Payment Gateways – Accelerating the Adaptation of E-Commerce through Convenience

On the 10th episode of Go Digital with EZAssist, RJ Shantu converses with guests Firoze M Zahidur Rahman, CEO and Chief Solutions Architect of Loosely Coupled Technologies, Nawshad Jahan Promee, COO at Loosely Coupled Technologies, and with Riad Mohammad, Managing Director of Codero Limited. The discussion on this episode focuses on a special Sizzling Sale on EZAssist, and about the role of payment gateways in e-commerce. Watch the episode here.

RJ Shantu: As we proceed toward digitalization, we must become accustomed to online payment procedures. A lot of people are uncomfortable with it, or they just find it difficult. What is your opinion on this matter, Riad bhai?

Riad: To this day, people are weary of making online purchases. For online payment, we have to consider that a lot of people in Bangladesh don’t have credit card or debit card access, or any other form of digital wallet. A lot of them use their father or brother’s to make do when needed. And in some cases, the products that people want to buy are just not available online. For mobile financing systems, a major population of the users are from the lower to lower middle class socioeconomically, and we’ve gotten them out of this fear of technology to some extent but there is still a long way to go.

Firoze: In Bangladesh, the online payment systems are actually not that developed. People here try to imitate the model used in developed countries for these softwares or e-commerce websites. But Bangladeshi people are quite different, our thinking process is different. The digitalization journey that other countries followed should not necessarily be the path that we follow too. Having worked in this industry for more than a decade, I think we should not follow in others’ footsteps. 

When I studied at BUET, one of my courses was Mechatronics. Our professor once came to the class and said, “You’re hearing everywhere that Bangladesh is so far behind, a hundred years backdated in so many different fields. But Mechatronics is one field where we’re not more than 4 or 5 years behind.” Now, the students asked why that is. The professor said that this field started only 4 or 5 years ago, so how can we be further behind than that?

Now, similarly, these smartphone and e-commerce revolutions are happening all over the world right now. bKash is considered one of the largest MFS in the world. In a lot of arenas we’re doing amazing, better than many other countries. 

When Amazon came, small businesses were affected and shut down. When bigger shopping malls came, small stores shut down. But in Bangladesh that hasn’t been the case. We’re used to buying from the corner stores, we love our tongs. I think we need to digitize these interactions. We’re quite behind on this process, but technology has to catch up.

Cash on Delivery is clumsy. There are so many inconveniences involved, having change, being at home when the delivery arrives, so much. Again, if people ask for cash on delivery due to a mistrust of the product quality, merchants need to have a proper refund or return policy. 

We just have to be committed to increasing online payment.

EZAssist offered a Sizzling Sale for two hours on

What were the products offered on it? And can you tell where this Sizzling Sale is coming from?

Promee: It was a mix of many different products from the merchants, there were kurtis from Bibiana, sarees, watches, mobile accessories, etc. All priced between 99tk to 999tk.

Firoze: To answer where Sizzling Sale is coming from, we have to talk about where EZAssist originates. Our aim was to promote and digitalize the authentic Bangladeshi small and medium businesses that represent the true heart of this country. Now, we’ve provided many discounts since the beginning corresponding with the different businesses. Sales are a way to get people interested and accustomed to online purchases, and with that in mind we thought of trying this Sizzling Sale that can get people to try out the process of online purchase. Our main goal is to make people try it out, experience it, and see the products are amazing. Bibiana makes amazing products, and you’re buying directly from them. And if there is any problem at all or any feedback for how things should be, just reach out to us on our facebook page. 

Promee: We all need to come together for this, merchants and customers both. There is an assortment of products and if needed, our people can help you to go through this process step by step as well.

Riad: It’s an opportunity for both buyers and sellers. EZAssist gives merchants the experience of using technology to digitalize their business and also giving customers a way to learn the process and get accustomed to e-commerce. So, for our technology partners, I have a request and an invitation to allow for both your merchants, customers, users, everyone to make things easy and hassle-free. All stakeholders need to be committed to this cause of revolutionizing the e-commerce industry here. 

We have a comment from the audience, “Cash On Delivery allows us to check the products. With online payment, sometimes due to many procedural issues, things can become difficult and a hassle. But Sizzling Sale only allows online payment.”

Firoze: A lot of people think that online payment is difficult, but at one time no one bought online, now people do, people didn’t buy from Facebook pages, but now they do. It all developed over time and people got accustomed to things. Getting used to online payment is the same. And it is very easy, if you have a bkash account then you just need to give the OTP sent to your phone and input the pin. It’s easier than needing to go and get it. 

Can you tell us about how payment gateway plays a role in digitalization? 

Riad: So you have merchants, and you have customers. People are now buying things from either the Facebook pages, or from different websites. So the payment gateway is this connection that helps in making things easier and removes the hassle of the payment.

