• Tuesday, Mar 28, 2023
  • Last Update : 10:24 am

Lacklustre response to online SME fair frustrates entrepreneurs

  • Published at 03:43 pm August 7th, 2021
SME weaving loom
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the revenue of SMEs has decreased by 66% and 76% of the products have remained unsold Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

The fair’s website received only 30,000 views

The online Regional SME Product Fair did not receive adequate response despite operating for almost three months, frustrating the entrepreneurs who took part in it.

Every year, the SME Foundation organizes a Regional SME Product Fair with small entrepreneurs from the divisional cities, districts, and even remote areas of the country.

However, considering the ongoing Covid-19 situation, the SME Foundation organized the regional SME product fair online this year for the first time to avoid public gatherings and to abide by health directives.

The small and medium enterprise (SME) owners had hoped to make up for the losses incurred amid the pandemic by selling products at the fair. 

But they received very poor response at the fair and sales were very low, the entrepreneurs said.  

Also Read - BSEC approves issuance of ordinary shares of 2 more SMEs

Moreover, the entrepreneurs from the remote rural areas could not take part in the fair due to a lack of proper internet access, they also said.

The fair was organized for a month from May 3, but due to lack of response, it was extended till July 31 — by about three months — but this did nothing to end the misery of the sector. 

Razbin Hafiz, a leather entrepreneur, said she had been eagerly waiting for this fair as they sell products in bulk during it. 

“Being online this year, we have been deprived of that opportunity. However, our retail sales have increased in this fair and our organization has been branded well,” she added.

She also said that the fair always presented a festive atmosphere, something that is difficult to replicate online. 

“So, maybe, people did not respond much because of that. The pandemic has also reduced the purchasing power of consumers, which may be another reason for the poor response,” she further said.

Entrepreneur Manzur Alam said he could sell agricultural products worth around Tk10,000 a day at the SME fair. 

But his total sales in the online fair have yet to touch Tk10,000 even in three months. 

Mostafizur Rahman, another leather goods entrepreneur, said that he had been waiting the entire year for the fair as that is when he can sell products worth around Tk4-6 lakh. 

“From this hope and to recover the losses incurred during the pandemic, I participated in this year's online SME fair but I could not raise even Tk50,000 from sales,” he added.

According to the SME Foundation, 328 entrepreneurs from 38 districts across the country participated in the fair this year, selling 936 products including jute, leather, light engineering, and agricultural items. 

The website of the fair only received 30,000 views, according to SME Foundation. 

Also Read - SMEs hopeful about bouncing back with help of stimulus loans

The SME Foundation has not published any data about the financial transactions made in the fair this year, although they record publish such transactions whenever they organize any fairs. For example, the National SME Products Fair 2020 sold goods worth Tk4.95 crore and got orders worth Tk6.38 crore.

Mafizur Rahman, managing director of the SME Foundation, said that the website itself was not designed to record financial transactions. 

“We just wanted to create a connection between the entrepreneurs and the customers. The entrepreneurs themselves recorded the financial transactions and the foundation had no involvement with this. 

“Moreover, the foundation's mandate does not include trade,” Rahman added.

He said that many entrepreneurs have no experience selling products online, so they faced some problems.

However, some entrepreneurs said that the online fair was not successful due to lack of necessary publicity and no experience or adequate research in organizing an online fair.

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