“We Want To Open 300 Outlets By 2020”: Inside Rasel’s Food Revolution
After completing his BBA, Md. Rasel-Uz-Zaman realized that his hard-earned degree from one of the Dhaka’s expensive private universities’ could at best earn him an entry level job. He knew he couldn’t be content working in a private company and earning Tk 20,000 per month. He had much bigger dreams and the passion for pursuing it.
Brushing aside all his doubts and overcoming the obstacles that a young man faces in a country with a high unemployment rate like Bangladesh, Rasel is now a successful entrepreneur.
Today Rasel’s company Rowza Pure Foods has nine outlets spread throughout Dhaka city providing people with the finest organic products collected from some of the remotest parts of Bangladesh and employs more than fifty people.
Finding your calling
After several years of trying his luck in the garment supply business and losing a good amount of money, Rasel realized that these already saturated spaces will not give him the career growth he had always dreamt of.
Rasel’s father used to run a limited scale small operation of honey-business at that time. Rasel, eventually, decided to give it a try. “The business was small, but it was doing well,” says Rasel. “So I thought giving it a try and scale.”
With a basic idea of the operations and his renewed plan, Rasel wanted to take it further. With that idea in mind, Rasel went back to his village in Bagerhat and set about starting his own journey. First, he sat with the honey collectors who collect honey from the artificial and natural beehives all across the Sundarbans, then build a business around it. His idea was to buy the honey from them and resell the pure honey from Sundarbans in Dhaka which is highly prized by the food-loving Dhakaites.
In 2014 he took a small loan from a couple of his friends and engaged himself full time into the business. As he started to work full time, his business also started to grow. Within a year, Rasel had sold 12 tons of honey. Seeing the rapid growth, he started to add more products.
Growth and pain
Once business started growing rapidly, capital to manage the growth became a big problem. “I started my business from the scratch. So, managing the fund to buy more honey and other products from the growers and collectors was the biggest challenge for me,” says Rasel. These were desperate days for Rasel.
After much hustle, he got to know about IDLC SME Loan from an IDLC relationship manager. “Luckily, I came to know about IDLC and managed to get an SME loan,” says Rasel. “Their speedy management system and quick response to interested entrepreneurs helped me to fund my business with an adequate amount of loan at the right time” he adds.
While managing funds for his business, Rasel also engaged his family members in his business. He made his mother the chairman of his newly formed private limited company and wife the CEO who both shared fifty-two percent of his new enterprise. His younger brother also took up a key role in the business by managing the supply chain. Thus by involving his family members, Rasel intelligently ensures maximum sincerity and transparency in his workforce.
On the other hand, with funds available in his hands Rasel decided to expand his business. From the dairy farmers, cultivators and even from the housewives, Rasel started to collect top quality ghee (clarified butter), spices, processed fruits and pickles which he then sells to Dhaka’s grocery shops at a profitable rate.
Demand for Rasel’s quality products started to rise and Rasel found that he had somehow managed to come a long way into achieving his dreams. While he prospered it was also important for him to ensure a better livelihood for hundreds of growers and housewives in his village. Then he bought a piece of land to establish his factory at Keraniganj and employed some workers to supply his goods to the shops all over Dhaka.
Hard things about hard thing
In business and life, the only certain thing is uncertainty. The moment you start feeling that your future is secured and you a have straightway ahead, your demise will begin. While everything was going well and Rowza was growing steadily, Rasel came to face one of the most unexpected and toughest challenges that almost threatened to put him out of business. Out of nowhere, Rasel found that grocery shops that used to buy his products were rejecting all of his products and refusing to sell them moving forward.
“It was a mortal blow for me,” says Rasel. “I faced many challenges before but this one was different. This one was devastating and took a toll on my personal life. I could not find a reason for such incident because our products were selling well and customers and shops, both were happy. For days, I could not sleep at night during those days.”