Firoze: If I have a business here in Bangladesh, perhaps I have a Facebook page and I sell my products on it. But I actually should be getting a trade license and doing my business in a proper manner. So when I’m doing a business, I need to have a bank account or bkash, nagad, rocket, and many different connections with different financial systems for my customers to pay through. I’d have to open individual merchant accounts. And this is a clumsy and cumbersome process. But with a payment gateway, I just open my account with a payment gateway and they will handle the transactions, and I will get my payment hassle-free. I don’t need to open individual merchant accounts with these many financial institutes, I just have to go to a payment gateway service and they can do the work for me and settle the matter. So when someone makes a payment, it goes to the payment gateway partner and then periodically they send over your payment to you, once or twice a week. 

How is EZAssist helping with online payment systems?

Firoze: The businesses that we deal with are very small, for them getting registered with payment gateways generally tends to be not feasible. But EZAssist is connected to payment gateways in Bangladesh. Now, if a merchant already has an account with any of these payment gateways, then they would still be able to integrate their account with our system, but if they do not have any connections then we connect the merchants to the payment gateways with us. And there are different mechanisms here, depending on the package that the merchant has, we connect them to the payment gateways with us. A point to be noted here is that we only hand over the payment to the merchants if the delivery has been completed, not before that. We have to protect the consumers as well. So EZAssist plays a balancing role there.  

For the Sizzling Sale, did you prepare for the huge volume of queries and sales to be expected?

Firoze: We are prepared, and because we have some really popular brands with us enlisted, during Eid and other functions the huge volume of queries we get is unimaginable and we’ve so far dealt with things very well. Every second we get 15 to 20 queries during those times. And since we’ve been running these operations for almost a year now, even the people are used to responding to our chatbots and I do not think that the sizzling sale will pose too much of a challenge. 

We have a question from the audience, “Many different online e-commerce platforms keep giving huge discounts. But at one point, they stop, and do you think the customers remain this loyal to that particular site even after the sales end? Or do you think they lose interest and move on to the next new site giving discounts?”

Riad: There is a discount culture prevalent in E-commerce now. One thing that discounts did achieve is that for people like us, who never used to purchase things online, I grew the habit of making online purchases. So from that perspective, I do think I can develop some sort of loyalty to that business. 

Firoze: I think I have to disagree to some extent with Riad bhai here. First of all, I think I have no loyalty to the platforms. I can be loyal about the product itself and about different brands like Kay Kraft, Bibiana, etc. But no one has any reason to be loyal to EZAssist. See, loyalty is always with the product and with the brands or vendors. I think that’s quite fair too. Standard Chartered bank offers discounts on their cards or gives offers with different merchants, or buy 1 get 1 dinners. But we buy the things we like, with that card. EZAssist doesn’t give discounts, all the brands themselves give the discounts on our platform. The offers come from the merchants themselves. And merchants need to understand these things too.

We have another query from the audience, is there any reason to be worried about the product quality on the Sizzling Sale?

Firoze: Not at all. As I said, we have renowned merchants enlisted with us, and I think every purchase journey has a level of emotional value behind it. And we try our best to deliver from that perspective too so that customers feel fulfilled in that area, and our refund and exchange processes are also very easy so there’s always that in case of any valid issues.

Another query from the audience, during many sales the website becomes overloaded or the lines become too busy and then people cannot order things they want. Is that something to be worried about?

Firoze: It’s not that our website cannot handle the volume, but we have a stock limitation here too from the vendors. I think that our lines or customer care can handle all queries, but the stock is a practical problem. The vendors have limited stock. And it’s not a digital product, those can have unlimited stock. But for physical products, we cannot have the same.

An audience member asked, “I have an artisan business where I do some handiwork and designs, in Patuakhali. How can I connect with EZAssist?”

Firoze: Please visit the Facebook page of EZAssist and send us a message, our customer service team will help you. It doesn’t matter where you are located in Bangladesh, it’s very easy to connect with us and enlist your business with us. That is why we’re here. We have many vendors with us who are located out of Dhaka. And we’re very used to catering to them too. The only issue that sometimes arises is that the delivery sometimes takes a few days longer, because we source the products from somewhere out of Dhaka then again deliver it elsewhere. 

Promee: But that doesn’t cause too much of a problem usually, we let the consumers know about the delivery times and the customers do not mind. 

We’re at the end of the episode now. Is there anything you’d like to say to our viewers?

Riad: If we want to accelerate the growth in this industry, we have to ensure that customers get the product that they want, in due time, and with quality control. Payment gateways need to ensure ease of use and security. And the ecosystem overall needs to develop in every aspect. 

Firoze: I think if we want to grow with online payments and e-commerce, merchants need to digitize and bring their customers to their online platforms. The existing customers trust the merchant already, and it’s important that they bring their business online and bring their customers online. It’s a relationship between the merchant and the consumers. We, the platforms, we’re just catalysts. Merchants need to take the initiative. We’re accelerating the process, but the brunt of it lies on the merchants. 

Promee: Merchants and customers both need to equally come forward and play a part in this growth and development. 

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