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    Venture Investment Partners Bangladesh (VIPB), Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) and LightCastle Impact (LCI) in association with Business Finance for the Poor in Bangladesh (BFPB) have successfully completed the SMARTCAP program with a Demo Day on February 20, 2019 at BRAC Learning Center, Rangpur. The Demo Day concluded an eventful month-long SMARTCAP Accelerator Program which began on January 21, 2019.

    Roadshows

    With the intent to capacitate Agro-Based MSEs, LightCastle Partners, in association with BFP-B (Business Finance for the Poor-Bangladesh), SFSA (Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture) and VIPB (Venture Investment Partners Bangladesh Limited) as consortium partners under SMARTCAP, conducted 6 roadshows and a boot camp program in Rangpur, Dinajpur and its neighboring sub-districts. The first phase of the program was a 3-day roadshow held from the January 21 to 23, in sub-district villages of Rangpur and Dinajpur. A total of 6 roadshows were conducted in a period of three days by the consortium team to invite people to join the boot camp.

    More than 300 farmers showed up in the road shows and many of them expressed their enthusiasm to join the Boot Camp. The interested farmers were invited and given details about the program by representatives of LightCastle Partners and Syngenta Foundation. The Roadshows were conducted by two teams to reach two locations a day, the teams traveled to Mirganj Haat, Darowani Textile, Paglapir, Kutubpur, Aftabganj and Cheradangi.

    Boot Camp

    On January 24, SMARTCAP Boot camp was held at BRAC Learning Center (BLC) in Darshana, Rangpur. 40+ prospective ag-entrepreneurs came with the enthusiasm to learn about business and its operations. The participants learned about the ways to increase the productivity, division of capital, provision of loans and tactics which would help raise capital and expand their business. Furthermore, they learned the basics of business planning and financing.

    For the second half of the day, participants attended detailed sessions introducing the Farmer’s Hub Model and its projected growth potential. Every aspect of the FH Model was covered to give a holistic view of the entire business process, stake holders involved and methods of acquiring franchisee materials and products.

    The consortium team took key one-on-one interviews with the participants to evaluate them and their business acumen. The Ag-entrepreneurs were also evaluated on their interpersonal skills and business experience. The last session of the day was a question and answer session to clarify any confusions the participants had. Later on, successful farmer’s hub agri-entrepreneurs shared their experience with the FH Model. The day ended with the participants leaving the Boot Camp with fresh ideas and strategies, which would help their future enterprises to succeed, for years to come. The consortium interview panel short listed 28 Ag-entrepreneurs for the 45 day accelerator program scheduled to start from the first week of February.

    As a part of the accelerator program the first residential sessions were held on the first week of February from 4 to 5. Workshops were conducted by industry experts, business consultants, investment advisers and technical experts for providing a holistic knowledge building and experience based learning. The workshops entailed both hands-on practical learning sessions and theoretical lessons. The hands-on learning sessions included:

    • Debate: Participants were divided in two groups and provided with relevant topics to debate on.
    • Critical Thinking: Participants took a MCQ based quiz regarding the topics covered in theoretical sessions.
    • Case Study: A few real life scenarios were presented and the participants were divided into groups of two to solving them by coming up with realistic solutions.
    • Presentation: Participants were asked to present and explain their case study solutions.
    • Leadership: A volleyball match was held among the participants to nurture leadership, team building and people management skills.
    • Technology Adaptation: It discussed the use of mobile application to keep business transaction records.

    Alongside, the theoretical sessions covered the following knowledge areas:

    Figure: Theoretical knowledge building sessions

    Second phase of the residential workshop was held on the 3rd week of February from the 18 to 19 at NGO Forum, Rangpur. During this period, participants mainly learned and practiced how to present their businesses in the form of pitches.  The practice allowed participants to find their flaws and correct them, as well as hone their public speaking and presentation skills.

    The Demo Day of SMARTCAP Investment program season one for Ag-MSEs was held on February 25, 2019 at BRAC Learning Center, Rangpur. An esteemed panel of judges were present to grace the occasion. The panel consisted of representatives from Bangladesh Bank, VIPB, GBK Enterprise, Southeast Bank, NCC Bank, Meghna Bank, SFSA Bangladesh and LightCastle Partners.

    The Demo Day started with a welcome speech from the consortium, followed by introductory speeches from the esteemed dignitaries and judges. The session began with the pitches from the participants. Through pitching, the entrepreneurs described their profile, experience, business plan, current financial solvency, revenue and profit projections and capital requirement. After presenting, each participant faced a Q&A session from the panel and guests, where different queries were asked regarding their business plan and they had to defend their stance.

    In the end, through intensive evaluation 15 out of the 24 Ag-Entrepreneurs were shortlisted to receive Investment from SMARTCAP. The closing ceremony was followed by instructions from the consortium partners regarding the future proceedings of the program.