It was in the late 2013, the early days e-commerce in Bangladesh, when Ambareen Reza, thought of launching an online food delivery service that would deliver food to customers from restaurants.
“After my father’s death I returned to Bangladesh from Australia and joined Rocket Internet as its Country Director. At Rocket, I launched start-ups like Lamudi and Carmudi. The idea of doing something meaningful always excited me. So, I wanted to create something that I loved, believed in, and could scale quickly. Nothing can be scaled as fast as online businesses and I love food. So, the choice to found a food delivery business was inevitable,” Ambareen Reza said in an interview with Bangladesh Brand Forum.
“Back then, restaurants didn’t deliver food and ordering was more complicated than it ever needed to be. Initially, I started approaching restaurants and investors with my pitch before I was able to set it in motion. We started with a small team of four at a small table. Initially we had no money and I had to borrow money from my family to pay expenses. We had to juggle many responsibilities from restaurant onboarding to product development and fundraising,” she added.
Fast forward to 2022, foodpanda is the top online food and grocery delivery platform in Bangladesh. It is the only food and grocery delivery platform to have its service across 64 districts in the country.
Over the years, foodpanda has worked to create an ecosystem that supports everyone in it. Along the way, it has enabled more than 35,000 small businesses to go digital, and generated thousands of work opportunities alongside making lives easier through doorstep food and grocery delivery. foodpanda has played a tremendous role in the digital transformation of the retail sector.
In recent years, we have seen commendable growth in the e-commerce and tech sector overall. Local start-ups have combinedly raised $750 million in the last few years, which I think is a good progress. Start-ups like Shop-Up, bKash, Paperly, TruckLagbe, Gaze were able to attract foreign investment. Also, the adoption of e-commerce was expedited by the pandemic.
“Despite the faster adoption, e-commerce penetration in retail is still very low, at just 1%. We have huge potential when it comes to e-commerce, and the next few years are crucial for us to build the industry and increase e-commerce penetration in the retail sector. There are several things that need to be done to expedite the sector’s growth including business friendly policies, tax benefits, implementation and practice of consumer rights law and strengthening digital commerce cells are important.”
The country needs mass awareness about e-commerce adoption to increase customers’ trust in online services. Also, there needs to be clear policies and efficient systems to expedite mass adoption of digital payments.
To work collectively to build the sector, Ambareen Reza is participating in the upcoming election of e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (eCAB). She believes that eCAB has a crucial role to play in this sector as a trade body.
The entrepreneur is committed to work with eCAB with a vision to take Bangladeshi startups to the global stage. She believes local startups have huge potential, however they often are not able to raise funds and scale up sustainably due to experience and knowledge gaps.
Ambareen Reza wants to work to address the gap through establishing a startup academy or center from ecab which will support local startups through mentorship, incubation, connecting with investors and building their global connectivity.
She will work to create business-friendly policies, increase digital penetration from 1 percent to 4 percent in the retail sector, increase women’s participation in technology to 50 percent and help build an efficient support system from eCAB for all members in the next two years.
In addition, Ambareen will work for e-Cab members capacity development through taking initiatives for increasing digital and financial literacy and skills development through training, mentoring and introducing professional courses.