The Rising Star of e-commerce

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Mohammad Rassel shares Evaly’s vision of providing the best service and empowering people within the national boundary by consistently exploring expansion opportunities and the advancement of digital technology
Bangladesh has been witnessing the meteoric rise of Evaly and its fast-expanding universe. Can you talk us through the inspiration that led you here?

I started my professional journey as a banker for a private bank. After a brief career of 6 years in the banking sector, I realized that it was time for me to focus on the things that inspire me. Thus I launched ‘Kidz Diaper’, a hygiene product for infants and kids, which became one of the fastest moving brands in the category. This journey made me realize the constant challenges we face doing business and, it made me look into the depth of the reasons behind those challenges.

Working closely with a lot of business entities, one of the major concerning issues I found was many businesses in our country still do not have a proper inventory management system. Without analyzing and forecasting proper data it is impossible to plan how to operate the business in the upcoming days. The obstacles did not stop there. I found many manufacturers and importers were under continuous pressure and suffering due to an unstable product distribution method. I  realized that the delivery of products nationwide is not only complex but costly.

Another issue to consider as a major setback is the distribution of products and my first plan was to look for a  process of resolve this problem; as it was not a problem of mine only but also for thousands of business owners. And to overcome this major challenge e-commerce was the only viable solution in my opinion, and that initiated the inception of Evaly.

If we take a look into our neighboring e-commerce market in India, we see that they have been on an upward trajectory at a 27% compound annual growth rate with an annual market of $30 billion in the last year. This gives us an overview of the boundless opportunities to explore in the e-commerce market.

The inception of the e-commerce scenario in Bangladesh dates back to 2006; it started rising with the continuous infrastructural development initiatives undertaken nationally by the Government and the growing number of smartphone and internet users all over the country. But till late 2018, much of the market remained untapped, mostly due to a lack of conducting the actual gap analysis in the context of local demographics.

Once we begin our journey during the early days, we knew that it will not be a walk in the park as for consumers we try to provide authentic products at the most affordable prices and to support the manufacturers and importers by creating a platform where they can sell their products, manage inventory and their cash flow; all of which requires extensive involvement, dedication, and ownership. A common belief is that convenience is what e-commerce is offering the customers, but it is not a strong enough incentive. The current growth of Evaly shows that if you could offer the right incentive, people are willing to shop online. We also sought credit lines from our suppliers, and our services are improving gradually because of this internal process that we have created. We believe to have ushered in a major change in customer behavior of using e-commerce within a very short time.

The e-commerce sector has been booming during the ongoing pandemic. With app development as a key component of Evaly, how have you managed to leverage the boom of technology to differentiate Evaly?

First of all, I would like to thank our Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Honorable Advisor to ICT Division Mr. Sajeeb Wazed for taking steps in digitalizing the nation and for taking successful initiatives in increasing the telecommunications segment progress especially through the rapid increase of smartphone users. The Government of Bangladesh has focused on embracing advanced technology and cautious development to the ICT sector aimed at establishing a resourceful and technology-dependent nation. It is a march towards building a Digital Bangladesh and we have just joined the parade. If we check the strong economies of the world, we see that their progress and growth is heavily due to the massive digitalization and e-commerce is breaking all the barriers creating more and more business opportunities for those nations.

I am always highly motivated to do something which will have a mass effect on transforming lives. In a country of 160 million people, Bangladesh touted as the ‘Next Asian Tiger’ we have extended the scope of development considering the framework of national-level development. An opportunity to serve people all over the nation with integrity and amity; and today Evaly is the name to serve people with their needs and desires and creating those opportunities for the continuous growth of the economy by facilitating local business.

Today we are the largest e-commerce platform in Bangladesh and this achievement is a reality only for the continuous hard work and effort of our talented team. Our complete system has been built from scratch by our pool of excellent home-grown IT experts who are technically sound and world-class. Undoubtedly their effort did not go in vain which makes me say that we are proudly made in Bangladesh by Bangladeshis.

As I was highly motivated to expand my business based on internet and mobile applications, I regularly checked the initiatives of our Government which was undertaken for ensuring maximum internet penetration among the mass people and that is where I gathered all the confidence to move ahead. Today we have world-famous mobile devices being manufactured locally making smartphones readily available throughout the nation bringing the internet to the hands of people. This rapid infrastructural expansion of internet connectivity and advancement in technology are the key factors behind our growth and we are confident towards expanding more in the future.

How has the business landscape of Bangladesh been affected by the growing reliance on e-commerce? What are some of the policy supports required to streamline and regulate the sector?

Today, e-commerce is ensuring the associated business partners to experience maximum fulfillment. It is allowing businesses to analyze data for procuring the exact volume of materials to manufacture products, forecasting the sales, and reducing a large number of costs in keeping a surplus inventory, which are some of the notable shifts.

