The idea that you can finance an agricultural project or help a farmer in a remote area sitting in your home far away from that area would have sounded crazier to you maybe some years ago, maybe still. But not anymore! As the motto stands, "Investing in agriculture, simplified", WeGro has actually made financing agriculture a lot simpler for personal financiers.
At its core, WeGro is an agri-fintech company that links private and public investors with farmers and their agricultural initiatives. WeGro offers an Android and iOS mobile app platform where users can support financing for agricultural projects, including those involving livestock, poultry, fisheries, veggies, etc. WeGro is collaborating with approximately 1,000 farmers in 10 different zones of the country on initiatives in Sirajganj, Pabna, Natore, Keraniganj, Kishoreganj etc.
WeGro Brand Lead Mashroor Hossain has shared with us how WeGro came into life, "It all started with another startup which used to talk with processed meat. While researching for better meat quality and delivery of it, now the CEO and co-founder of WeGrow, Md Mahmudur Rahman was exposed to a significant number of problems that the agriculture sector faces on a daily to daily basis.
This newfound knowledge and expertise in fundraising aided in the development of a better business model. The co-founders Mahmudur talked about these issues with Md Alvi Rahman, another co-founder of the firm. They soon realised the potential of an agri-financing platform in Bangladesh that can solve the problems Mahmudur discovered as well as offer input and access to the market. The co-founders discussed all these when they first met while working for agri-based e-commerce, Khaas Food.
With all said and done, Md Mahmudur Rahman and Md Alvi Rahman, both established WeGro in April 2021 after the two founders secured project funding from their personal network of friends and peers to invest in their initial farm project. According to Mashroor, WeGro is now aiming to raise $1.5 million in seed capital in order to scale its operations across the entire nation and have an influence on 200,000 farmers' lives by 2024.
So, what does WeGro do? WeGro ensures a bridge between the agriculture sectors and private investors. With its agricultural fintech approach, anyone with a smartphone and capital can invest in various agriculture sectors. In the end, both the investors and the farmers emerge with big smiles.
While talking about the recent fundraising achievement of 100,000 dollars from Biniyog Briddhi, Mashroor said, "We are really thankful to LightCastle Partners, Roots of Impact, and the Swiss Embassy in Bangladesh for collaborating with us and providing this non-repayable fund. WeGro has a fantastic opportunity to spread its activities throughout more operational zones around the nation thanks to Biniyog Briddhi's grant. Within March 2023, we intend to have an influence on at least 3,000 farms. We also aim to release our Farmers' App, which will enable farmers to quickly borrow money for agri input."
As part of the growing process, WeGro tells us they want to grow not only in Bangladesh but also on a global scale. For almost ten years, numerous businesses have spread the agri-financing concept throughout the globe. They also wish to introduce WeGro's footprint in several South East Asian and African nations. Right now, their attention is on finding solutions to Bangladesh's agricultural issues.
Although WeGro is now experiencing great success with more to come in the future, the journey was not an easy one. Talking about obstacles, the Brand Lead disclosed that one of the biggest challenges was to connect with farmers in remote areas. Since a lion's share of farmers in Bangladesh does live in remote areas where urbanisation still has a long way to go, WeGrow needed to reach out to them.
To mitigate this issue, they have launched farmer care centres in various operational zones with high farmer foot traffic where farmers can reach out to them. Hence, instead of WeGro going door to door to farmers, the firm made a convenient way for farmers to reach out to them. Moreover, the firm has partnerships in place with various institutions and e-commerce to sell them the output produced by farmers. With this 'Farmer to Retailer' model, they are providing access to the market and ensuring fair prices for farmers.
"A crucial element of human civilisation is agriculture. Food production will always be a viable and significant area for business innovation and growth," shared Mashroor. "We would be delighted to collaborate with anyone who is passionate about agriculture to address the many problems that need to be resolved in this area."
Bangladeshi startups are now prioritising agriculture more than before. Startups like iFarmer and WeGro are making people realise how much business opportunity Bangladesh's agriculture sector has in store. With such private financing opportunities in Bangladesh's agricultural sector, this will not only help the Bangladeshi economy but also boost the livelihoods of the farmers. Without the intervention of WeGrow, farmers would usually get exploited with their goods.
For those aspiring entrepreneurs hoping to change the world, Mashroor Hossain shares some words of encouragement. The goal should be to do something that allows someone to explore creative freedom and explore themselves. Since he was once a corporate employee doing a 9-5 job and now is a full-time entrepreneur, he spoke from experience when advised, "You should step out of your comfort zone and bring a change." Ultimately, that simple decision to do something bold can make all the difference.
The writer is a second-year BBA student at IBA, Dhaka University.