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Evaly rose to a dizzying height. Now its colossal debt takes down owners

  • Faysal Atik, Staff Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2021-09-18 01:05:42 BdST

Mistakes in almost every step, management full of irregularities, sheer nepotism and madness to capture the market even at the cost of reputation to many of the customers led to the fall of Mohammad Rassel, the managing director of Evaly.

Launched with a paid-up capital of only Tk 100,000 three years ago, Evaly has sunken in the debt of Tk 5.43 billion until July as Rassel employed his “incompetent” relatives, mostly by marriage with Shamima Nasrin, other workers of the company say.

The Rapid Action Battalion arrested Rassel and Shamima, also the chairman of the company, on Thursday in connection with a lawsuit filed by a customer alleging fraud.

Arif Baker, the accuser, filed the case claiming that he saw Evaly’s advertising and made orders worth Tk 310,000 from the site. The orders have yet to be fulfilled, long after they were made.

Baker contacted the Evaly offices and its CEO over the purchases and he responded with death threats, “frightening” the man, according to the police, who have been granted three days to quiz the couple in custody. 

After interrogating them, the RAB on Friday said he was planning to file for bankruptcy if the company failed to clear its financial obligations amid allegations of embezzlement.

The RAB arrested Evaly Managing Director Mohammad Rassel and his wife Shamima Nasrin, who is also chairman of the company, in a raid on their house on Thursday. 

The RAB arrested Evaly Managing Director Mohammad Rassel and his wife Shamima Nasrin, who is also chairman of the company, in a raid on their house on Thursday. 

Rassel was also seeking to enhance Evaly's 'brand value' by building a large customer base with an eye on selling the business, with all its liabilities, to a foreign company, the RAB said.

Some customers, however, believe the arrest of Rassel and Shamima has doomed their chance for a refund, or delivery of the products after those were stuck for months. They have demonstrated demanding Rassel’s release so that he can refund or deliver.

Evaly became popular among a section of customers with lucrative offers on home appliances, TV, refrigerators, air-conditioners, washing machines, motorcycles and other products. 

Many of them took up to 50 percent discounts as an opportunity to do business by reselling the products. They invested in reselling products purchased from Evaly by borrowing hundreds of thousands of takas or selling land and golden ornaments.

Now the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection is handling thousands of complaints about Evaly’s failure to deliver products or refund the customers months after taking advance payments for delivery within 45 days. Evaly also owes many suppliers billions of takas for not paying them after taking their products.  

Rassel offered huge discounts to lure customers and make them familiar with e-commerce. He sought six months to straighten things up with the profit from new orders.

His attitude, however, enraged some as he rode luxury cars and spent millions on advertisement in the name of branding when many employees were forced to leave. 

Bangladesh’s e-commerce boomed during the pandemic lockdowns. The government also encouraged people to buy things online and stay at home.

The Evaly saga led to the unveiling of suspected fraud schemes by at least 10 other online marketplaces. The owners of Eorange are behind bars in a case of embezzlement.

FAMILY BUSINESS

After passing HSC from Dhaka Residential Model College, Rassel graduated from Jahangirnagar University’s statistics department. Shamima was a student of the same department. 

An Evaly official, who has been with the company since the beginning, said on condition of anonymity that it was launched with a paid-up capital of Tk 100,000 in early 2018. By the end of the year, the firm re-launched with vigour by appointing new workers. It had nearly 2,000 officials in July this year.    

Evaly launched aggressive campaigns, but it did not have the funds to make them a success. It missed the deadlines for deliveries and dragged on.

Evaly launched aggressive campaigns, but it did not have the funds to make them a success. It missed the deadlines for deliveries and dragged on.

Although Rassel appeared online to communicate with the customers all the time, Evaly employees said Shamima, a native of Bikrampur, her relatives and friends had the control.

LINK TO ARIF R HOSSAIN

Arif R Hossain, a social media influencer, joined Evaly in early 2021 to promote "sustainable branding".

Evaly brought former celebrity couple Tahsan Rahman Khan and Rafiath Rashid Mithila to an event and appointed actress Shabnam Faria as the head of public relations on Arif’s advice.

Evaly spent more than Tk 5 million on the Tahsan-Mithila event, according to its accountants. Tahsan was paid Tk 2.5 million, they said. Tahsan and Mithila could not be reached for comment.

Shabnam joined Evaly in June for a monthly pay of Tk 300,000, although most of her payments were due. She declined to comment publicly on the issue.

Arif said he left Evaly recently after joining the company as the head of branding and marketing to get it out of the crisis. Rassel is a friend of Arif’s younger brother.

Some Evaly officials said Arif joined the firm in exchange for its shares, and he is still trying to pull the sunken company up.

Evaly launched aggressive campaigns, but it did not have the funds to make them a success. It missed the deadlines for deliveries and dragged on.

Evaly launched aggressive campaigns, but it did not have the funds to make them a success. It missed the deadlines for deliveries and dragged on.

AGGRESSIVE MARKETING

Rassel, called the ‘Bezos of Bangla’ by his fans, spoke about his "grand plans" on Facebook live.

He started his career as a banker in 2011 and completed MBA from Dhaka University’s Institute of Business Administration while working at Dhaka Bank.

In 2016, he successfully launched a business by importing baby diapers from China. He said the diaper business led him to choose e-commerce and cut the prices by reducing middlemen through e-commerce.

He also spoke about his dream of establishing Evaly as a company like global e-commerce giants Amazon or Alibaba.

Rassel became the subject of discussions in the sector with giant Evaly billboards on highways in 2018. In the first year, Evaly surprised the customers with an offer of 16GB pen drives at Tk 10 only. The company sold 10,000 storage drives during the offer.

After passing the first year well with the surprise offers, Evaly began to sink due to mismanagement in 2019 as pressure for delivery mounted with numerous orders.

Without addressing the delivery issue, Rassel launched an aggressive marketing campaign, under which Tk 300,000 motorcycles were offered at Tk 150,000 only.

It took orders and advance payments without a break by promising delivery within 46 days. Fridge, air-conditioners and other products were added to the campaign later.       

But Evaly did not have the funds to make the campaign a success. It missed the deadlines for deliveries and dragged on.   

“Instead, the company spent billions of takas of the customers on marketing, business expansion, office rent. Rassel bought a car at millions of takas. He built a large warehouse on a 153-acre land at his ancestral home in Savar’s Boliarpur,” said an Evaly official.