In Bangladesh, there is no Amazon. There is no eBay. If you want to buy a dress or a crested finch from the comfort of your home, you have to use Facebook.
The phenomenon has grown so much over the years that the number of stores on Facebook now eclipse the number of sellers on local e-commerce websites like Evaly, Ajkerdeal, or the Alibaba-acquired Daraz. No one knows exactly how many of these businesses exist, but the most recent estimates suggest that Bangladesh has over 300,000. The low barriers to entry — all an aspiring entrepreneur needs is an internet connection and around $350 to cover startup costs — present a tremendous opportunity for a generation of young Bangladeshis reeling from mass layoffs and fear of rising unemployment rates, which are projected to impact at least 15% of the working population. It also has opened other doors: in a country where just over 15 percent of women have mobile internet access, half of Facebook sellers are female.
By and large, these Facebook stores are usually window fronts for click-and-order shopping. Unlike in formal marketplaces, most sellers are not licensed, store their inventory at home, and partner with third-party logistics companies for last-mile delivery. It’s all very simple: after a buyer makes a selection, payments are arranged via off- or online methods, and items are delivered by mail. No equivalent exists in the West, where Facebook’s forays into commerce have been met with a muted response. For a 162-million-strong country struggling with poverty and limited job growth, this new model of business is illustrative of the South Asian concept of jugaad — making do with what’s available. And it already has a name: F-commerce.