The COVID-19 pandemic outlined the beginning of a new era in entrepreneurship. The crisis has taught us that traditional business strategies may not work in the future, rather look into new ways of doing business (e.g., through online platforms).

The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic was sudden and upsetting in every area of the world. On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Covid-19 outbreak as a global pandemic because of its devastating impact on the countries all over the world and their economies as well. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, not only the business enterprises but also the people’s livelihoods around the world have been disrupted. Entrepreneurs over the world have to face major problems including low demand for products or services (particularly, non-essential products), fall in sales, interrupted distribution channels, countrywide lockdown, and so on. The COVID-19 crisis is universal and has affected everybody around the world, particularly those on middle incomes are estimated to suffer the worst income loss. The reduced incomes have shocking impacts on the well-being of most of the families.  Families have been forced to compromise food habits (i.e., decreasing food consumption) which may lead to cause permanent damage to children’s health and, eventually, human capital development and future prospects.

Like other countries around the world, the COVID-19 crisis has significantly affected the economic activity, individual lifestyles, social interactions, and government policies in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, the business operations of the entrepreneurs have been adversely affected owing to the Covid-19 outbreak. Start-ups and small organizations are among the most affected in the country. During the pandemic period, some business enterprises such as tourism operators, restaurants, and movie theatres have been forced to stop their work completely. The difficulties that the entrepreneurs of Bangladesh have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic are shortages of imported raw materials, interruption of the production process, decrease in customers’ demand owing to fall in income level, disruption in the delivery system, and so on. Because of the Covid-19 crisis, the business enterprises (e.g., RMG sector) of Bangladesh have been experiencing problems with importing raw materials from China on one side, and on another side, a severe fall in demand in major export countries owing to the extensive closure of retail shops. A good number of entrepreneurs have experienced a drastic fall in revenue, thereby threatening their survival. Even, some entrepreneurs have been forced to close down their operations due to high losses. Women entrepreneurs are, in particular, in a vulnerable position compared to male entrepreneurs during the crisis. Their increased duties for children due to school closure and the healthcare demand for the family members have set difficulties in some cases. 

In this world, entrepreneurship is constantly subject to change, mostly because of external factors of the business. The COVID-19 pandemic outlined the beginning of a new era in entrepreneurship. The crisis has taught us that traditional business strategies may not work in the future, rather look into new ways of doing business (e.g., through online platforms).  The entrepreneurs of Bangladesh are trying to adjust to the “new normal” where traditional thinking may not work or give fruitful results. To survive or sustain in the business, the entrepreneurs of Bangladesh have to think in different ways. Though the COVID-19 outbreak has created unprecedented challenges for the entrepreneurs, it also brings new opportunities for them as well. The Covid-19 outbreak has created good opportunities and opened new doors for the entrepreneurs of Bangladesh to flourish. During the Covid-19 crisis, it has been observed some changes in the customers’ behavior in purchasing products or services than before. They try to avoid social distances and prefer to give orders through online than going to the shopping malls.  The uncertain future prospects have forced entrepreneurs to adjust to new attitudes, regulations, behaviors, and thinking, the decision no longer being an option, but rather a necessity for survival. The actions undertaken by the entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 outbreak may certainly result in improving existing businesses, developing new business models, or even letting go of business models that have proven ineffective in the new context. Digital capabilities and the adoption of digital technologies more swiftly and efficiently may enable entrepreneurs to respond to the customers’ demands. Also, the adoption of digital tools may help them to develop strategic, managerial, and digital skills, thereby increasing their efficiency. Entrepreneurs of Bangladesh need to adopt effective digital business model which may allow customers to buy and sell wide variations of products over the internet platforms, which, in turn, significantly contributes to the advancement of businesses beyond the country’s boundaries. Digital skills may not only help to interact with the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic, social, demographic, and environmental tensions but also assist to reconfigure the production and service systems. This reconfiguration of present skills and implementation of digital skills may bring positive impact on the country’s employment trends, and economic prosperity, perhaps even long after the crisis is over. 

Entrepreneurship in the post-pandemic world will further blend with the digital economy. This may result in selling products through digital platforms, relying on social networking media (e.g., Facebook, WhatsApp) for marketing, and so on. How much the entrepreneurs of Bangladesh are ready to adopt digital technology and enhance digital skills, is a matter of fact. Entrepreneurs may need to use peers in online communities in order to develop opportunities, find collaborators, and get assistance with problems. The point is that in the past while entrepreneurs have often physically worked side by side to develop their business locally, in the future such bounds may not work. One can start a business in Bangladesh, work with a programmer in India, find a marketing specialist in Paris, and sell the product through a digital platform.  

In order to support women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh, particularly, special desks should be established by Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA); training on how to use digital banking tools and apply for loans; and training on digital supply chain systems should be organized. Tax incentives/tax exemptions for products and services produced by women entrepreneurs should be increased in order to develop their market competitiveness. Governments, banks, and other related bodies should work together for increasing the capacities and skills of women entrepreneurs in using digital technology. In addition, banks can introduce new effective tools to ensure loan disbursement to the needy but efficient entrepreneurs. They can offer loans by using mobile phones in order to increase access to finance.

About the writer

Sayed Farrukh Ahmed is presently working as Assistant Professor of Department of Business Administration, Daffodil International University, Bangladesh.  He had been enrolled in PhD program under the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) of Jahangirnagar University during the session of 2015-16.