The digital transformation of small and micro-businesses in Bangladesh

  • August 28, 2023

  • Publications, guides and communication materials


Women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh face many barriers that impact the digital transformation of their business. These include low financial and digital literacy rates, social norms that impact mobile phone ownership and family support, and low confidence. Identifying the value proposition and support mechanisms for digitalization and providing capacity-building can accelerate the digital journey of women e-commerce entrepreneurs and help them overcome these restrictive social norms.

UNCDF, in partnership with Visa, ShopUp, a leading full-stack business-to-business platform, and ekShop, an e-commerce aggregator platform, has been implementing the Build Back Better—Enhancing Recovery and Resilience of Small and Micro-Businesses (SMB) project in Bangladesh since 2020. The project aimed to build the digital and financial capabilities of 200,000 small and micro-businesses (SMBs) through e-learning modules across multiple channels.

This report provides an analysis of the second phase of the project, which entailed the development and provision of more advanced e-learning modules on the topics of financial negotiations, digital marketing, product pricing, cash flow management, loan management and e-commerce. The content and multi-channel approach are aligned with global best practices and the financial literacy guidelines established by the Financial Inclusion Department of Bangladesh Bank in 2021. A mix of these channels is key to promote, deliver and evaluate the digital financial literacy modules and should be customized to the target group. In-person channels provide the opportunity to go into more depth with the content, particularly for those with lower financial or digital financial literacy levels or those on the wrong side of the digital divide, while digital channels provide the opportunity to reach scale and offer more flexible models for course completion.

Explore how Anjumanara, Shamim Ara and Didar improved their digital financial literacy.

The partners exceeded the project milestones, reaching more than 200,000 SMBs through a range of delivery channels, including in-person training, SMS, social media, e-learning platforms, landing pages of the e-commerce platforms and WhatsApp groups. The partners also achieved additional success such as partnering with new organizations to reach the target group and more rural areas, leveraging the e-learning content for other projects, and adapting and tailoring the content to entrepreneurs in South Sudan.

These insights provide promising results as to the effects of an e-commerce capacity-building programme with a multi-channel approach for SMBs as they progress along their digital journey and digital transformation. UNCDF can leverage these results to further expand this project or related projects to include a mentorship component with SMBs at a later stage of growth. UNCDF can also leverage the content and project outcomes and adapt them for other niche target segments such as the garment sector or migrant families, testing the hypothesis that integrated learning models leveraging digital channels and customized to the digital and financial literacy levels and internet access of the target segment are more effective. Lastly, UNCDF can work closely with Bangladesh Bank to institutionalize some of these learnings and disseminate them on a broader scale both nationally and regionally.

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