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'At least two years’ funding is necessary'

  • Published at 06:21 am November 22nd, 2016
'At least two years’ funding is necessary'
The e-commerce site Bagdoom started its journey from 2011. After 5 years, it has now positioned itself as one of the popular e-commerce platforms in Bangladesh. CEO of Bagdoom Syeda Kamrun Ahmed started her company along with two e-commerce experts, Imran Khan, chief strategy officer of Snapchat, and Shameem Ahsan, chairman of BASIS Presidents’ Forum. In a recent interview with SD Asia, she talked about the recent condition of Bangladesh’s e-commerce, the challenges she faced and the prospects of e-commerce in the country. The early days of Bagdoom 222In 2011 Bagdoom started its journey with the name ekhoni.com. According to Kamrun, it wasn’t an easy start - “In 2011 most people in Bangladesh didn’t have a clue about how the business in the e-commerce sector would work. It was quite challenging for us to make them realise how easy their shopping would be with the help of e-commerce.” The growing interest in e-commerce in China, Malaysia, Indonesia and India, especially in urban areas where people frequently use e-commerce sites for shopping, struck a chord with Kamrun and the co-founders of Bagdoom. Especially considering the traffic in Dhaka city, they agreed that e-commerce would revolutionise the business sector. From that idea, they thought of bringing all kinds of shopping products on to one platform. Kamrun added that she also thought about the working women of Bangladesh - besides making shopping easier for working people, it also saves a lot of time through home delivery services. From these inspirations, they started their e-commerce business Bagdoom, and the founding members worked out the business plan with a skilled developers’ team from BUET and an experienced digital marketing team. Although Bagadoom started small, they now have a team of about 60 people. Breaking into the sector – a challenging experience In 2011, online payment gateways became a reality in Bangladesh, allowing Bagdoom to officially begin its journey in June 2011. According to Kamrun, Bagdoom struggled to reach customers initially, so they targeted working people from the cities and university students, and designed their marketing campaign accordingly. To reach out to young people, Bagdoom visited different universities and reached out to primary customers through their personal networks. But now, over half of the customers of Bagdoom are from outside Dhaka, Kamrun informed us. Deliveries outside Dhaka are done using various courier and delivery services, and Kamrun hinted that there are greater plans for the delivery service. “Bangladesh does not yet have ‘pick- up points’ like most developed countries. As a result, customers do not have the opportunity to check their products before buying, but Bagdoom has plans to rectify this and hopefully introduce pick-up points.” Kamrun added that in the beginning, it was quite difficult to sell products to customers and gain their trust, but now the situation has eased and people are buying online products. She believes they were able to gain customer trust through high-quality products and customer care, and stressed how important it is for any e-commerce business to provide quality product and gain customers' faith at the onset. She also said there is no alternative to timely delivery, but all of this requires a high budget and funding. Finally, she suggested that understanding the target group and using digital marketing, especially on social media, is crucial for e-commerce businesses as well, adding that new entrepreneurs need to be updated on new technologies in the sector. “It isn’t possible to take a business forward just by one website or Facebook page. It would be wise to conduct the business by capitalising on big plans and funding.” Bagdoom wants to keep growing When asked what makes Bagdoom unique, Kamrun replied, “We prioritise branding. Our branding made Bagdoom exclusive and different from the other e-commerce platforms.” Marketing is also a top priority for Bagdoom, especially their social marketing campaign - “If a campaign doesn’t work as expected, we try to compensate the loss by a new plan.” Last year, the rebranding of Bagdoom from Akhoni is only one of the many initiatives taken by its team to attract trendy and energetic youth to their platform. Kamrun added that utilising the marketing budget very effectively is also a top priority for Bagdoom. Bagdoom is also trying to update and smarten its website - Kamrun mentioned it will, therefore, be able to identify products that the customer searched for in the past and is willing to buy from the web browser history. Customers will also be able to find their products much faster this way. Bagdoom wants to keep growing along with the whole e-commerce ecosystem of Bangladesh, and plans to work with those who supply products to other e-commerce organisations and those working with smaller e-commerce institutions. In such scenarios, Bagdoom will provide easy loans along with technical help and other added benefits. According to Kamrun, she firmly believes that e-commerce will contribute to the GDP of Bangladesh in the near future. When asked for any pearls of wisdom for new e-commerce entrepreneurs and organisations, Kamrun gives more importance to funding above all else. “At least two years’ funding is necessary before starting an e-commerce business, because it takes almost two years to develop the business properly. A lot of risks is attached and thus planning is needed in order to advance in this line of work.” Success comes slow and steady and after facing many challenges, and only if one dedicates a considerable amount of time to it, added Kamrun. That is why she thinks an entrepreneur needs to evaluate his/her own suitability before pursuing this path. Two to three years of prior experience in other organisations is an added bonus. This helps in business planning, networking and team work. She also encouraged young entrepreneurs to apply for accelerator programmes. Finally, Kamrun places great emphasis on networking for startups. Especially in e-commerce, networking is crucial since product collection, sales, distribution, funding and administration networking is a must. Printed under special arrangement with SDAsia
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