Regarding policy support, we know that there were no specific laws for e-commerce. I believe the e-commerce industry has just witnessed the incubation period and still in the initial phase. Yes, separate laws and policies might be needed when it will see extreme expansion. As for ‘Guidelines’, they are always appreciated by us, the business community, and all the different steps taken by the Government are e-commerce friendly.

E-commerce is enabling businesses to manage their inventories properly. It is also helping them acquire materials based on the number of orders they get. If you look at it from a national level, it is having a significant impact on the growth of our GDP as well. Also, reducing the costs of businesses is, in turn, helping consumers get a quality product at affordable prices. The standard of living of our citizens is increasing day by day as a result of the growth of e-commerce. So, both parties are getting equal benefits from e-commerce platforms.

Can you shed light on the operation size of Evaly? How many merchants are currently trading on the platform, and what is the nature of the relationship?

Bangladesh is a country with near 100 million internet users and an extensive user base of over 40 million owning smartphones. All these people are the target market of the e-commerce industry. We currently enlist over 25,000 local organizations, conglomerates, multinational companies, and cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises (CMSME), who are regularly marketing and trading their goods and services over our e-commerce platform. It is of extreme pride to serve over 4 million registered users just through the widespread internet service and cellular GSM
connectivity throughout the nation. Currently, these registered customers are placing over millions of unique orders with thousands of product variations to date securing the item of their
need.

Our continuous constructive work process already resulted in hundreds of millions worth of gross merchandise volume in a very short period accumulating over 3.5 million unique orders already served to date. Focusing on the intensive work process, we are determined in achieving a unified vision of transforming the nation into a progressive economy and contributing to the betterment of mankind.

Keeping up with innovative service integration, the one-of-a-kind service of  ‘Evaly Express Shop’ was launched during the breakout of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our strong adaptability with the shifting trends initiated such as prompt planning and execution. This introduced the doorstep delivery service of essential commodities. Customers were and still are able to receive their ordered products starting from 1 hour to a maximum of 36 hours. During the moment of crisis, we focused on utilizing available resources for the greater interest of people by expanding the menu adding medicines from pharmacies, fresh vegetables, grocery and fish, and meat. Highly reputed modern trade chain super-shops also became a part of the Express segment of Evaly.

In Evaly, we believe in nourishing their Merchants which develops their business skills ultimately directing to an increased win-win scenario for both. Apart from having world-famous brands as Partners/Merchants, there are exceedingly large numbers of small and medium Merchants as well.

Since its inception, Evaly has onboarded nearly 4,000 global and local renowned brands with names like Apple, Samsung, Lenovo, Acer, Suzuki, Xiaomi, TVS, One Plus, Puma, Kenneth Cole, and many more.

With the rapid proliferation of social media platforms, how do you see the marketing landscape evolve and how will traditional media factor in?

We stand from a different point of view regarding this matter. We prioritize analyzing the current trends in the geo-demographic society and market and develop marketing campaigns based on
those trends.

Our focus stays mostly on the digital media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Google targeting specific segments of our customer base; but we still believe in the power of traditional media as the majority of the people of our country still prefer traditional media as the main source of information. Thus, we also highly promote our products on newspapers and television channels.

What are some current plans or initiatives at Evaly that customers can look forward to?

With a vision of providing the best service and empowering people within the national boundary, Evaly has been consistent in exploring different business expansion opportunities along with the advancement of digital technology. Today we own the largest e-commerce platform and one of the fastest-growing digital ventures of Asia “evaly.com.bd” where not only customers can buy heavy durable products but also choose their best-fit wardrobe from Fashion Express; purchase household goods, groceries, automobiles. They can select wet-market products and avail of lifesaving medicines from Evaly Express, a recently launched service extension from Evaly which provides doorstep delivery service even at the sub-district locations of Bangladesh. Increased partnerships with modern super-shops providing sellers ensuring customers a super-fast delivery within 60 minutes of placing their order.

We have launched eFood, the food delivery service of Evaly which is already competing for the market leader’s throne. We have soft-launched an easy-to-understand Digital Haalkhata for the MSME seller’s inventory management known as eKhata. Our B2B2C platform eConnect is another revolutionary mobile application that is already under development to connect sellers, customers, and visitors to explore a new horizon of marketplace concepts. We also have eBazar operating as a classified online marketplace where users can buy or sell their goods.

In the near future, we plan to explore the Agri-tech and Healthcare sector with a mission to benefit people all over the 64 districts in Bangladesh. Exploring new opportunities through the nation’s digitization and reaching out to customers with new services tempts us to grow and expand today and in upcoming days.

Lastly, can you share some words of advice from your expansive experience for new entrants to the startup sector?

If you are afraid of taking risks, there will always be an easy route to choose. But, if you are going to take the risk to construct your ideas into reality, be prepared to embrace the challenge. Do proper research, analyze trends and shifts, and get relevant training too if needed. One should not jump into a pond without learning how to swim. Expect rejection and accept failures during the beginning but never get disheartened, stick to the resolution, and focus on hard work to get the idea off the ground.

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