Brainstorming Session on Digital Transformation in SMEs of Bangladesh

Date: 15 October 2020                     

Time: 03:00-05:00 PM (Bangladesh Standard Time)

Organized by: SSN4PSI, Aspire to Innovate (a2i) in collaboration with World Economic Forum (WEF)


The SME and informal sector across all industries of Bangladesh have about 0.78 million entrepreneurs. There are about 50,000 micro, 10,000 small and medium light engineering businesses mostly self-financed, operating in clusters across the country with the active participation of about 8 million people. The local market size, conforming to one-third of the domestic demand, amounted to USD 3.125 billion in the year 2017-18 with a 30 percent annual growth rate.

The impact of COVID-19 is apparent in every economic sector of Bangladesh. But the most affected sector is the SME and informal sector; as most workers are poor and lack any kind of social protection. Tailors, street food vendors, day labourers, rickshaw pullers, newspaper hawkers, all the other informal sector workers have been severely affected and most of them are currently unemployed. Approximately 500,000 informal enterprises are affected which had a huge impact on livelihoods. Moreover, 10 million people are unemployed directly in the SME and informal sector; with the impact of their unemployment extending to their families. The government and SME associations need to ensure that relief funds do not leave out any marginal workers or entrepreneurs in the sector. Job loss has taken place in every sector of SMEs like – handicrafts, construction raw material suppliers, small travel operators and agents, fashion designing, electrical manufacturing, and plastic. In Bangladesh, approximately 35-40% of SMEs are cottage-based SMEs; draconian measures taken during the lockdown which brought a total shutdown of the economy has led many micro/small entrepreneurs out of business, resulting in 10 million people permanently unemployed in the sector.

To recover the sector, it’s the time to discuss and take prompt initiative. We have to introduce digital transformation/e-Service and e-Commerce for SMEs. Besides this we also have to work to encourage and expedite Apprenticeship, Entrepreneurship, enhance Digital Skills in SMEs, easing financial support to SME sector and create a database in collective intelligence platform for SMEs. eCommerce and technologies are playing a major role pacing SMEs in regional markets. eCommerce and technology adoption are super crucial for SMEs recovering from pandemic. Which needs focus on policy tweaking, incentivization adopting digital commerce and transactions. Suitable collaboration and PPP can boost the growth of SMEs multiple times.

In this context The World Economic Forum has created Regional Action Groups (RAGs) along with high-level multi stakeholder communities of regional leaders, to facilitate dialogue and public-private collaboration build regional resilience and develop a coordinated regional response to fight the COVID 19 pandemic and its impact. In order to identify the focus areas within the SME sector, as a collaborator of the Working Group, Aspire to Innovate (a2i) is keen to organize a virtual Brainstorming Session on Digital Transformation Priorities in SME Sector in Bangladesh on 15th  October 2020 from 03:00 hours BST to aggregate insights from relevant stakeholders in Bangladesh. Giving the expertise and experience in this sector, the Working Group will be keen to have concerns’ participation at this brainstorming session. Relevant inputs will play a crucial role in ensuring that the Working Group’ mandate and focus areas are aligned with the sector’s digital transformation challenges and priorities.

Objective of the Session:

To identify the best practices/existing high-impact digital solutions within the SME and informal sector, recommendations for new solutions to accelerate Apprenticeship, Entrepreneurship and Digital Skills in SMEs within the region and beyond.

Joining Zoom Link:

Meeting ID: 881 4667 3380

Passcode: Mask

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