Bamboo Products

Below is the case study of Oasis Transformation Ltd. in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Project nameOasis Transformation Ltd
LocationNilphamari, Bangladesh
Date case study completedFriday Jan 21st 2011
Contact for more informationDavid How
For more information on this project contact the TBN office at info@tbnetwork.org
Background, purpose and progress to date
What was the problem / opportunity?Nilphamari is an area of chronic poverty, even by Bangladesh standards. It does however grow an abundance of Bamboo on waste / scrub land. There is a growing global market for rapidly renewable materials, including Bamboo. Specifically there is a growing market in the UK, EU and NA for green funerals, and handmade coffins from natural materials fit well into this opportunity.
What is the Project's vision?Over three years:
Directly impact the lives of 50 people through employment. Indirectly impact the lives of a further 250 people through engagement with those directly employed, their communities and families.
The business to be 'carbon positive' Ð i.e through cultivation and management of a bamboo resource base, the projectÕs activities will sequester more CO2 than is released.
Annually produce and export more than 3000 coffins annually, and be financially profitable.
Building a replicable model of profitable enterprise in a remote, poor corner of Bangladesh. Learning lessons on how to make this work, how to measure non-financial returns etc.
How is this vision to be achieved?This is in progress.
A factory unit in Nilphamari Export Processing Zone, and a small village based pre-processing unit. Currently around 30 people are employed. Through NGO partnerships the project will engage in values training and other ÒholisticÓ inputs with staff and their communities.
Training of community members in Bamboo cultivation and management; propagation of Bamboo saplings for ÒadditionÓ in terms of carbon sequestration.
Selling into UK and NL markets, currently negotiating a deal into NA.
What progress has been made to date?Factory unit and staff team is all in place and up and running.
In 2010 we cultivated and distributed around 2000 saplings.
A spluttering start on sales to date - our distribution agreement into the UK has not worked. We have now taken this back in-house, and are in the process of recruiting a Sales and Marketing Manager for the UK. Currently trialling with two major players in the UK coffin market (about 25% between them), and selling into independents also.
When will the project be self funding, i.e. cost covered by earned income?It will be sometime between November 2011 and December 2012 depending on Sales.
Impact
What has been the direct and indirect impact of the project to date?We have not really done much in the way of analysis, so these are estimates:-
Direct impact of more than 40 people (some employment is seasonal), through fair wages, good conditions, values in the workplace etc.
Indirect impact on around 150 to 200 - this is probably quite modest in terms of depth of impact to families and communities.
Specifically, how many FTE jobs have been created or sustained? Currently around 35 Full time, other employment is seasonal
How much direct and indirect investment has been made to date?Direct investment - over 100,000 GBP
Indirect - over the last two years received around the equivalent of 3 person-years of free technical consultancy in Product Design, Legal and Technical Matters.
Lessons learned
What lessons have been learned? What do you know now that you wish you knew at the outset?Key areas of learning;-
Learned about market access, particularly into the UK, particularly how to tackle this when not being based in the UK.
Financial modelling, and putting together a good business case.
Sales, sales, sales!
We would have been wise to have critiqued the plans and reporting of our UK distributor.
Expansion and replication
What are your plans to expand or replicate the project?The plan is to build an outstanding model over the three year period. Following this, possible to replicate into other natural materials (palm, banana, water hyacinth etc.) and other 'storage type products'.
How many FTE jobs do you expect to have been created or sustained in 3 years?Approximately 80 to 100.
What help do you need to achieve your goals?A Technical Consultant to come for between 3 and 12 months, and be based in the area near to the Factory Unit. This would need to be self funded.
Personal Introductions to Funeral Directors in the UK
Could this project be replicated by others elsewhere? What would be needed to do this?We wouldn't want others to compete with us, but there are many principles behind what we are doing which would have a very wide application.
Are there documents to aid replication in the TBN Portal Library?I can look into this, nothing springs to mind at the moment, but I'm sure there will be over time.

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Oasis Transformation Ltd. - Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Oasis Transformation Ltd. – Dhaka, Bangladesh.
oasis transformation 01.2011.pdf

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