ekShop: Empowering Rural Communities using Assisted E-Commerce
ekShop: Empowering Rural Communities using Assisted E-Commerce
Employing a unique e-commerce platform to facilitate greater access to economic opportunities for hard-to-reach rural citizens, lessen the logistics divide and reduce inequality

Challenges


People living outside of urban areas or in less advantageous zones are deprived of the benefits of the emerging e-commerce industry, owing to their non-existent or limited Internet knowledge, as well as a lack of access to logistics and finance tools. Although many districts are known for producing domestic goods, producers do not receive a fair price because of unequal access to transport facilities and digital financial services. These inequalities lead to a decrease in production, which, in turn, increases inequalities between rural and urban areas. In addition, most e-commerce companies do not have access to the rural market, which remains largely untapped. 

Towards a Solution


The vision of the ‘ekShop’ initiative is to create a platform where these marginal producers can sell their products directly to customers and take advantage of online shopping. It integrates all the top e-commerce and logistics companies into a single channel and extends access to over 4,000physical-digital centres. This single initiative has sparked a Go Rural revolution within the e-commerce and fast-moving consumer goods industries, thus acting as the catalyst to create a highly efficient access and logistics infrastructure. 

 

One of the objectives in establishing ekShop was to reduce inequalities between market facilities in rural and urban areas. Through ekShop’s digitized market platform and delivery channel, rural producers were able to access the urban market and sell their goods across the country through all the top e-commerce companies in Bangladesh. Women in particular are encouraged to market their handcrafted products, especially those living in rural areas 

 

ekShop is a modular platform that uses an application programming interface. It has introduced secure payment system, provided by ESCROW, and uses an integrated payment portal to foster trust between buyers and sellers. Furthermore, digital centreare often used as storage warehouses for products that are frequently ordered by locals. These are one-stop centres run by citizen entrepreneurs in tandem with elected local government representatives where citizens can access over 150 public and private services, some free and some fee-based.  

 

By engaging digital centre entrepreneurs and applying an assisted e-commerce model, ekShop is gradually reducing the digital divide and increasing income in rural populations. Currently, most of the logistics companies are using the digital centres as their delivery points and the centres’ entrepreneurs as delivery agents to ensure access to rural areas.  

 

As of February2020, over 4,000digital centres have been on-boarded, and over 32,000urban-to-rural orders worth 45million taka (over US$530,000) have been placed. In addition230,000kg of rural-to-urban agricultural orders have been placed, and handcrafted goods worth 20million taka (over US$235,000) have been sold. ekShop has 3,765doorstep delivery points with 500micro-merchants and has completed over 100,000 orders. To date, 300,000consumers have been served, an average of three per order. Although the majority of payments have been made as cash on delivery (82percent), some entrepreneurs have used banking and mobile financial services as well. A total of 247entrepreneurs have become local distributors of fast-moving consumer goods through ekShop, and 2,100entrepreneurs have been trained in e-commerce by the ekShop team. 

 

ekShop provides an assisted e-commerce model that uses ESCROW payment services and is focused on improving rural sales. It is the only platform to connect 80percent of the nation's logistics providers with its exclusive geomapping. 

 

All the stakeholders and partners involved with ekShop benefit from each transaction. As a result, they have taken ownership of the initiative, along with the Aspire to Innovate (a2i) Programmeand will maintain it on an ongoing basis. A revenue ecosystem is established, in which all the connected commission flows need not depend on any external sources. Furthermore, the initiative has led to the establishment of the National E-Commerce Policy of2018 and the E-Commerce Policy for Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises in2019. 

 

ekShop has crossed international borders to replicate this model. There are four operational hubs: ekShop centres in Malaysia and Singapore and full ekShop architecture operations in Turkey and Nepal. This cross-country transfer has increased the number of people who can access the digital services that ekShop has to offer. ekShop also exports rural products to several countries. 

 

For an ekShop model to thrive in an area, the digital market must have multiple e-commerce players and logistic facilitiesThere must also be stable Internet connectivity. This initiative is based on the idea of making e-commerce platforms as easy to access as possible. As a result, it does not require complex project design or significant investment. 

Contact Information

Name: Mr Rezwanul Haque Jami, Title: Team Leader, Rural E-Commerce and Head of Commercialization (iLab), Organization: Aspire to Innovate (a2i) Programme

Supported by

Bangladesh - Aspire to Innovate (a2i) Programme

Countries involved

Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal, Turkey, Uganda

Implementing Entities

a2i Programme, Government of Bangladesh, UNDP Bangladesh

Project Status

Ongoing

Primary SDG

08 - Decent Work and Economic Growth

Secondary SDGs

01 - No Poverty, 05 - Gender Equality, 09 - Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, 10 - Reduced Inequalities, 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
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