A pandemic boost for women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh’s e-commerce

  • Faysal Atik, Staff Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2021-02-20 03:02:36 BdST

Many of them lost income to the coronavirus pandemic, and then they took to Facebook, not to protest, but to sell products of their own or as businesses – this is how tens of thousands of women helped Bangladesh’s e-commerce sector thrive during the crisis.

Some of them have gathered at a two-day fair organised by the Women and e-Commerce Forum or WE the Purbachol Club premises in Dhaka from Friday.

Nasima Akter Nisha, founding president of WE, shared the stories of their success.

Launched in 2017 with the purpose of establishing an extensive network of female entrepreneurs in Bangladesh, WE now has allowed male entrepreneurs to join the forum.

Besides educating and nurturing female entrepreneurs on branding or expansion of business, the forum works as a connector between the businesses and customers.

Recalling how the women turned around amid the pandemic, Nisha said the number of the forum’s members jumped to 300,000 in June last year from 30,000 four months ago. 

As many as 350 female members have reached the milestone of Tk 100,000 sale and more than 10 of them sold goods worth Tk 1 million, according to Nisha. “We’ve begun exporting our products as well,” she said.

Sultana Parveen from Sylhet started her e-commerce business in March last year when the pandemic forced the government to impose a lockdown.

At the fair, WE Colour Fest, she spoke about how she launched the business with the idea of marketing Sylhet’s cane products.

“I got the first order from Chakoria in Cox’s Bazar for a cradle and a rocking chair after posting the photos of the products with description. I’ve sold products worth around Tk 2.1 million until this month,” she said.

Her business also helped some people who craft cane products in Sylhet. “I ordered products and showed them my designs. And then some of them returned to their old profession,” she said.

The products sold by women entrepreneurs range from boutiques to pickles, from snacks to stools, handicraft to fish.

Out of the 100 stalls at the fair, 40 are of exportable goods. A customer from Kuwait has joined the fair after seeing the products online.

At the inauguration of the fair, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen praised WE for empowering women.

State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak said the entrepreneurs are doing more than expected by using the digital technologies. He noted that Bangladesh’s e-commerce sector grew by 300 percent during the pandemic after 25 percent growth in the past 12 years.

Vikram Doraiswami, the Indian high commissioner in Dhaka, said Bangladesh and India can work together on women empowerment.