In the history of development, bridges have always played an important role. Back in the early 19th century when the wind of change, widely known as the industrial revolution, reached the USA, among the many big things that were changing peoples’ lives were bridges. From 1820 to 1830, in only 10 years, America built around 65 bridges across the country. Not only America, the whole world has seen bridges changing lives of millions.
So what makes a bridge so special? The answer is clearly very simple. Yes, it connects. It reduces distance. From a very hypothetical perspective, it connects two points between which there is a gap. Whenever there is a gap, a bridge is needed to be built- be it a bridge to solve a gap from our personal lives or a bridge to solve a gap which is a national issue.
Now that we are talking about gaps, one of the biggest gaps at the business scenario in Bangladesh is the gap between the small and medium businesses in the agricultural sector and institutional buyers. These agricultural Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) make a huge contribution to the economy and hold enormous potential, but due to the lack of formal business training, access to finance and most importantly, platforms to connect to the forward markets, these businesses are not performing up to their potential. There remains a gap which needs to be bridged.
That is where Unnoty comes into the scene, a program aiming to become a bridge between the agricultural SMBs and the private sector. The objective of the program is to work as a platform for the entrepreneurs in agricultural SMBs and the institutional buyers looking for new sources of purchase. Unnoty, a program, currently working with selected group of agricultural traders/entrepreneurs from the southern belt of the country has worked with 57 of them in Gopalganj and Faridpur. In the first six months of the program, the participating entrepreneurs have successfully gained more than 120 new local customers. The key activities of Unnoty include attracting and uniting the high potential entrepreneurs, connecting them to the institutional buyers and exporters, capacity building of the entrepreneurs through formal training and getting them prepared for operating in the forward market, helping them to form partnership with financial institutions etc. To recapitulate, Unnoty, as a platform, aims to become a one stop solution for the entrepreneurs looking for a place in the forward market and institutional buyers looking for a strong and reliable source of purchase. As part of the program, Unnoty has given these entrepreneurs the opportunity to meet the large institutional buyers like PRAN, ACI Foods, Partex Agro (Danish Consumer Foods), Saint Martin Group and many more. The buyers were glad to have new potential sources of purchasing and needless to say, the traders were enthusiastic about the golden opportunity to have new customers. Unnoty has a plan to spread operations across the country and contribute to Bangladesh’s agricultural value chain from the bottom to the top. This program is now on its way to go bigger in Faridpur, Gopalganj, Shariatpur, Madaripur, Jessore, Bhola and Patuakhali.
All of these activities and plans will not create value if they do not make an impact. Unnoty, as a platform has started to make impact in this short span of time and hence, has transformed lives through providing opportunities. Narayan Biswas, a veteran ground nut trader from Gopalganj, has found the opportunity to have large institutional buyers as his customer for the first time in his 35 years of business. In a meet up session between traders and agro processing conglomerates arranged by Unnoty, Narayan had the opportunity to show his product samples to the company representatives and they were satisfied with the quality. This has become a big opportunity for Narayan to take his business to the next level. On the other hand, the success story of Shamsul Haque is a little different. This seasoned jute trader from Faridpur came to know about product diversification from a training session organized by Unnoty. This triggered a willingness in him to expand his product portfolio. With a loan from the bank, he has set up a JDP (Jute Diversified Product) factory with a plan to make jute bags and sell it to the local market. Currently, he is in the final stage of negotiation with the bank so that he can buy machineries. Unnoty has helped him set sail to his new entrepreneurial journey.
Just like this, Unnoty plans to create more success stories and make an impact. The impact it envisages is a robust agricultural sector with highly performing agro businesses and farmers getting benefitted along with the other actors in the overall value chain. Having access to more than 87,000 farmers through agro product traders around the country, Unnoty aims to become the bridge in every gap of the country’s agricultural value chain; because the bridges can bring changes, even if they are hypothetical.