Online onion sale kicks off in Bangladesh amid much fanfare

  • Faysal Atik, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-09-21 22:17:10 BdST

The government's initiative to sell onions online through e-commerce companies has been met with great enthusiasm from customers on the first day, according to sellers.

The sale started on a pilot basis on Monday but the online shops reportedly ran out of stock in most areas within a few minutes of the kitchen staple hitting the virtual shelves.

Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi virtually inaugurated the programme on Sunday as part of the efforts to cool down spiralling prices of the commodity in the country driven by a ban on onion exports by India.

In the first phase of the programme, e-commerce platforms Chaldal, Shwapno, Sindabad, Sabji Bazar and Ja-Chai are selling the onions supplied by the Trading Corporation Bangladesh or TCB. The scheme will gradually be expanded to 30 e-commerce websites, according to the authorities.

However, only Shwapno and Chaldal.com were able to start selling onions on the first day, having worked out the logistics of delivering the product to various households. The two companies sold out their respective allotments of onions by the afternoon, their representatives told bdnews24.com.

The other designated sites will also start selling onions this week.

Asked about the outcome of the first day, a customer care official of Chaldal.com said that after the sale started at noon, the onions were sold out in Fakirbari, Gabtali, Hazaribagh, Jatrabari, Kalyanpur, Mirpur, Rajarbagh, Rampura, Tejgaon and Uttara areas before the evening. But some of their outlets in places like Badda, Uttarkhan and Banani still had the commodity in stock.

Shwapno's allotment of onions had dried up by the afternoon, according to the company's website. However, the authorities of the chain supershop could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, Sindabad, Sabji Bazar and Ja-Chai.com said they were inundated with phone calls from eager customers even though they could not start selling onions on launch day.

Hossain Ahmad, a prospective customer from Dhaka, said he placed an order for onions on Sabji Bazar's website but did not get any word on the delivery date or time. "I had been scouring the websites of the sellers since the morning but only managed to find the TCB's onions on Sabji Bazar. They received my order but didn't tell me when they'd deliver the onions."

Many customers have also complained about not finding the onions on the websites of the designated companies.

When contacted, Abdul Aziz, the founder of e-commerce website Ja-Chai, told bdnews24.com: "We have made an application to sell onions in line with the commerce ministry's guidelines but it is still being processed. The guidelines stipulate that the logos of e-Cab, TCB and relevant e-commerce sites should be placed on the packaging of the product. We'll need a couple of days to comply with that."

“The process of purchasing the products from the TCB is almost complete. But since onions are a perishable product, we haven't yet brought them to our warehouse. We will receive the onions once all the preparations are completed. That may take a day or two."

Another employee of the company said that many people have been calling its customer care since Sunday to find out about the onion sale.

"We told them it would take us a couple of days to start selling the product."

According to officials of the e-commerce websites, each retailer will receive 1,500 kg of onion from the TCB every three days.

Under the online scheme, a customer can buy up to 3 kg of onions for Tk 36 per kg from the dealers, with a maximum delivery charge of Tk 30.

"We have finished the formalities. We'll be able to deliver the onions to customers from Tuesday. The onion category will be displayed on our website on that day," Zeeshan Kingshuk Huq, CEO of Sindabad.com, told bdnews24.com.

“The work has progressed quite quickly. The discussions started on Saturday night and that is also when the guidelines were prepared. The commerce minister launched the programme on Sunday. We only had one day in between as we'll launch the sale tomorrow."

Meanwhile, Sabji Bazar said it could take them at least another day or two to complete the preparations for selling the onions. As such, they are currently receiving orders online with a 48-hour waiting time.

The prices of the root vegetable have skyrocketed once again after India announced a ban on onion exports earlier this month.