THE structure of people’s way of life is changing rapidly because of the COVID-19 outbreak. With this rapid change in consumer needs, the economy also needs to change accordingly for businesses to survive and thrive.
Telemedicine: Paid telemedicine services or online consultation hours by general practitioners and specialists of all disciplines for the overall healthcare system can decrease the number of hospital visits people need to make. This can also reduce the burden of crowd management in hospitals. Paid online or tele-counselling services can also be prompted in the structure of the likes of non-profit counselling services, etc to respond to the deteriorating mental health condition of people because of COVID-19 and economic crises.
Online groceries: There have been online shopping and delivery services earlier whose demand has grown rapidly in recent times with an increased need for social distancing. While some retailers and brands now leverage on the existing platforms to market and sell their products, other traditional outlets have opened up their own online outlets in response to the change in consumer preference.
Agricultural and poultry: With lot of people going back to villages because of unemployment in urban areas or remittance-earning countries, we will have a new work force that can be rehabilitated via small and cottage industry loans, agricultural loans as well as share-cropping loans. The interest rate of the existing agricultural loans should be reduced to ensure food security. A farmers’ database can also be developed by loan or micro-finance companies to link them to online grocery stores, private and public platforms.
Hygiene products: With a rising demand for hand washing to prevent the COVID-19 outbreak, there will be an increased demand for formal commercial manufacturing of soaps, detergent and hand-sanitiser. There is also a high demand for home-based and university laboratory-based manufacturing of such products to meet the demand-supply gap and to reach bottom-of-the-pyramid user segment.
Online boutique and tailoring: With a rising demand for non-medical masks to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, online boutiques and community-based tailor shops can choose to develop self-capacities and rise up to meet the demands.
Online education: Online education channels have already made a mark that that both parents and teachers can access. More and more e-books may be made available as well for people to buy along with an increasing demand for reading gadgets. There is also a rising demand to make online education accessible for people with disabilities via subtitle options, text-to-speech and speech-to-text software, etc.
Hotline mediation: During the initial COVID-19 lockdown, China faced a three times increase in domestic violence and implemented an online domestic violence arbitration court in Beijing. Some of our mediation and conflict resolution proceedings can be facilitated via online and/or telecommunication channels as well via arbitration cells activated by industry business associations, government, etc.
Entertainment and edutainment: People have been browsing and shopping online for entertainment and edutainment products, starting from much-needed toys to online and offline entertainment. On the other hand, people suddenly also have time to listen to the radio, community radio and watch television. These media also have the potential to earn high revenue through advertisements and promotion of the newly transformed e-commerce, f-commerce and tele-commerce outlets and to also act as channels for the government and development actors to use as edutainment slots.
Telecommunications: Bangladesh had more than165 million mobile subscribers as of 2019. The industry is in high demand to provide both telecommunications and internet services. The industry will need more human resources to maintain the load and perform at par while contributing greatly to tax revenues. Mobile purchasing and trouble-shooting services can also be provided by service sellers via tele-sales promotion in community-based grocery stores in rural areas and via online portals in urban areas.
Development of platforms: With a rise in online and f-commerce, there will be an increased demand for domestic companies to hire web designers, app developers and digital marketing services, starting from the development of promotional content to social media page booster algorithms to search engine optimisations. Telemarketing and tele-sales and delivery can be a growing field for the rural and peri-urban areas with relatively lesser internet coverage.
Payment gateways: There are a number of companies that provide for secure online payment portals or gateways ie, Port Wallet and SSL Commerz, but now, it may be the time for their businesses to be blooming even further.
Mobile banking: Mobile banking has come to be popular over the years for cross-country money transfer. With a slowdown in people’s mobility, the number is expected to grow. Such mobile banking services can enhance value-added services such as for bills and utilities payment, wage disbursement, payment of tuition fees for schools, etc. Mobile banking agents, if reactivated in grocery stores and union digital centres of rural areas, can also earn for themselves in merchant transactions.
Supply chain management: The unemployed and day-labourers can be engaged as cross-country transport and logistic workers for procurement as well as in home-to-home delivery of app-based or online services in urban, semi-urban and rural areas. Supply chain managers, transport and logistics professionals can also be used for an efficient and effective procurement as well as delivery of services.
Changing landscape of export sectors: While some export industries are facing a dwindling consumer demand, there is an increased demand for certain operational export sectors that we can potentially keep watch on and leverage to keep foreign revenues coming.
Pharmaceuticals: As of 2019, Bangladesh was exporting drug products to 150 countries. Some leading Bangladeshi companies have also received certification from US Food and Drug Administration and the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. As a least developed country, Bangladesh now also enjoys a patent waiver on the manufacturing of generic drugs under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.
IT outsourcing: As per the Oxford Internet Institute, Bangladesh is the second-largest supplier of online IT labour globally. The scope of expansion of such freelancing jobs include diverse opportunities in network security and data protection in both financial and health sectors, development of mobile and online apps and games, AI chat bots, digital marketing and search engine optimisation services, web designing, etc. Around 500,000 active Bangladeshi freelancers have already been in the sector.
Call centres: COVID-19 is now stretching call centres and customer service operations to their limits. Bangladesh too has its own share of call centre outsourcing services although in a relatively smaller share than India. This is a service export sector that we should potentially look into expanding as well, especially with increasing work-from-home capabilities.
Mehzabin Ahmed is a development professional.
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