Venture Investment Partners Bangladesh (VIPB), Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) and LightCastle Partners have signed an agreement with Business Finance for the Poor in Bangladesh (BFP-B) and formed a consortium to develop a Smart Capital Investment Program to create Farmers’ Hubs, provide business development support via accelerator programs and risk capital. The initiative will help Ag-MSEs become fully investable growth businesses. The program estimates value chain development of 10,000+ small holder farmers and 60+ MSEs over a period of two years. The program will have four cycles in which every cycle will consist of a Roadshow, Boot camp, Accelerator Program and Demo Day.
The first phase of the event was a 2-day Roadshow held on 29 July in villages in the Joldhaka sub-district of Rangpur. Where approximately 350 farmers and ag-entrepreneurs participated.
After much preparation; on the 1st of August, “Smart Investment Boot Camp” was held by LightCastle, in association with BFP-B, Syngenta Foundation and VIPB at RDRS Guest House in Rangpur. The event saw more than 80 farmers come with a noticeable enthusiasm to learn. Discussions about the ways to increase the productivity, division of capital, provision of loans and tactics which would help raise income; were the prime areas the farmers looked forward to.
Syngenta Foundation along with the LightCastle, BFPB and VIPB, held key one-on-one interviews with the participants to help shape their business models into a more maintainable and fruitful one. The interview panel short listed 25 Ag-entrepreneurs for the 45 days accelerator program.
The top 25, who were invited to partake in the accelerator program held on the 26 September, 2018 at BRAC Learning Center, Rangpur. The daylong event was inaugurated by Mr. Bijon Islam, CEO of LightCastle where he welcomed the participants and gave a short speech on the importance of such an impact investment program and encouraged them to make the most of the program. The session continued with Ms. Shamira Mostafa, Challenge Fund Co-coordinator for BFP-B, speaking briefly about SMARTCAP Investment and her role in helping the farmers in making smart decisions when it comes to managing capital. The second phase of the event was run by Mr. Zia Uddin Ahmed, Chairman of VIPB, who spoke about Impact Investment to the farmers and its prospect in helping them reach their potential and expand their enterprises.
The ending key session was conducted by Mr. Farhad Zamil, Country Director, SFSA Bangladesh who introduced the farmers to the Farmers’ Hub Model. It is an innovative model which has a rich history in the agricultural scenario of Bangladesh. Mr. Farhad spoke about how the project has positively touched lives of thousands of regional farmers and other agricultural players in the value chain and helped them reach sustainability along with scalability. Activities like case study solving were conducted to enhance the analytical abilities of the participants. As a part of the accelerator program the first residential sessions were held on the third week of October from the 14 to 16. Workshops were conducted by industry experts, business consultants, investment advisers and technical experts for providing a holistic knowledge building and experience based learning.
The Demo Day of SmartCap Investment program season one for Ag-MSEs was held on 23 October, 2018 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, Truvalu.enterprises, Southeast Bank, NCC Bank, Meghna Bank, SFSA Bangladesh & LightCastle.The session began with 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. At the end of the evaluation of 25 Ag-entrepreneurs 15 were short listed to receive Investment from SmartCap.