Bangladesh NutriStar: Discovering the shining super stars of nutrition sensitive business

In Bangladesh, nutritious and safe foods are considered to be expensive and unavailable, hence for most of the low-income population they are seen as a luxury or an undesirable option.  It is one of the key factors behind Bangladesh’s rising levels of non-communicable diseases and struggle in reaching the under-nutrition targets of the SDGs.

The NutriStar Innovation Challenge was developed to showcase disruptive solutions by SMEs that can make a foundation in solving food safety and nutrition problems in Bangladesh through commercially viable business models. The Bangladesh NutriStar was organised by the SUN Business Network BangladeshGlobal Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and World Food Programme (WFP), with Light Castle Partners as the anchoring partner and supported by the Ministry of Industries.

The Bangladesh NutriStar was launched in December 2019 with a roadshow in Dhaka to bring together SMEs operating within the food systems. GAIN and WFP provided basic orientation on nutrition and guided them on the potential entry points for innovations in nutrition. Five roadshows were conducted across Bangladesh, with around 400 SMEs taking part. A total of 140 applications were received and 38 applications were long listed by GAIN, WFP and Light Castle Partners. A board of 3 jury members including; Shawkat Hossain, Managing Partner, Velocity Asia; Nirjhar Rahman, CEO, BD Angels; and Sharmin Kawser, Information and Planning Officer, Institute of Public Health Nutrition (IPHN) short-listed the 10 finalists.

The top 10 finalists received training on food safety and nutrition from nutrition experts from UNICEF, IPHN, GAIN and WFP through a boot camp. Light Castle Partners trained the 10 finalists on Business Canvas Development, Financial Management, Investor Readiness and Communication skills. During the boot camp the finalists’ nutrition investment proposals were sharpened through demo pitches with investors and nutrition and industry experts.

Feed Me raised USD 43,000 during the NutriStar Investor Night

An investor night was organised after the boot camp, where the 10 finalists pitched their business case to an audience of over 23 investors. After the pitches, the investors were provided with monopoly money worth USD 10,000 each and asked to make dummy investments in the 10 SMEs during networking sessions. Unique Agro Service raised USD 50,000 from all the investors, Feed Me raised USD 43,000 and Khaas Food raised USD 42,000.

The Grand Finale of the Bangladesh NutriStar took place on 5th March 2020. The Chief Guest was the SUN Focal Point from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and the Head of Innovation in the Ministry of Industries and the Director General of Apex Inter-Ministerial Coordination Body of Nutrition from the Bangladesh National Nutrition Council were present as special guests.

Judging panel: Mr Samad Miraly, Partner, IDLC VC Fund and Executive Director, Olympic Group; Mr Forhad Zamil, Country Director Bangladesh, Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture; Mr. Shawkat Hossain, Managing Partner, Velocity Asia;  Ms Tina Jabeen, Advisor, Start Up Bangladesh and ICT Minister; Mr Osman Haruni, Food Security and Nutrition Advisor, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; and Dr Mosin Ali, Urban Health Advisor, Alive and Thrive.

After each finalist pitched their nutrition solution to a panel of judges, SACO Enterprise was declared as the 2nd runner-up by the jury. SACO Enterprise has developed a value chain to connect farmers to end users in rural areas through their distribution channel of mung beans. In addition, they promote the consumption of mung bean sprouts as a low cost and highly nutrient dense food among their client base and farmers. SACO Enterprise received a cash prize of  USD 1,785.

Khamar-E was declared the 1st runner-up. Khamar-E is a one-stop dairy process optimization and automation solution provider for dairy farmers, which has built a smart artificial insemination gun so that farmers can inseminate cows on their own. Khamar-E also keeps a record of the fertility tree of the cow and uses tracker driven data to record activity and provide early warning against diseases. Khamar-E received a cash prize of USD 2,380.

Feed Me was crowned the overall winner of the Bangladesh NutriStar. Feed Me has developed a low cost nutri bar and nutri drinks prepared with local, environmentally sustainable and nutrient dense ingredients including brown wheat, nuts, jaggery and dates. Feed Me has targeted the Ready-Made Garments (RMG) industries and adolescents as its target markets. Feed Me has a captive customer base in 8 factories and has plans to expand the base through commercial production and distribution. They received a cash prize of USD 2,976 and will represent Bangladesh in the Global SUN Pitch Competition.

Watch the Bangladesh NutriStar journey here.