GP block growth of E-commerce in Bangladesh Market Place

March 18, 2015 | By | Reply More
Head of Telenor Asia, wrote: “Our relationships with the Internet’s
major content providers and search engines will help bring the full
benefits of mobile Internet to everyone in Bangladesh. Together,
Grameenphone and Telenor Group will continue building a digital future
for all in Bangladesh.”

Unfortunately for Bangladeshi e-commerce players, Brekke’s promise is
constrained by Telenor’s investment in the local classifieds company, In Bangladesh, Telenor’s Grameenphone uses its market power
to promote over every other e-commerce service. While this
has been extremely beneficial for Norwegian Telenor, Grameenphone is
effectively creating barriers to entry for e-commerce players not in
some way affiliated with its brand., which was originally launched as Cellbazaar in 2006, is
one of over five hundred e-commerce sites currently operating in
Bangladesh. According to the E-Commerce Association of Bangladesh
(e-CAB), this number will double by the end of this year. In 2014 alone,
millions of Bangladeshi consumers benefited from the rise of property
buying and selling websites like Lamudi, and Property Bazaar,
restaurant delivery websites like Hungry NaKi and Food Panda, and niche
online shops like Unfortunately, because of its ties to, Grameenphone is not interested in working with or
supporting any of these websites.

The Opera Mini speed dial is a collection of shortcuts to popular
websites, determined by individual telcos. In Bangladesh, where
approximately 65% of total mobile traffic comes from users of the Opera
Mini browser, a space on the speed dial is extremely important for brand
building and reaching target audiences online. Grameenphone’s one
exception is to allow a space on the Opera Mini speed dial on
its network. It is not too far a stretch to guess why Grameenphone made
an exception for this e-commerce site. In 2014, when Cellbazaar changed
its name to Ekhanei,’s brand name was suddenly diluted.
Today, the names are commonly confused and the two brands are blurred
into one in the mind of the consumer.’s leadership is not

On behalf of Grameenphone, Telenor made a high level agreement with
Opera to block every other e-commerce site in Bangladesh (except from gaining a space on the speed dial and from advertising
on the browser. This agreement is not stated specifically in any
commercial agreement, but is carried out by mutual understanding. As a
result, competing websites cannot buy advertisement space from Opera on
Grameenphone’s network. Given that 50% of total mobile data consumption
in Bangladesh is from Grameenphone’s subscribers, e-commerce players are
excluded from one of the most important local marketing channels.

Grameenphone’s public shareholders aren’t aware that GP is not
encouraging its subscribers to explore the full power and possibilities
of the Internet. In fact, Grameenphone is doing the opposite.
Grameenphone and Telenor are building a very specific digital future
that is limiting the existence of a healthy competitive situation in
Bangladesh, and which is also not aligned with Scandinavian business

Supporting the existence of a large variety of e-commerce services
would provide Grameenphone’s 42 lakh active 3G subscribers with
increased opportunities for savings in time and money. It would also go a
long way to strengthen the local e-commerce business ecosystem,
encouraging more entrepreneurs to start new ventures online and adding
to the success of Bangladeshi technology businesses at large.

French philosopher Voltaire once wrote, “With great power comes great
responsibility.” In Bangladesh, consumers have chosen Grameenphone as
the market leader. Now, Grameenphone must choose Bangladesh.

As the market leader, Grameenphone should work actively to create
partnerships with local e-commerce players apart from and
allow competitors to advertise on their wide-reaching network. In
return, we, the consumers, will continue to test new services, download
new apps, and buy new products online. Together, we will build a more
inclusive digital Bangladesh, one successful e-commerce website at a

Tareque Moretaza
Journalist & Blogger

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Category: Grameenphone

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