The SME Foundation is going to create a digital display platform – a web portal – for the country's small and medium entrepreneurs to showcase their products.
According to people concerned, the Foundation aims to launch the website within this year and entrepreneurs can then register themselves free and put their products up on display with photos, audio-visual elements and texts.
Initially 50 entrepreneurs will get involved in this process through online training. The Foundation plans to bring more than 1,000 entrepreneurs to the platform by the next one year.
"We will involve entrepreneurs step by step through training," Dr Md Mafizur Rahman, managing director of the SME Foundation, told The Business Standard.
"The week-long SME fair at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre will start from 20 November. After the fair, we will begin the digital display in December," he said.
An entrepreneur will be able to upload to the website more than 15,000 high resolution photos of their products, prices, and catalogue – in both Bangla and English.
"We will monitor the process so that no entrepreneur can upload foreign products on the website," said Dr Mafizur Rahman. "An admin from the SME Foundation will approve the photos. We had a meeting with Access to Information [a2i] and checked the technical issues."
Entrepreneurs are hopeful the digital display platform will help their products reach more customers in the country as well as abroad.
Maksuda Khatun, owner of Shabab Leather, told The Business Standard, "The SME Foundation has taken a very timely initiative. Many entrepreneurs are not able to promote their products. Our products will go beyond the borders of the country through this website, which will increase our sales."
According to the Bangladesh Bank, there are about 60 lakh CMSME entrepreneurs in the country. The SME Foundation believes that this website will help these entrepreneurs to get a fair price for their products.
The website will have separate categories, including handicrafts, garments, leather industries, jamdani, nakshi kantha, jute products, jewellery, etc, to highlight products and services. However, there will be no opportunity to order these products directly from the website. Customers have to buy products by contacting the entrepreneur via mobile phone and email.
Dr Md Masudur Rahman, chairperson of SME Foundation, said, "We have entrepreneurs of different clusters. Domestic or foreign buyers have no idea what our entrepreneurs are making. Foreign embassies in Dhaka have requested us many times to show them our products. Now they can easily see the products on the website."
He said that the foundation has started training entrepreneurs online so that they can take a good picture of the products and do proper marketing.
According to a survey by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the contribution of the SME sector in Bangladesh's GDP is 20% to 25%. At present, about 2.5 crore people in the country are directly employed in this sector.
According to Bangladesh Bank, 90% of the total industrial units of the country belong to the SME sector. At the same time, 87% of the workers employed in different industries and 33% of the total assembled products are included in this sector.
The central bank is of the view that in the SME sector, relatively low investment can create employment opportunities for more people.