Small businesses in Bangladesh: What does 2021 have in store?

Bangladesh is home to millions of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) which have been hit hard by the economic fallout of COVID-19. B’YEAH (Bangladesh Youth Enterprise Advice and Helpcentre), YBI’s member organisation in Bangladesh, supports entrepreneurs from underserved communities.  

B’YEAH’s Mahadhe Hasan tells us about the current situation for MSMEs in Bangladesh. 

How has the landscape changed for MSMEs in Bangladesh since this time last year? 

MSMEs are the bloodline of Bangladesh’s economy. They create employment for 7.8 million people directly and provide livelihoods for 31.2 million. The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted and changed the landscape for all types of MSMEs in Bangladesh at various scales. Businesses that are largely dependent on production and distribution are at high risk of running out of capital. 

The problems resulting from the pandemic include but are not limited to: the closure of showrooms, shops and factories, a significant number of workers returning to their hometown and market demand falling tremendously. As a result, entrepreneurs are failing to pay their monthly rent, electricity bills, loan instalments and salaries on time. Some micro-business entrepreneurs are failing to meet the daily needs of their families due to the disruption in their income. Besides, there is zero output due to the unavailability of raw materials and lack of scope to sell their outputs. 

Since March 2020, more than 90% of online start-up businesses have also been negatively affected due to the pandemic.

Entire MSMEs are struggling under the weight of demand downturn, labour shortages, and inability to maintain their supply chain processes. However, while many enterprises faced considerable IT challenges before COVID-19, the current situation is pushing them to rapidly operate in new ways and IT is being tested as never before.

The government, private and non-government organizations are all working hard to cope with COVID-19. At the same time, despite the high risk to MSMEs in Bangladesh, entrepreneurs are now trying to adapt. Entrepreneurs’ interest in online business and technological skills has greatly increased.

How has B’YEAH’s work with entrepreneurs evolved since this time last year?

With the support of YBI, B’YEAH has been providing a variety of online services since March 2020 for the first time, including webinars, training, online business solutions and COVID-19 adaptations. B’YEAH has also adopted a completely new online programme with the support of YBI. 

We have also introduced different online activities such as issue-based webinars, training, and mentoring services to meet the needs of entrepreneurs in response to COVID-19. As B’YEAH, we have developed an organisational digital vision, mission and roadmap to achieve digital maturity. 
What did B’YEAH achieve and learn in 2020?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, good relationships have been established between entrepreneurs, mentors and B’YEAH. The B’YEAH Digital Maturity Roadmap was created with the support of YBI and Accenture. The participation rate of women entrepreneurs in our programmes has also been highly satisfactory.

Entrepreneurs have been able to adapt by enhancing their digital skills to implement various online activities.

Most importantly, many business owners have participated in various webinar sessions, training through online tools and apps (such as Zoom, WhatsApp, Messenger etc.) for the first time from the project area. 90% of entrepreneurs participated in online webinars for the first time. As a result of participating in various online activities, entrepreneurs can do more work than before COVID-19. 

It is very important to have proper management, follow-up and technology management skills to manage online programmes. These are the things we have learned in 2020 which will play a significant role in making online services more efficient for entrepreneurs.   

What are your plans, hopes and expectations for the next 12 months? 

Our plans and hopes for the next 12 months are that all planned activities will be completed successfully. We hope that several young entrepreneurs will be enrolled as project participants. We also want a significant number of entrepreneurs to enhance their digital knowledge and skills for online business operations. 

The online business mentoring approach of B’YEAH will continue, and a greater number of young entrepreneurs will report an increase in knowledge of digital skills. At the same time, with the support of YBI, B’YEAH’s Learning Management System (LMS) will be part of B’YEAH’s 2021 digital maturity strategy. 

Our expectation is that all entrepreneurs will strengthen their business and a significant number of entrepreneurs will access new markets online and offline. We also predict that a significant number of jobs and a decent work environment will create access to new markets online and offline.  

Read how the YBI network has been helping young entrepreneurs during the pandemic.

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