In previous articles we have reviewed the rise of locally created online content as well as the emergence of local e-commerce players. One of the fundamental drivers of this growth has been the use of platforms to connect online applications and services to their users.
Payments enabling e-commerce
A decade ago, no online payment solutions existed for Bangladeshi Internet users. Over the last five years, however, Bangladesh has experienced substantial growth in the number of payment platforms available. Dutch Bangla Bank and BRAC are two of the more prominent providers and local software companies like SSLCommerz have led the way in building integration solutions for businesses.
One startup that is often overlooked, perhaps because it is not often recognized as a startup, is bKash. With major investments from notable sources, including BRAC Bank, bKash is changing the way payments are taking place in Bangladesh. It has created a platform that is enabling countless exchanges online, via mobile and desktop. Amazingly, it is expected to reach $15 million in revenue by the end of 2014 through its network of 76,000 agents and 180 distributors (source: Financial Express, 4 Dec 2013). We anticipate the impact of bKash, and the other payment solutions, to be a major contributing factor in the growth of the online ecosystem.
“Today bKash is perhaps the leading mobile financial service in the country, and to some extent to the world as well… Common people are using it, and that’s where we’re excited about the whole thing.” – Kamal Quadir, bKash (as quoted in Startup Grind interview, July 9, 2014)
Monetization key for local web publishers
Website owners will continue to focus on what they do best – creating great content. Monetization is essential, however, to ensure that these men and women can continue to invest in content creation. Publishers adopt different monetization strategies based on their size and business objectives. One common monetization strategy is to include advertising units on a webpage.
This is where ad networks like G&R come in. The mission for companies like G&R is to create a scalable system whereby online publishers can utilize both their technology solution and advertiser base to monetize site content and traffic. In essence, an ad network is similar to a marketplace where advertisers compete to reach audiences across multiple websites. G&R continues to be the local market leader in building out monetization solutions for local content producers and naturally, quite a few competitors have appeared in the last few years. This is a big win for website owners. Options mean they can ensure they are getting the most value from their website traffic.
At G&R we focus on building out technology for the Bangladesh web that drives improved targeting, engagement and reporting. Every month we deliver hundreds of cheques to local publishers who are building their businesses around the revenue they generate from our platform. This allows them to focus on what they do best – generating quality content that their users want to see. The rise of local publishers to meet the demand of consumers, coupled with the ability to monetize and build legitimate publishing businesses online is a strong indicator of the growing maturity of the local ecosystem.
“The lack of a monetization solution for Bangla websites was a fundamental problem when I launched my first website. This eventually led me to develop the first ad network for Bangladesh. Now, G&R delivers high quality Bangla ads to thousands of Bangla websites every day.“ – Muhammad Nazimuddaula, G&R Ad Network
International Advertising Platforms Becoming Widespread
As the number of Internet users in Bangladesh grows, local businesses are increasingly looking to reach their target audiences online. Facebook and Google have seen their popularity skyrocket across the country, and as a result are becoming excellent marketing channels for advertisers.
Facebook has over 8 million users in Bangladesh, doubling its reach in the last year alone. Many brands have proactively looked to engage this community, and local telcos represent the top fan pages (source: Social Bakers, July 2014). Grameenphone was the first page in Bangladesh to reach over 2 million fans and Airtel, Robi and Banglalink all have well in excess of 1 million subscribers to their page. While there is little data available in this space, there has been a visible rise in the volume of businesses advertising on Facebook, looking to build their presence across the social network. From brand building campaigns around special occasions like Valentine’s Day to driving sales with Eid campaigns, Facebook’s advertising platform is helping local businesses drive interest in their products and services effectively. Google too is starting to see increased adoption among advertisers as more Bangladeshis use it to find information.
Service-focused Companies Supporting Needs of Businesses to Get Online
A raft of companies have been set up in the last 2 years to help business make the most of the Internet. From website development and online marketing, all the way to enterprise software, these service-focused firms are providing much needed expertise to support the competitive transformation of many local businesses for the age of the Internet.
Marketing agencies like Webable, for instance, are looking to demystify the array of online marketing channels available to advertisers. Their primary goal is to be the online advertising expert, recommending effective and efficient solutions that include media placement, content development and user engagement.
“Online marketing is still in its infancy in Bangladesh. Businesses are mainly looking to understand their scope online and directions to build a strategy around digital platforms. Many companies are looking for quick results, but at WebAble, we teach our clients to primarily focus on building a community around their brand.” – Ovick Alam, WebAble
In our next and final edition of this four part series, we will feature successful local startups and share some of their key lessons.
(Part 3 in the 4 part series, “Dhaka Startups, Not All Hype”)