Digital payment on e-service platforms are growing at breakneck speed in recent times.
“The market is growing at more than hundred percent every year,” said Syed Mohammad Kamal, country manager of MasterCard, which provides two of the five payment gateways in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh's e-commerce market is worth about Tk 2,000 crore and there are some other services where online transactions happen regularly.
Industry insiders said consumers still have some trust issues today but things are moving very fast and online service takers are growing and with it online payments. Services like topping up mobile phone credit, purchasing tickets for trains and buses have huge potential to grow.
Kamal urged the government to make more train seats available for online purchase: at present, only 25 percent of the total train tickets can be sold online.
It was eight years ago, when online ventures in Bangladesh were few and far between, that Dutch-Bangla Bank had the gumption to set-up a digital payment system. At present, Dutch-Bangla has 1,500 merchants out of the total of 2,500 connected to its network. But the number is below Dutch-Bangla's expectations. “The market has full of potential but somehow e-commerce vendors are not succeeding in winning the customers' trust fully,” Abul Kashem Md. Shirin, managing director and CEO of Dutch-Bangla Bank said, adding that the status quo will change if global companies enter the fray.
But the country's top e-commerce players blame the banks for not promoting the virtues of digital payment enough. “Banks are more interested in spending on traditional businesses rather than looking into the future,” said AKM Fahim Mashroor, founder of ajkerdeal.com.
The central bank echoed the same as Mashroor about the banks' outdated way of thinking. Still there are charges of about 3 percent on card payment and the merchants shoulder the charge instead of passing it on to the customers to help the industry, Mashroor said.
Mirajul Huq, CEO of Bagdoom, said they are offering discounts more lucrative than those on the traditional channels to grab customers' attention.
“We can promote the 'safe and secured' factor that plays a huge psychological part in digital transactions,” he said, adding that incidences of card fraud in Bangladesh is very low even when compared to the Western world as verifications for transactions are very strong here.
The mobile financial service platform is also coming to good use in this quest for financial digitisation. For instance, in March transactions through the platform hit Tk 1,011 crore. The central bank is also taking different initiatives. For instance, the Bangladesh Bank has permitted online fund transfer of up to Tk 5 lakh.
Muhammad Zahidul Islam is a Senior Reporter at Star Business, The Daily Star.