Bashundhara Group, one of the leading conglomerates in Bangladesh, plans to set up a private marketplace featuring barter, auction, warehousing and securities transactions alongside regular business-to-business and business-to-person trading of all kinds of goods.
The group has applied to the commerce ministry, seeking approval for its global marketplace named "ABG Marketplace".
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi has directed officials to verify the application on an urgent basis as the ministry is set to give the go-ahead to the marketplace this week. ABG Marketplace will have to comply with the government's e-commerce guidelines.
So far, there are no commodity exchange arrangements or such marketplaces in the country. Although the Chittagong Stock Exchange recently obtained approval for the maiden commodity exchange, the port city bourse has not set it up yet.
Bashundhara Group hopes the establishment of its marketplace will be visible within the next six months after the necessary licences and government approvals are acquired. The conglomerate has already formed a separate company, ABG Limited, for the marketplace, with the group's Managing Director Sayem Sobhan Anvir as the managing director of the new venture.
Bashundhara applied to the commerce ministry on 16 March for approval. The group said farmers, producers, middle-income people, small entrepreneurs and the unemployed will be benefited if the marketplace is approved.
"We are keen to operate a self-contained marketplace under the auspices of the Ministry of Commerce to promote the overall economic development of the country through the use of public-friendly information technology, alleviate unemployment through generating jobs, create reliable new areas for investment and create a self-reliant entrepreneurial class," the group wrote in its letter to the ministry.
Bashundhara also sought the guidance of the commerce minister in establishing the private marketplace.
Features of Bashundhara's marketplace
- Platform for buying and selling goods and services
- Listing traders
- Scope for spot sales
- Buying and selling services or securities
- Connecting locals and foreigners in foreign investment
- Warehousing and relocation
About its features, the conglomerate noted that it will provide and manage all kinds of services offered by a general marketplace.
"It will provide a platform for buyers and sellers to buy and sell goods and services, listing traders, scope for spot sales, buying and selling services or securities, connecting locals and foreigners in foreign investment, warehousing and relocation," the group noted in the letter.
Bashundhara said the proposed marketplace will also include agricultural products, cotton, metal, brokering, auctions, derivatives, barter, ticketing, price index, e-job sites, plastic items, ship chartering, garments, raw materials, construction materials and meat products.
"The proposed marketplace will be a platform where an individual will be able to buy a product by investing as little as Tk500 or Tk1,000. Later, they will be able to sell it and make a profit when the price of the product goes up," Shahriar Molla, director of ABG Limited and company secretary at Bashundhara Gold Refinery, told The Business Standard.
He said the platform will accommodate both local and foreign brands, enabling people to buy and sell domestic and foreign goods and services.
"For this, we will take the approval of the regulatory authorities, including the Bangladesh Bank," Shahriar Molla added.
He said the proposed marketplace would be similar to the US-based OneGold, adding all products traded on the platform will have insurance. "We hope to create around 20 lakh jobs, including office staff, buyers and sellers, investors and deliverymen every year," he commented.
However, the Bashundhara official declined to say how much money the group plans to invest in the proposed marketplace.
He said wherever Bashundhara has invested, it has invested heavily and introduced the latest technology. The group is also planning to invest heavily in this area as well.
"Bashundhara Group will be notified this week that it can launch the business in compliance with e-commerce guidelines," Hafizur Rahman, an additional secretary and also the director general of the WTO Cell at the commerce ministry, told The Business Standard.
He said the group does not require any separate approval from the ministry.
"They can launch the marketplace with just a trade licence. But they will require the approval of the relevant authorities for the type of goods and services they want to accommodate on the platform. Our e-commerce guidelines specifically address the topic," said the additional secretary.
According to Bashundhara, the country's middle-class is suffering from a lack of investment opportunities. Despite an eagerness for investment, they have no choice but to solely depend on monthly salaries. The proposed marketplace will create a new, fruitful and ground-breaking sector for the middle-class with low investment capacity. The conglomerate says it believes the platform will be able to help stabilise the market.
AKM Fahim Mashroor, former president of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services, told TBS that the marketplace that Bashundhara Group wants to set up is not a regular e-commerce site, but much like a commodity exchange.
"This type of investment is new in Bangladesh, but it has huge potential. There are many people in the country who do not have an alternative to invest their savings. The platform will open a new door for them," he added.
Bashundhara Group officials said establishing a self-contained marketplace is time-consuming since it requires a plethora of software and updated technology.
They said the initial launching may take five to six months after the approvals are obtained. From the very beginning, this marketplace will have all kinds of products and services including drugs and gold. Foreigners and Bangladeshi expatriates will be able to make investments.