Mohima (who goes by one name) was widowed at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, when her husband passed from the virus. As a single mother with two children to raise, she struggled to find employment due to her lack of education. To make a living, she set up a mom and pop shop out of her home.
While opening a business helped with her financial difficulties, it also led to a new set of challenges.
In particular, Mohima needed to simplify her procurement process. It was difficult for her to make trips out to wholesale markets to buy goods with her children in tow, and closing up the store for long hours to make these journeys affected her income.
But then she came across PriyoShop, a B2B marketplace where she could order products from various brands and suppliers via a smartphone app. Through this platform, Mohima can keep replenishing her inventory without needing to leave her shop.
This is the kind of impact that PriyoShop wants to make, revolutionizing the way MSMEs across Bangladesh operate.
“There are an estimated 5 million mom and pop shops in Bangladesh, who serve around 170 million customers across the country. More than 97% of retail transactions are by these small retailers, making up 30% of the country’s overall gross domestic product,” says Asikul Alam Khan, founder and CEO of PriyoShop.
But he also pointed out that microentrepreneurs like Mohima “continue to face a variety of challenges and are often left behind when it comes to digital transformation” even though they contribute significantly to the economy.
According to Khan, many mom and pop shops face similar pains, especially when it comes to their supply chain and inventory. Aside from having to close their shops to get inventory, small-business owners also have to deal with price transparency.
“Some wholesalers charge different prices based on purchase volumes or even personal relationships with buyers,” he shares.
Bangladesh has embraced technology: There were 66.9 million internet users in the country at the start of 2023, and 48% of all mobile customers had smartphones in 2022. But while platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, and YouTube are prominent, many people in the country don’t know how to use their smartphones beyond communication and entertainment, shares Khan.
“There was an opportunity here, and the biggest challenge was educating them on how they can make full use of their smartphones for productivity and efficiency,” he says.
The PriyoShop platform was created in July 2021 with these MSMEs in mind.
Using smartphones as its main point of contact with users, it aims to streamline supply chain processes, benefitting suppliers and mom and pop shops alike. Apart from enabling small businesses to order goods online, PriyoShop’s platform allows suppliers to upload their catalogs and manage stocks and orders all in one place. It also provides logistics services, if needed, to get the goods delivered.
PriyoShop’s solution is available in local languages such as Bengali and can be accessed via major chat and social media platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
“We tried to simplify everything so that they can place orders on the platforms that they are comfortable with,” Khan shares. “In this way, they can quickly become familiar with the solution and its benefits.”
Initially, PriyoShop focused solely on addressing supply chain concerns, but it has branched out after learning about the other pain points of small-business owners.
“Limited capital is an issue they often bring up. In some cases, shops can have high demand but not enough capital to grow their inventory to meet these needs,” says Khan.
To this end, PriyoShop also aims to boost the buying capabilities of small businesses by offering alternative credit scoring solutions.
Owners of mom and pop shops are often unbanked and unable to receive loans from financial institutions or larger banks. Drawing on artificial intelligence and the data it collects from users, PriyoShop provides financial institutions with alternative credit scoring measures for these microentrepreneurs.
This simplifies the entire credit process for small-business owners, enabling them to receive additional funding.
PriyoShop has helped mom and pop shops in Bangladesh grow by a collective 20%, according to Khan.
The platform has also allowed these microbusinesses to build loyal customer bases, driving more wealth. After all, if a shop is always open and has what you need, you’re likely to keep going back.
Looking ahead, PriyoShop – which grew its gross merchandise value and revenue by 12.76% and 11.12% month on month, respectively – is eyeing other markets such as Indonesia and Vietnam.
“When we look at MSMEs in emerging countries, everyone is actually facing the same challenges,” says Khan.
PriyoShop also seeks to address other hurdles standing in the way of small businesses.
The company is preparing to close its pre-series A round in December 2023 and plans to use the funds to fuel even greater expansion within Bangladesh. It also hopes to launch more embedded finance products to provide seamless tech services and value-add for MSMEs, brands, and financial institutions in the country.
One of its future projects would be a point-of-sales system to help small businesses manage inventory and track sales. Enabling inventory management would allow PriyoShop to anticipate the needs of its users. It could also follow their preferred procurement process and support them in improving sales, further streamlining the overall process.
As more microentrepreneurs leverage PriyoShop’s solutions, the company hopes to empower the MSME ecosystem in Bangladesh and beyond.
“We’ve made a great difference to the lives of small-business owners over the last two years,” observes Khan. “At present, we have roughly 40,000 merchants on our platform, and we expect to have a positive impact on over 1 million merchants in the coming year.”
PriyoShop is a B2B marketplace that empowers MSMEs by connecting them directly to suppliers and big brands and leverages technology to fix the fragmented supply chain.
Learn more about how PriyoShop is transforming the MSME sector in Bangladesh here.