Bangladesh's 64 districts and each of them has something special to offer. There are several aspects to this distinctiveness including culture, language, sports, design and more. Add to that, every district has some famous local cuisines that have a country-wide demand. For instance, Shahi Doi of Bogra or ChomChom of Tangail, or Chanamukhi of Brahmanbaria and you can keep going for a while until coming close to the end of the list. In Dhaka, demand for these food products is more consistent.
Until recently, despite the huge popularity, it was not easy to get these products, given the distributed nature of them, which prevented many from experiencing delicious. You either had to go to Comilla or send someone to get a packet of ChomChom, a hassle often infeasible for even the most ardent food lover. But not anymore.
Proshiddho, an online retailer that collects famous food products, particularly sweetmeats, from original producers from all across the country, now delivers your favorite food products from any part of the country to your doorsteps. Your favorite Shahi Doi of Bogra, ChomChom of Tangail, Chanamukhi of Brahmanbaria are just a click or a phone call away from you.
Founded by Masud Al Hasan, Proshiddho launched in January 2015. Initially, it started small and only covered Motijheel area, mostly corporate offices. Gradually, the startup managed to build a recurring customers base and steady monthly sales. After almost two years and a lot of ups and downs, it is now on a high growth trajectory and is in the process of raising its first round of investment from a local VC.
We recently spoke to Masud about the ambition of Proshiddho, challenges and future plans. Here is a short version of our conversation. You may read a longer version of the interview here.
2014, Understanding the business. Before launching Proshiddho, Masud and his co-founders conducted an extensive experiment for a period of almost a year between early 2014 and late 2014. During this period, they established contact with famous food manufacturers across the country, tested products to understand how to manage quality and studied other similar initiatives.
“We realized early on that if you want to succeed in any business, you should have a deep domain knowledge and understand the nitty-gritty of your industry,” Masud tells FS. “If you don’t know much about your product and don’t understand your business deeply then your chance of success will reduce dramatically.” after much trial, Proshiddho launched in January 2015.
January 2015, launch. Initially, Proshiddho only covered Motijheel area, mostly corporate offices, where, using references, Masud used to sell sweetmeat, yogurt to officials after lunch in order to build awareness of his products. After doing this for a while, he started to receive consistent orders from a set of customers that continued to grow. Within the next few months, the business became stable with a consistent predictable monthly revenue.
Process. Proshiddho does not rely on any third party partner for food collection. It directly works with manufacturers/producers with whom it maintains professional relationships. However, it does not have any exclusive agreement with any of its suppliers.
2017, Status. Proshiddho now offers over 21 products, mostly sweetmeats. It has recently started to add more products to the list, for instance, honey. It currently maintains a team of 12 people and serves over 35 orders per day.
Model. Model-wise, Proshiddho is not a marketplace, rather an online store is more appropriate for it. It manages everything starting from product sourcing to inventory management to logistics.
Distribution. Proshiddho has a website as well as mobile apps. You can either order through its website or mobile apps or Facebook page or you can just call and place an order and get your favorite food delivered. However, most of its orders come through over the phones.
Growth and retention. Masud claims that his company has been growing consistently over the past six months, almost daily. “Retention is one of our key growth strategies,” Masud tells FS. “We believe that we are in a relationship business and it is important that we maintain a long-term relationship with our customers.” He claims they have almost 90% retention rate.
Going forward, Proshiddho aims to be the destination where you could buy all the famous and best heritage products from all over the country such as Khirsha of Bogra, ChomChom of Tangail, Kheer of Matlab and more. This is a fascinating idea but, apparently, it should prove a challenging ambition.
One clear challenge for Proshiddho is the lack of a sustainable competitive advantage, given that it does not have any exclusive contract with any of the producers it works with. This can allow any competitor with a deeper pocket to blow up its business.
Masud seems unfazed by either of these challenges, “we are obsessed with ensuring best possible customer service. We don’t merely want to be the best service providing company, we work hard to make it happen. Ensuring authenticity and quality are our obsessions. The products we sell are made by the producers we claim they are made by and that is it.” Masud tells FS that he considers customer service to be the defining factor in his business and he wants to be the best in customer service.