Business/Donor partnership, the best formula for empowering the poor – The Agora case study

The Business/Donor partners working on the Agora SME development project.

Agora established in 2001 with an ultimate aspiration to be the Wal-Mart of the East is an expanding chain of retail outlets in Bangladesh, run by Rahimafrooz Superstores Ltd. Agora now operates 11 outlets, a sourcing and processing centre for commodities and a state of the art distribution centre with 680 employees and 320 suppliers. With an aggressive expansion programme in mind Agora recently migrated to an end to end ERP system powered by SAP and WINCOR NIXDORF.

When Agora started its supermarket [providing food, personal care and household needs] business in 2001, the brand was positioned as the best solution for customers for the purchase of fresh produce [fish, meat, vegetables, fruit and dairy] of high quality at the right price as this was the predominant customer need in the absence of an organized modern trade [supermarket] system. This resulted in Agora investing in cold and chill storage, transport and display facilities. The absence of organized fresh produce supply chain resulted in Agora solely developing fresh produce suppliers. This included training perishable traders who operated in the unorganized wet market on proper sorting, grading, storing &transportation of produce and fundamental disciplines of running a business. We also formed partnerships with farmer associations toward this objective.

As Agora expand, the company realized the need to further build the capacity of small and medium fresh produce suppliers and develop robust supply chains and trading relationships. As Agora was looking for solutions for this important need, a meeting between Ms Parveen Huda of BIF [Business Innovation Facility] and Mr Niaz Rahim of Agora led to the signing of an MOU designed to address Agora’s needs while developing their SME suppliers ensuring the ‘inclusive’ aspect.  The project was funded by DFID, BIF and AGORA and the capacity building expertise was received from one of the world’s leading business consultancies Accenture and PUM from Netherlands.

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Asian Retail – Changing Life Styles

I first attended the Asia Retail Congress in February 2011 where I had the privilege of accompanying the Managing Director of Rahimafrooz Superstores Bangladesh, the operators of the Agora Supermarket Chain to receive the retail excellence award.

I was delighted to be invited to be in the advisory panel of the Asia Retail congress 2012 and to be a speaker as I had lots to share from my experience of making Agora a winning supermarket chain during the last 31 months as the Chief Executive Officer [CEO] of Rahimafrooz Superstores.

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