Knocked Down, but Up Again: The Case of Female Online Entrepreneurs in Bangladesh

The world has now been living with COVID-19 for months. This crisis has been affecting every aspect of human life, from daily life to the global economy. Small businesses are among the most affected sectors of the economy. In developing countries like Bangladesh, small businesses, mostly informal, are emerging using online media. This research aimed to understand how online entrepreneurs respond to shocks such as COVID-19. We purposively selected small online businesses owned by women mostly in the informal sector, not large e-commerce sites. In the first round of the survey, we focused solely on the businesses of these entrepreneurs. Published as a research brief in May 2020, our research on “How Resilient are Female Online Entrepreneurs? Learning From the COVID-19 Shock” shows that the entrepreneurs of online informal businesses are mostly women and well-educated. In a follow-up survey in May-June 2020, we tracked the same 122 female entrepreneurs to see how they had fared after our first round. From our two rounds of the survey, we see that a number of businesses have closed down temporarily. Between April and June, 24% of our sample online businesses were closed, 27% had restarted their operation after a temporary shutdown, and nearly half (49%) of the respondents had been able to continue their operations during this time of crisis.

Authors: Rabbani, Mehnaz; Zahan, Iffat; Matin, Maria
Policy Brief