier, he added.

He said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s flagship digital Bangladesh campaign opened the door of opportunity in front of the rural women entrepreneurs as now they can sell their products in fair price easily without exposing to the virus by staying at home.

He said the government is working to run e-commerce sector in a more disciplined way shrugging off recent anomalies by some companies.

“The e-commerce sector gained a fast expansion in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic period beyond our expectations. We are working to operate the sector in a more disciplined way,” he added.

He said the government is providing training to the entrepreneurs, specially the women entrepreneurs to run their business through e-commerce platform smoothly.

He informed that UNDP, through its Anondomela and SWAPNO projects, is providing capacity building training.

UNDP Bangladesh National Consultant (Anondomela Initiative) Sarah Jita said the Covid-19 pandemic has affected all spheres of life and business but one of the hardest hits is the already vulnerable SME sector due to dependence on a short cash cycle, supply chain disruption, and loss of sales.

For this, she said, UNDP had launched Anondomela, an online business platform in April 2020, for responding to the COVID-19 crises. During the lockdown period, Anondomela provided the opportunity to many entrepreneurs to continue their business activities and survive, she added.

She said the online platform also tried to improve capacity of the members through different trainings.

Targeting different festivals like the Pahela Baishakh, Eids, Puja, Christmas etc. she mentioned that Anondomela strategized expediting sale of their products.

She said though the platform includes both male and female entrepreneurs, a significant number of women entrepreneurs (around 80 percent) are doing their online business through this platform.