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Recently there’s been a boom in urban focused business accelerators mainly in Dhaka. Although a clear indication of progressing entrepreneurship business practices, there’s still a broad spectrum of businesses countrywide with a large chunk of it being SMEs. In order to help build capacity of per-urban and rural SME entrepreneurs, a USAID funded, DAI-AVC implemented, project called Unnoty is initiated with LightCastle providing our expertise in capacity building, entrepreneurship and project implementation.
The Unnoty project is a Peer-to-Peer Accelerator Network Program (P2PAN) that works with high potential target individuals to take their business to the next level. The project aims to figure out the problems they are facing while operating in the market and through various business knowledge, help them solve these issues they face in real life. This project is an initiative of LightCastle Partners, implemented with technical assistance from USAID’s Agricultural Value Chain (AVC) Project and supported by Social Development Committee. We conducted a baseline study followed by a nine-month long intervention program which helped build the capacity of rural entrepreneur participants.
The Unnoty platform has three distinctive features. First is the assimilation of a group of like-minded Traders/ NGOs and foster a sense of trust among its members. Second is the transfer of specialized knowledge and skills (managerial, marketing, financial etc.) in a structured yet palatable way that is well accepted by the group members. And third is the facilitation of forward market linkage and access to finance. Combination of these three features will lead to an enhanced inter-firm cooperation, harnessing production, innovation, and sound management.
LightCastle was crucial in developing the process, creating the necessary content and conducting all the training and knowledge sharing sessions. Our main goal at the end was to attract, unite, mentor and connect businesses with networking and financial resources they need to take ther business to the next level and enhance the overall value chain.
The Unnoty program has been highly impactful in changing the lives and businesses of the participants through its training sessions and forward market linkage. One such life is of Narayan from Gopalganj. Narayan Biswash is one of the senior traders from Boultoli Bazaar of Gopalganj district. He is involved in the groundnut trading business for the last 35 years. Till now he used to sell his products to other large arotders (wholesalers) in the Khulna region. It was almost impossible for him to get access to the large institutional buyers like PRAN, ACI or Bombay Sweets.
Through the Unnoty Program, we arranged a meetup session, a round table discussion, with the traders and representatives from PRAN, ACI Food and Partex Agro (Danish Consumer Food) in their premise. In this session, the traders listened to the product specifications and quality standards required for getting entry to these companies and also exchanged samples with the respective companies. All these firms were impressed by the quality of groundnut found in Boultoli bazar region and promised a factory visit with potential business deals with our Unnoty program participants.
Based on this early success, DAI wants to expand similar models to four more districts in the southern delta. LCP will consolidate the current group and expansion in to the new territories. We will also work with the current participants to brand and market their products in premium markets.