Women Trading Globally participant empowering underprivileged women in Bangladesh

08.12.2020 Angela Wright

After attending the Women Trading Globally program held in Sydney and Melbourne in 2019, Kohinoor Yeasmin, CEO of TARANGO, has set her sights on making her business into an exceptional and unique "Hand-made Eco-friendly Fair Trade Organisation" of the world. As a member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), TARANGO is committed to alleviating poverty and increasing social responsibility through fair trade.

Kohinoor has already impacted the lives of many underprivileged women in Bangladesh, and she shares with us her inspiring journey through the following Q&A.

Q&A with Kohinoor Yeasmin
CEO, Tarango

What led to you to establishing your company, and what drove you to commence international expansion?

The following things motivated me to start the business:
  • To create a market for marginalised and disadvantaged rural & urban women who are skilled but could not explore them properly and unable to find appropriate market for their products
  • Create income generating opportunities for women from their home
  • To promote our natural fiber products in international market
The following things drove me to commence international market
  • Introduce our qualitative product internationally
  • Grow/expand our business
  • Generate more revenue
  • Diversify my product's market
  • Get out of a saturated market
  • Access to new customers and in a market where our competitors do not operate
  • To become an exceptional and unique "Hand-made Eco-friendly Fair Trade Organisation" of the world (decided after attending the Women Trading Globally program)

What inspires you to do what you do?

I always have a keen awareness about the plight of underprivileged women in Bangladesh and my passion is to make a difference in their lives; this is what motivated me to start TARANGO which was set up with the intention of helping marginalised women. About 3000 women artisans in 9 districts across Bangladesh are working with us and produce various craft items. Many of our artisans are now playing a vital decision-making role in their family and as well as in their community; they are also invited by male group members as speaker or a trainer. Their children (especially girls) are now going to schools/colleges/universities which inspired others in surrounding areas. It inspires me to work even harder. I stopped many acts of physical violence (very often happened by male family members).

What steps have you taken to prepare for export after participating in the program?

Prior to joining the Women Trading Globally program we did not have a proper plan in place, but since the program we have started an export oriented business plan and developed very high promotional materials. We also attended the NY Now trade show. I was able to apply learnings from the training and we have taken proper steps for promotional purpose and dealing with new buyers/customers. Very much grateful to Australia Awards.

We have entered the USA market right after the training. We also started a new venture to promote organic farming in Bandarban (high land or hill) where 300 indigenous female farmer families are practicing organic farming in limited scale with us. This system is ecologically sound and no artificial fertilizers are used. We are supporting farming as well as promoting their organic agro products in local markets. Our initiative will support to improve the lives of various indigenous tribes in Bandarban. And in future we will sell their agro products internationally.

What did you learn from participating in the Women Trading Globally program?

This program increased my knowledge on global market, it also supported to develop international business and export plans for my company, market research, develop strategy to cope with any situation, market research & dealing with more buyers according to their market demand, develop buyers trust, promotional materials develop. Including having more female colleagues in leadership roles and personally supervising them on behavioural and communication skills. At the field level, we encouraged females to come forward as leaders and engage in conflict management roles. This program increases my confidence to deal with Government, Stakeholders, and Local & International buyers. Very much grateful to Women Trading Globally.

I took the tips that I learnt from the program and contextualized them for Bangladeshi perspective and time, and again these have stood out as some of the most useful learning during engagements with partners, employees, internal and external stakeholders. I am using many learning issues in my day to day business (very often I open my note book to review my notes from the program).

The people-to-people connections were also important. In my country, I have made very good connections with the Ministry of Commerce. From the Women Trading Globally cohort, I have connected particularly with Indian and Bhutanese delegates, as well as with all the participants of the program. I also am having small group meetings with them, like unofficial counselling sessions.

How have you been impacted by COVID-19 and how have you responded?

COVID-19 has affected our regular work: project & program, production, shipment as well as its artisans & beneficiary family’s livelihood too. It has also severely disrupted all kinds of our activities. TARANGO offices and production centers were closed from 25 March to 30 May 2020, but only few field offices were partially open. We stored required accessories and raw materials to continue production as regular practice. But due to uncertain situation, could not collect and supply accessories & raw materials to producers and/or producers could not send their products to us as transport communication into or from Dhaka to other districts those were partially or totally restricted. As a result, home based and central productions are totally hampered. Like other business and garment industries TARANGO also passed very tough time as productions & shipments were badly affected, on the other hand we have been rescheduling our development project's activities accordingly.

At the beginning of 2020, buyers placed orders in TARANGO (Total orders worth 30,000/- US) which were held up due to the COVID-19 situation. After that another new order of 11,000/- USD, was placed but it is also uncertain until new developments for COVID-19. This impacted on our warehouse maintenance expenditures, staff salaries and rent. However, now we have huge order and we are booked till March 2021. The placement of order increased as people are becoming more aware of the nature and nature-friendly products.
Regular communication with existing and new buyers, continuing regular work of artisans from their home, (home based production) distributed food packages, cash money, medicine, mask, live milking cow & raw jute to motivate women, have alternative earning and for work.

Now we are receiving greater/huge number of order from our buyers which created more employment for various artisans about 86 women (50 in Barisal, 30 in Gazipur and 6 in Dhaka).

How did the Women Trading Globally program impact you?

Before joining the program I was scared to talk to different corporations because I did not know how to deal with them and meet their demand. It developed my capability to take decisive decisions, and I acquired the ability to be diplomatic. Also now I can strongly deal with the market and negotiate and communicate clearly and also attain remarkable result. Now Japan, USA, UK very potential market for us. I am now very much grateful to Women Trading Globally program. Women Trading Globally shows me how to find out new market professionally, Women Trading Globally shows me new life/new path.
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