Handy coconuts

Ahmed Shatil Alam writes about the IT professional who left a lucrative job to start his own coconut-selling business

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After finishing his graduation from the Computer Science and Engineering department of a private university in Dhaka, Rakibul Islam joined an Information Technology (IT) firm at a lucrative salary. Although it was not his dream job, he was happy with it. But fate had something else planned for him as a few months after starting his job, he had to quit it to initiate an agro-based entrepreneurship.

Rakibul began selling coconut water. After two months, he successfully earned one and half lakh takas.

But he is not selling his products in the conventional way. He made a machine that chops the green coconuts, conveniently. ‘In Bangladesh, a huge demand is prevailing for green coconut but due to it’s size and weight often this natural drink cannot be seen in the restaurants or other food zones,’ says Rakibul.

With an aim to make the natural drink more popular, Rakibul started his agro based company Cococool, just a few months back.

While talking to New Age Xtra, he shares that the demand of green coconuts in Dhaka city alone is around 50 to 70 thousands daily. ‘But in most cases people have to buy whole green coconut and find difficulties in chopping and then drinking the water or meat from the coconut,’ he says. He has made a chopping machine which can make a green coconut 40 percent lighter and easy to carry.

The idea for the machine came to him in 2016, when he went on an official visit to Thailand. There he saw that most green coconuts were sold after chopping. ‘During my visit, I saw Thais manually chopping the green coconuts and then selling them to the consumers.’ After returning home, Rakibul planned to make a chopping machine that can yield better results than the Thais’.

He sought help from a friend with a mechanical engineering background named Shahriar Parvez and started making the machine in June of 2016. After several trial and errors in June of this year, they successfully made the prototype which is three inches in width and two inches long at a cost of Taka 11 lakh. The rectangular shaped machine can chop more than 50 coconuts in benzene shape per hour.

‘All we need to do is to place coconuts on the base of the machine and then it can automatically chop the coconuts,’ he shares. He also hopes that in future he can make similar machines at a price of Tk One lakh each.

COCOCOL CUTTING TOOLS

While, the work on the machine is still going on, Rakibul also did a pilot run in Dhaka during Pahela Baishakh of this year as feasibility study for his planned business. ‘During that period, I had sold around 1,000 coconuts in two days in Dhaka city,’ he shares. The huge demand drove him to start the business and then in July of this year he started pushing his products formally by introducing them in some supershops, restaurants, hotels, motels in Dhaka, Comilla and Barisal.

Initially he planted his factory in Barisal as most of his raw products are collected from that area. But now he is planning to shift the factory to Dhaka to cut down on the production price. Currently, he is selling each chopped coconut for Taka 40-50, and his products are sold at up to 60 Taka in markets by the retailers. Sharing the fact that in Bangladesh the production of coconut is not enough to meet the local demand, the challenge-taker says, he is planning to start coconut farming.

Rakibul also shares that although currently his family is supporting him to build his company where a total of seven people are working, initially they did not like the idea and had discouraged him. ‘I know why they acted like that and got taunted by some people …but I knew that one day I will prove them wrong,’ he says.

He also asked unemployed youth to innovate ideas related to the agro industry, as it has lots of potentials and is still one of the major pillars of the Bangladesh economy.