Cross-border e-com market: Thrust on tackling hurdles to grab huge potential

| Updated: February 10, 2023 12:08:34

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Multiple barriers in business operation compelled many of the cross-border e-commerce (CBEC) entrepreneurs to choose other countries as favourable investment destinations, said insiders.

More than 50 entrepreneurs have already shifted their investment to other countries, including the UAE, due to their smooth policy support, payment facility and technical benefits for e-commerce business.

A study of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce said the value of UAE e-commerce market is expected to reach US$ 9.2 billion in 2026.

According to available data, Singapore and Malaysia account for more than 50 per cent of the cross-border gross merchandise value (GMV) in Southeast Asia, followed by Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines in the next positions.

Entrepreneurs said the existing barriers have to be addressed immediately to grab the huge potential of CBEC market that is flourishing globally.

Bangladesh is missing the opportunities - created in recent time for cross-border trade. When the barriers would be removed, such wide arena of CBEC may not persist for the country. By that time, Bangladesh would lose its market due to fast upgradation of technology, entrepreneurs said.

The association of e-commerce entrepreneurs earlier pointed out the roadblocks and placed their suggestions to the Ministry of Commerce (MoC), as the country's foreign exchange policy is not favourable for CBEC.

The existing export policy or e-commerce policy is not suitable for cross-border e-commerce growth, they opined.

Md Hafizur Rahman, Director General of the MoC's World Trade Organisation (WTO) Cell, who is leading the CBEC drafting team, said absence of policy is not the main reason for poor investment here or driving away investment to other countries.

The draft of CBEC policy would be finalised soon, which would determine the business procedures, ceiling, customs rules, etc.

Investment climate of the country is the main factor for attracting investors. The Bangladesh Bank, the National Board of Revenue (NBR), and other government entities have to work together in this regard, he added.

BB Executive Director Md Mezbaul Haque said the integrated policy for CBEC would address the barriers and ensure smooth business process. CBEC can be flourished in Bangladesh, as it has enormous potential here.

The BB has no restriction on payment gateway system, and all such entities, including PayPal, are welcome to operate in Bangladesh, he added.

Executive Director of e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) Jahangir Alam Shovon said the entrepreneurs placed a set of proposals - finding out the problems of CBEC, and a government team is working on that.

It is alarming that in recent time more than 50 businesses shifted to other countries due to existing business operation barriers in Bangladesh, he noted.

The country would be able to diversify its export basket through CBEC by branding single products to single consumers.

The technical, policy and payment issues and service barriers made the CBEC business operation tough in Bangladesh.

The e-CAB official opined that policy is one of the problems, while other barriers, including work order and letter of credit, are there.

Currently, the country has no specific policy to define what rules the CBEC businesses should follow and what not.

"Global market for Bangladeshi products could be opened along with earning foreign currencies and generating employment by framing a new policy for CBEC," said a proposal of the e-CAB.

The association proposed to ensure security of international transactions and follow international standard on data protection, refund and return of products.

Currently, e-commerce market place cannot operate properly in Bangladesh, as local banks are unable to send money outside of the country due to lack of rules.

The money received from delivery of goods must have a rule under remittance policy, the entrepreneurs said.

The e-commerce businesses suggested exploring the possibility of framing an integrated system between the NBR and the BB to ensure transparency and efficiency of CBEC.

"Our country is not accepting most of the advanced cross-border payments, including PayPal. Integration with international payment system is necessary for removing the payment barrier," the e-CAB said.

Payment of cross-border salesmen is facing hindrances due to not having specific rules in Bangladesh, while it is operated through general banking channel in other countries.

E-commerce marketplace has to pay the cross-border salesmen on behalf of buyers, it opined.

The e-CAB proposed to allow value of products up to $200 for e-commerce trade in cross-border transaction without imposing formal import regulations.

There must be specific refund and return policy of import-export through cross-border, tax benefit, and cash incentives to encourage the businesses.

In case of drop shipping, business-to-business platform, the government would have to prepare portal and index for matchmaking local products with international goods.

The postal department must have separate section for e-commerce products, and it has to be coordinated with local and international delivery chain by modernising the entire system, the e-commerce businesses said.

They also proposed integration of tacking, monitoring, digital supply chain, private logistics system, signing bilateral agreement with international security agencies to check financial crime, and establishing sorting centre in port to reduce product delivery cost.

They urged the government to allow CBEC businesses of ready-made garments, leather and footwear, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and virtual and intellectual products and services without inventory.

Bangladesh needs to design new, safe and special SOP, escrow, return and refund policy, and export opportunity without L/C opening for CBEC on urgent basis.

According to a finding of the e-CAB, CBEC in Bangladesh grew by 74 per cent so far. The industry insiders eye $1.5 billion export potential with 50,000 skilled employment by achieving 200 per cent growth every year through trading 500 products.

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