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PRAN Foods Ltd

PRAN: Pride of Bangladesh in Agro-processing Sector

Pooja Thakkar

PRAN has blossomed into a leading Food and Beverage Brand in Bangladesh under the inspiring leadership of a former Army General
PRAN: Pride of Bangladesh in Agro-processing Sector

The third floor of PRAN-RFL Center, the corporate headquarters of PRAN-RFL Group, is a beehive of activity all day, with employees brainstorming ideas for innovative food products and colourful packaging which entice customers at a glance. Bright designs fill the computer screens. The latest food product being designed is noodles -- a new item among more than 200 PRAN’s food products.

VISION OF MAJOR GENERAL AMJAD KHAN CHOWDHURY, THE SOUL OF PRAN:

Ten years ago the Intermediate Technology Development Group, an NGO promoting food processing as an income generating activity for poor people, held a training course and as a venue used the garage of a retired army Major General. So inspired was the Major, that he set up a food processing business selling snack foods now known as Pran Foods which is one of the biggest Companies in Bangladesh today with a turnover in the millions of dollars.

The Major General was none other than Mr. Amjad Khan Chowdhury who is now the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of PRAN-RFL Group. PRAN stands for Programme for Rural Advancement Nationally and has become Bangladesh’s largest grower and processor of fruits and vegetables. For Mr. Chowdhury, now a leading businessman, the beginning was far from smooth. He tried his luck in different sectors ranging from real estate to manufacturing of foundry items, after retiring from Bangladesh Army in 1981. But none of them paid him the best yields. This did not discourage Mr. Chowdhury to start a new business. “I observed that there was a huge gap between supply and demand in agro-processing business in Bangladesh. So I decided to start the entrepreneurial journey in agro-processing business,” said Mr. Chowdhury.

 In 1985, Mr. Chowdhury, leased six acres of land in Narsingdhi, east of Dhaka to serve farmers and market its Farm produce. Initially, the company cultivated papaya, banana, pineapple. But Mr. Chowdhury soon realized that a good harvest often did not mean a fair price due to gluts in the market. So he set up his own agro-processing plant in Narsingdhi with a canning & bottling line. He began with sliced pineapples in canned form, and gradually came out with mango drinks, jams and jellies, with a plan to cater to both domestic and foreign consumers. To learn the business of preservation and processing, Mr. Chowdhury travelled to Thailand, Taiwan, India, Pakistan and the US.

"That was the turning point in my life," said the inspiring businessman who bet on Bangladesh's comparative advantage in tropical climate, fertile soil and ample sunshine. A small idea in agro-processing business has made Mr. Chowdhury an employer of more than 30,000 people directly and 64,000 farmers countrywide.

Born on November 14, 1940 in Natore, Mr. Chowdhury studied at St Gregory's School in Old Dhaka. After his secondary education, he joined the Pakistan Army. He is best described as an entrepreneur and a hands-on manager. Blending the objectives of achieving social values together with pecuniary advantage and creating jobs in Bangladesh’s impoverished rural environment through financially profitable enterprises is his mission in life. On June 25, 2011 Mr. Chowdhury won the Business Person of the Year award by HDL & the Daily Star – the largest circulated English dailies in the country and has also been elected as the President of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dhaka (MCCI) whichis one of the oldest, leading  and prestigious organization of the  country.

ESTABLISHMENT OF  PRAN

PRAN was established in 1985 to create wealth by adding value to farm produce, and generate employment and income in rural areas. “Still now farmers are the principal beneficiaries of our group,” says Mr. Kamal Kamruzzaman, Director Marketing at Pran Foods.

PRAN is one of the leading food and beverage producers in Bangladesh. The company produces a wide range of products, which can be categorized into six broad categories:

  • Juice
  • Drinks
  • Culinary products
  • Confectionery
  • Dairy
  • Snacks

The Company has been contract farming in rice, pulses and tomatoes. They have been very successful in producing aromatic rice, which has captured a good market overseas.

Pran Food’s contract growers cultivate the choicest fruits and vegetables, which are processed in their modern and hygienic factories to highest quality & international standards. The Company has the distinction of achieving prestigious certificate like ISO 9001:2000 and being the largest exporter of processed agro products to more than 77 countries with the compliance of HALAL & HACCP.

