Ek-Shop: Bringing ecommerce to rural Bangladesh
Updated: May 5, 2022
Erica Vambell, Nextrade Group
The growth of ecommerce in Bangladesh has been concentrated primarily in urban centers. In response, the Aspire to Innovate (a2i) project of the Government of Bangladesh’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division created Ek-Shop (“one-stop shop”) as an ecommerce platform that aims to bring ecommerce to rural populations and connect rural markets with a larger, international, online customer base. Ek-Shop was implemented under the Members of the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) to use Ek-Shop to sell goods to a larger local and international customer base. Ek-Shop was introduced in February 2018 to support the government’s plan to achieve its sustainable development goals. Ek-Shop leverages an application programming interface (API) to connect ecommerce companies and platforms, delivery providers, and digital transaction companies into one platform.
Ek-Shop links the Bangladeshi population with local and foreign ecommerce platforms. Its network of ecommerce and logistics providers expands the customer base available to Bangladeshi producers, establishes a rural-urban supply chain value network, and generates employment and income for local populations. Ek-Shop also provides the opportunity to buy and sell products in rural areas where direct market opportunities are limited.
Ek-Shop operates through more than 10,000 outlets across Bangladesh, expanding the delivery regions of large ecommerce companies to help rural residents in Bangladesh buy and sell goods online. Buyers and sellers place orders through representatives at any of the over 3,347 Union Digital Centers (UDC) that are connected to Ek-Shop, who then send and deliver these orders. Customers can also place orders directly, and sellers can share product specifications with UDC representatives to upload to the Ek-Shop site. Items listed for sale on Ek-Shop are displayed on all ecommerce pages linked through the platform. UDC then collects products and delivers them to the customer within four days via a pool of local logistics providers, including the Bangladesh Postal Office. Customers can return products for automatic refunds, and agents receive commissions for each order that are not included in the price of the product.
Head of eCommerce at a2i, Rezwanul Haque Jami, explains that the goal of the initiative is to expand ecommerce and provide a virtual platform that highlights goods sold by rural entrepreneurs. According to Jami, the Ek-Shop concept was in development for three years. There are also Ek-Shop centers in Singapore and Malaysia for Bangladeshi expatriates, and the platform plans to expand to Turkey, Colombia, Uganda, Jordan, and South Sudan.
The head of the Newazpur UDC in the Noakhali district of Bangladesh, Mohammad Ismail, says Ek-Shop has revolutionized trading patterns in his area. “Once villagers had to go to subdistrict and district headquarters to buy things, but they’re now coming to UDCs to do so,” said Ismail. His mother, for example, requires diabetes medication that is often not available or is too expensive in the local market and is now able to order this online.
Ek-Shop is recognized as a major driver of rural development by the international community. The United Nations, for example, gave Bangladesh an award for empowering the rural economy and ecommerce through Ek-Shop. The Geneva-based World Summit Information Society also recognized the Ek-Shop platform as a champion in the business category in 2020. According to Bangladeshi government representatives, these awards reflect the Digital Bangladesh vision and are evidence of the country’s progress toward a knowledge-based economy.