5 Minutes of Inspiration – How Krishi Utsho Improved Income in Bangladesh by 31%

How the Avon Lady Improved Income in Bangladesh by 31% by Emily Janoch

Krishi Utsho (KU) in Bangladesh has improved farmer incomes by 31% using a model that make-up sales in the United States pioneered more than  century ago.  Find out how below.

The Avon Lady in rural Bangladesh: it’s actually a more apt metaphor than you think. Avon uses a direct sales model that aims to get products to people who would not normally be able to access them, and that’s exactly what Krishi Utsho is—a way to get products closer to people.

Instead of selling makeup, they’re selling fertilizer, feed, and veterinary services. They may be getting more beautiful cows (IFPRI refers to some of these approaches as the “pampered cow project”), but the real impact is on the farmers.  With the support of the Finn Brooks Family Foundation, they’ve been working since 2012 to improve access to goods for the poorest families in Bangladesh.

What did we accomplish?

  • Higher Incomes: Farmers in areas covered by Krishi Utsho had a 31% increase in their incomes, and vendors were able to earn $1,394 per month.  That’s more than 8 times what the average farmer makes in a month, so being a vendor is an attractive option.
  • Cheaper, easier access to products: Because the shops are closer to home, farmers cut the time they spent going to get inputs in half (a 58% reduction), and dropped their cost on items like feed by 92%.  So people have more money to spend from income, but also on savings from the goods.
  • Stronger businesses: Besides the income, shop owners saw a 25% increase in their sales—and now they’re serving nearly 17,000 people a month.
  • Healthier families: Farmers in Krishi Utsho areas increased their spending on protein and vegetables by 15%, so they have better diets.  56% of families increased their spending on health care and education with the new money they had available.
  • More empowered women: in Krishi Utsho areas, women were 84% more likely to be able to influence household decisions in 2015 than they were in 2012.  They were 250% more likely to be able to make decisions about income generating activities at home.

How did we get there?

  • Set up shops with a quality brand standard: Krishi Utsho helped set up 64 branded shops that have a common brand, but are individually owned businesses—the franchise approach.  To be a Krishi Utsho approach, they have to stock quality products and provide high quality services.
  • Build Better Businesses: Krishi Utsho trained shop owners in business skills, and helped them make connections to providers of quality agricultural products. Once they have the necessary training, CARE can provide certificates and quality of service standards that people trust. CARE also serves as a trusted broker between the big brands and the KU owners.
  • Got the extra (last) mile: because the KU shops reach thousands of people that normally would never access products in bigger cities or farther away, they are attractive options for makers of inputs like fertilizer, vet services, and seeds to change their marketing and pricing to reach new customers.  It also makes products more accessible for women, who have less mobility, and for people who cannot spare the time or money to travel.
  • Build demand: By training poor, rural farmers in improved agricultural techniques and the need for services, and then connecting them to solutions that work, CARE helps the local market strengthen for everyone.  CARE’s Monitoring & Evaluation and technology platforms also help track demand and see what needs to change in the future.

Want to learn more?
Check out the Krishi Utsho Innovation Brief  and the Impact Assessment.

Meet the Teams: Krishi Utsho

In Bangladesh informal village level micro‐entrepreneur input suppliers, the primary source of inputs and advisory services for most smallholder farmers, either don’t exist or crowd out/cannibalize each other’s businesses because they operate within the same limited ranges.  Where they do exist these micro‐entrepreneurs often lack access to formal supplies of quality agriculture inputs, market information, technical knowledge, business skills, and access to working capital to serve the smallholders who depend on them. As a result modern technologies, products and services cannot reach farmers, which ultimately limits their livelihood and resilience potential. Additionally, formal input supply companies do not know who their final customers are because their direct connection in their distribution chain does not extend to the last‐mile retailers and farmers. As a result, they cannot ensure product quality at the village level.

Resolving these issues would allow many smallholder farmers to increase their productivity by at least 50% and increase their income by 30% as demonstrated in our current operation areas. For this reason, CARE initiated Krishi Utsho (KU) agro input retailers’ microfranchise1 network in 2012 in rural Bangladesh as a one-stop solution to provide timely access to affordable and quality agriculture inputs and advisory services for rural smallholder farmers, particularly women. KU franchisees sell a variety of quality agricultural inputs at the village level, and provide formal private extension and advisory services to the farmers living in their communities. Through selecting and branding franchisees at the very last mile the network serves over 25,000 smallholder farmers, particularly vulnerable women in Southwestern and Northwestern Bangladesh, contributing to their increased productivity and resilience.

An impact assessment survey conducted by Krishi Utsho in 2015 on a sample of 400 farmers it served demonstrated that 58% farmers increased expenditure in goods, 56% increased their spending on education, 57% increased health spending, 54% increased their agriculture expenditure and 31% increased farmers’ income, from $171 to $225.


Meet the Team

MARUF AZAM | General Manager – Krishi Utsho Microfranchise | CARE Bangladesh    

With more than 12 years of professional experience in both the non-profit and for-profit arena, Maruf has an extensive technical and business background.  He is an expert in business development and hence, responsible for, the strategic planning, supply chain, management, business development, financial planning and overall leadership of Krishi Utsho.  Maruf has his MBA in Marketing from the University of Dhaka.

SABRINA SAHRIN| Project Support Officer (L&D) | CARE Bangladesh

Sabrina is working as the Monitoring and Evaluation expert in the Krishi Utsho team.  She is responsible in tracking the progress of the scaling-up efforts of KU and manages records as well as document and analyze evidence on the social-economic impact of KU.  She studied Development Studies and Information Communication Technology which puts her in the right place to manage MIS data, track KU activities, and analyze impact.

SCOTT MERRILL | Senior Technical Advisor – Markets & Livelihoods | CARE USA

Scott is a private sector development specialist and has over ten years of experience facilitating value chain and market development programs to address issues in agriculture, food security, climate change resilience, and disaster risk reduction in Bangladesh, Uganda, Zambia, Myanmar, Lebanon, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and Mongolia, among other countries.  Scott brings strong systems perspective to Krishi Utsho’s transformation to a self-sustaining agro inputs franchise.  Scott holds an MA in International Relations and International Economics from John Hopkins and speaks English, Bengali, and basic knowledge of French.

NURUL SIDDIQUEE | Technical Advisor – Sustainable Agriculture | CARE USA

Siddiquee has been engaged with the Krishi Utsho initiative from the very beginning and contributed to the thought process of the evolution of the model over time.  He brings core agriculture and agro ecology expertise to the team and helps connect the idea between sustainable pro poor agro economic transformation and supply of quality agro inputs through standardized franchise business. In his role as Technical Advisor he primarily supports CARE’s women-focused agriculture program, Pathways, which is located in six countries located in South East Asia and Africa.


47_CARE Impact Challange - Krishi Utsho