PRAN FOODS' CURRENT PROJECTS

The Company is planning to set up food processing plants in Tamil Nadu, Tripura and Orissa. It is in advanced stages in setting up the Tripura agro processing plant with an investment of US$ 5 million.

Lately, Pran Foods is focusing on its Dairy business. “Currently we are very strong player in Juices, drinks, Snacks, Culinary & Confectionery. Dairy industry is one of the best suited sectors for the generation of employment and thus ameliorating poverty in rural areas of Bangladesh providing jobs to the whole family, including men, women & children alike. It is a most profitable occupation too as no part of the bovine is wasted live or dead,” said Mr. Kamruzzaman.

PRAN is a dominant player in the local market, but its achievements have been more spectacular in the international market place. “We will be focusing more on export markets in days to come,” added Mr. Kamruzzaman. Mr. Chowdhury however has plans to retire from the group and hand over the stewardship to his sons once the Dairy becomes a market leader.

PRAN’s STRENGTHS

PRAN is a Concept: a way to fight poverty and hunger in Bangladesh in the shortest possible of time through employment generation.

PRAN has made significant investments in agro processing. The Company aims at creating demands for farms produce which will create jobs in rural areas and preventing urban migration.

  • Product quality- PRAN is the first and only food processing company in Bangladesh to earn the prestigious distinction ISO 9001 certificate. This supreme certification ensures that PRAN products reach the consumer maintaining the height level of quality.
  • Customer Satisfaction-Good Quality Products of international standard conforming to local tastes, health & hygienic standards. Affordable prices within the reach of target consumers.
  • PRAN Food Products areavailable everywhere all the time.
  • Good management.
  • Skillful and trained employees.
  • Good promotional activities

PRAN’s SINCERITY AND HAPPY CUSTOMERS

PRAN is the largest food company in Bangladesh & intends to be the number one in Asian countries. “To get there we are trying to add value in every thing we do.  Putting extreme focus on innovation & upgrading of our management to cope up with the changing circumstances & grow.  We are also putting special focus on export markets and getting organized in major markets understanding the local needs,” said Mr. Kamruzzaman.

Though situated in Bangladesh PRAN GROUP has to keep a close look at the social and cultural changes of other countries since the Company’s customers are based across the globe. The Company uses the same business and management strategy nationally and internationally and exports all its products under the same brand name. Economic environment is the most important of all that the organization has to deal with. As it is an export type organization Pran Foods has to monitor the economic situations of Bangladesh and the other countries where it exports its products. It takes care of elements like inflation rate, gross domestic product, unemployment rate, value of local currency against foreign currency etc. The Company believes that export of foods and agricultural items are bright hope of light for Bangladesh’s economy.

Since PRAN’s Food products are widely available and highly affordable, they have large production base and effective distribution channels. Company has appointed Sales force all over the Country. Each department has their own decision making power at the most lower level. So their organization structure is highly decentralized. The Company identifies needs and wants of the target market and delivers the desired products better than its competitors. They always try to reduce production and distribution costs so that they can offer products at affordable prices.

PRAN AND ITS PEOPLE

PRAN recruits through out the year. It randomly uses Internet for advertising, press national and international press media the vacancies for all departments which helps them to attract people from all over the country.

  • Leaders are positive role models, not ‘Do-as-I-say’ authority figures.
  • The organization’s belief system is reinforced through frequently shared storied, myths, and legends.
  • Managers stay visible and personally involved in all areas through active, informal communication.
  • Personal values are discussed openly, not buried.
  • Emphasis is on internal growth, not mergers.
  • Headquarters staff is kept small; talent is pushed out to the field.
  • Personnel are driven to get obsessed to achieve Customer Satisfaction.

GOOD TIMES AHEAD

Today PRAN has become themost well known name among the millions of people in Bangladesh and abroad.

Mr. Chowdhury said, he had a dream that the produce of Bangladesh's poor farmers would one day be relished on the dining tables of the families spread across the world. "That dream has been fulfilled," he said. "Whether it is chinigura rice, spices, mango drinks or snacks, the 'Made in Bangladesh' label is like the flag of Bangladesh, and it is going tomore than 77 countries in the world. I feel very proud of it. Good days are ahead,” he happily remarks.

 

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