Thursday, January 3, 2019

How to do business online - Dhaka Tribune

Local e-commerce solutions for online business startups

There is no doubt that Bangladesh is growing economically, and the e-commerce sector’s growth in the country is a fairly strong indicator, with almost half of the population surfing the web for information, entertainment, communication, and commercial transactions. 

Many of these online sites are no longer foreign, but locally created and owned, serving the country’s users with many products and services through companies such as Pathao, Bagdoom, Pickaboo, and more. Hence, there is certainly a growing demand for such local online services which creates opportunities for almost anyone to become an online business entrepreneur.

To help the online business entrepreneurs with developing their business ideas into reality, there are a number of solution providers in the country, and there is hope that some of the main initial difficulties could be addressed. 

The initial difficulty to overcome is to project the business idea in an organized and feasible way, and determining the type of platform required to sell the products or services. There are two pathways for the online business entrepreneur to determine and choose the right platform -- either through a self-hosted solution or a hosted solution. 

When the online business is setting up the e-commerce platform with hardware and software on its own, then this type of online business would be called a self-hosted setup. On the other hand, when the e-commerce platform set up is through renting the hardware and software from another provider, it would be called a hosted setup. As the service is reliant on internet connected hardware and software scattered in different physical locations, it is also termed as cloud computing.

Hosted or cloud service based e-commerce solution is perfect for small businesses that don’t have much technological or financial assets to begin the business, because the service can be attained by just paying a monthly or yearly subscription, which can be cancelled at any time. Through these means, the online business entrepreneur has little or no set-up costs, and hardly any maintenance worries. 

On the other hand, if the online business entrepreneur chooses the self-hosted option, they have to think about the set-up, maintenance, security costs, and operational management, but are better for companies that have the resources to manage their own servers, and who require a very strict privacy policy like government institutions. When comparing the disadvantages, the online business entrepreneur cannot easily change or add some of the features in a hosted solution whereas self-hosted solutions allow such changes easily. 

Currently, when searching e-commerce solutions online, we see about 80-90% results show self-hosted solutions, while the remaining 10-20% are hosted solutions offering free trials for limited time or features. 

In the country, there are a number of local e-commerce solutions that provide self-hosted solutions such as Zaman IT, Soft-bd.com, Techno-bd.com, and NanoITWorld.com. Though there are a significant number of hosted solutions around the world, we find only a few locally hosted e-commerce solutions amongst which Storrea and Shopup stand out.

Storrea, a hosted e-commerce platform, established itself in 2016 and within three years has grown with more than 100 customers. By providing 21 days free trial and lucrative suitable themes, they provide convenient hosted e-commerce solutions. On Storrea, new online business startups don’t need to focus on the website themes, development, payment gateway integration, or other features, saving a significant amount of money annually.

Shopup has a similar e-commerce platform, mainly focusing on the local entrepreneurs who have Facebook business pages, from which they can integrate into the Shopup platform to avail a complete e-commerce solution. From 2016, Shopup has connected several thousands of Facebook businesses on their platform with services of online store, Facebook boost, app and delivery ie, collecting and delivering the seller’s products. Shopup also facilitates loans, helping those who are going through investment problems to start or scale up their businesses. 

The country’s unemployed youth, or senior citizens who are struggling to find a job, or aren’t earning enough to support their family, could grab any of these two opportunities as the e-commerce sector keeps growing, with increasing demands for online products and services.  

Kamal Hossain is a faculty of e-commerce at Brac University. Noor E Jaannat and Samin Yasar are students of BBA at Brac University.



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