Seven Bangladeshis have recently been named in the Forbes’ prestigious 30 Under 30 Asia list for their innovations and contributions in bringing about changes amid the global economic crunch. One of them is Diptha Saha. He is cofounder and COO of Agroshift, an agricultural supply chain platform, established in 2022. Agroshift enables businesses to source directly from farmers, reducing costs for consumers and helping farmers to get a fair price. The agritech company won H&M's STITCH for RMG Global Innovation Challenge that works to improve the livelihoods of women in the garment sector. Diptha talks to Prothom Alo about his journey, the challenges he faces and how he made it to Forbes.

You have been selected in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia. Congratulations! Tell us about how you got there.

Over a decade ago, Forbes introduced this category, which features young entrepreneurs who are making a significant impact in shaping global economy. The recognition came as a result of my work in Agroshift, a joint venture I set up along with other two in 2022. Our aim is to connect the most underserved communities in Bangladesh—farmers and factory workers. Through digitisation, we provide affordable groceries to workers and create better market access opportunities for farmers. These efforts have brought substantial positive outcomes on both ends. Forbes acknowledged this endeavour, granting me a spot on their esteemed list.

Tell us about your firm Agroshift.

Agroshift is an agritech, basically building a digital grocery marketplace.Our primary target customer group is the factory workers (mostly RMG factories). In this process the consumers make transaction at a drop-off point located inside the factories.  We aggregate demand from factory workers through our digital platform and deliver within 12-18 hours.

 To cater to the massive demand-pool coming from the factory workers, we have created a micro-logistics network and connected with our network of farmers, traders and processors. Due to our highly optimised supply chain, we can keep wastage minimal and the end consumer pays way less than the traditional retail market.

You were a nine-to-five engineer. What made you pursue the idea of becoming an entrepreneur? What was your a-ha moment?

I was a nine-to-five engineer, but deep down, I always had this feeling that engineering was not my true passion. While I had initially aspired to study at BUET, my commitment to engineering was never wholehearted. There was not any particular moment of truth, rather an ongoing thought or you can say a realization that made it easy for me to explore the path of entrepreneurship.

 However, initially I faced a practical obstacle— money. I was not earning enough to support myself. Eventually I had to take a nine-to-five job as an engineer which was closely related with RMG sectors. During this time, I diligently saved money for six months, and as soon as I had enough saved, I seized the opportunity to embark on my entrepreneurial journey.

Then I started Khamar-e, my first startup building tech-enabled (IoT) products and services to improve the production of dairy farmers. The tech platform eventually served the market linkage purpose for dairy and livestock farmers as well.

In 2022, I started as a co-founder of Agroshift where I blended my two previous work experiences in RMG sector and agriculture.

This second phase of entrepreneurship proved to be successful to some extent, and I never looked back. The decision to quit my job and fully commit to entrepreneurship marked a turning point in my life. It allowed me to pursue my true passion, chase my dreams, and shape my own goal.

What do you find most challenging about being an entrepreneur in Bangladesh?

The foremost challenge of being an entrepreneur in Bangladesh is the conventional thinking and the fear to aspire to accomplish the unimaginable. Our education system and socio-political dynamics tend to confine our thought processes, diminish our ambitions, and limit our goals to easily attainable outcomes. Overcoming these barriers presents the most formidable obstacle for entrepreneurs in Bangladesh.

What is your plan in the future regarding your startup?

Bangladesh has become the home of more than half of the world’s top 100 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified factories across the world. Worker wellness is highly prioritised in these factories by the owners. Agroshift works for a common purpose. We are building our initial market approach by building an agri supply chain around the factory workers and their families in tier 2/3 industrial cities. We eventually want to scale this model across the countries and want to be the most preferred destination for affordable groceries. 

As demand has been growing from the factory channel, Agroshift is building a one stop marketplace for farmers, traders and processors. We want to post fixed demand and price points for the suppliers and eventually that will enable them to get far better outcomes than the traditional market.

You often discuss marketing strategies on social media. Tell us about the marketing obstacles and the relation between marketing and business success…

Bangladesh is a price sensitive consumer market. The income group starting from 10,000 BDT to 30,000 BDT ($100 - $300 in the current exchange rate) is the rising consumer class of Bangladesh. They have access to smartphones and the internet. They are aware of the latest movies, engage with political trends, follow tiktok celebrities and make video calls over messenger/imo.  Most of them have regular income and fixed monthly purchase patterns.

But again, this consumer class is also in a process of graduating from basic needs to upliftment in lifestyle. So, they are very conscious about price, immediate gains and may need initial support while entering into the spectrum of digital economy.

In this market scenario, it will be wrong to associate brand value with marketing efforts. In the market where we play, brand value comes with product and pricing; marketing becomes secondary. This is my understanding about this market.

What has been your most significant achievement so far?

My most significant achievement thus far has been the pursuit of my entrepreneurial goals focused on creating a profound impact on the lives of the masses. This is not something that can be accomplished overnight; it is a continuous process of growth. Along my entrepreneurial journey, I have encountered numerous instances where I felt that I was getting closer to my ultimate objective.

 One notable achievement is witnessing people consistently allocating a significant portion of their income on our platform and thus I could be of help in enabling them to make savings.

 When an RMG worker saves even just five per cent of their salary, those savings can be transformed into expenditure on nutrition and education for their children. It is immensely fulfilling to know that my work directly influences the lives of numerous individuals, bringing about positive changes. There is no greater significance than this, as it impacts the well-being of the masses in a tangible way.

Do you have any suggestions for young entrepreneurs?

Two self-contradictory life lessons, that really works for me

Never stop hustling.

Hustle never scales, playbook does.

 Problem is without hustling, nobody finds their playbook.

Thank you, Diptha

Thank you, too