Rasel started to dig deeper to understand the reason behind. Then after days of investigation he found out the actual reason: it was the syndicate of the giant conglomerates who convinced the shop owners to not to sell products of Rowza Foods. If anyone of them accepted products from Rowza such as honey, or oils, the representatives of those large companies stopped supplying all of their products like flour, vegetable oils and other daily necessities which Rasel could not provide. As a result, Rasel’s buyers in Dhaka were almost forced to reject his products despite the high demands from the customers.
“My future plan is to establish 300 outlets all over Dhaka by 2020 so that Dhakaites can get the taste of pure food products.” It took Rasel only two years to go from one small outlet in Mohammadpur to nine outlets. “My first product was honey. Most people in Dhaka think that it is impossible to find pure honey in this city. However, I wanted to show that with honesty it is possible to change this notion and it is possible to earn a fortune by doing business honestly.”Rasel
While this was a huge challenge for Rasel, it was also an important learning curve for him. It has pushed him to think differently and motivated to take a big leap, opening his own outlets, that eventually led to the exponential growth of his business. “ I had to find a way out,” says Rasel. “After much thought and discussion with my team, we decided to open our own outlets in Dhaka. I invested all my capital and took loans from all the available sources to establish my first outlet outside Mohammadpur.”
Rasel launched his first two outlets, apart from their Mohammadpur one, in Shyamoli and Dhanmondi. It was a huge risk and it dried up his bank accounts. “I poured so much of my strength and capital into these two outlets that I had nothing left to make advertisements for my products,” says Rasel.
Fortunately for Rasel, his gamble started to pay off. Although Rowza Foods carried a more expensive label, its fine quality and purity started to attract (and still attracts) a lot of customers and soon the customers began to spread the word about his products. Thus, after a brief decline, kudos to Rasel’s confidence and integrity, he resurfaced with his own outlet and with greater strength.
Increasing demand for his products has enabled this young entrepreneur to establish nine outlets in different parts of Dhaka within just two years. Currently, his outlets are also offering rare ingredients of herbal medicines, spices, oils and gourmet products which can be found nowhere else in the common markets.
A solid today and an ambitious tomorrow
In its 3 years of solid operation, Rowza Pure Foods has become known for its high-quality pure food products. Today the company brings in about BDT 7 million in monthly revenue, employs over 50 people and has its own manufacturing facility. 80% of its customers are returning customers and Rasel claims each of his existing customers are the ones to bring new customers regularly.
“My future plan is to establish 300 outlets all over Dhaka by 2020 so that Dhakaites can get the taste of pure food products.” It took Rasel only two years to go from one small outlet in Mohammadpur to nine outlets. “My first product was honey. Most people in Dhaka think that it is impossible to find pure honey in this city. However, I wanted to show that with honesty it is possible to change this notion and it is possible to earn a fortune by doing business honestly.”
Rowza Pure Foods today offers 40 different products and plans to add more variety in the coming days. Rasel says, he is more interested in products that big companies are not selling yet and are hard to get.
There is a growing demand for fresh and pure foods in the market. Food adulteration problem has driven up the demand for organic and unadulterated foods. Excessive use of pesticides and chemicals has become a matter of major public concern. Rasel aims to contribute to solving this problem at scale with pure niche food products and building up his own distribution channel.
There are people who pursue too many things at once. That’s a dangerous habit. You have to be determined and focused, you can’t do many things at once. The secret to my success is that I have been sincere and focused throughout these years.Rasel
For Rasel, building a successful business boils down to a couple of things: honesty, integrity, and focus.
“The principle to be a successful businessman is integrity, confidence, and honesty. I was confident and ready to sacrifice everything for my business,” says Rasel.
“There are people who pursue too many things at once. That’s a dangerous habit. You have to be determined and focused, you can’t do many things at once. The secret to my success is that I have been sincere and focused throughout these years,” adds Rasel.
Interview by Ruhul Kader, Story by Shahnawaz Khan