By: Nur e Kutubul Alam
We have read since our childhood; we are Bengalis in fish and rice. Although many things have changed with the touch of modernity, the love for fish Bengalis has not changed. The fish market is still running in full swing. Everyone loves to eat fish, rich and poor alike. Many people in different parts of the country have started fish farming to meet this demand for fish. Fish collection from rivers and seas is now much higher than in the past.
I am telling the background story of Anup Kumar (founder), Prema Hazra (co-founder), and their initiative Plenary Aqua. Anup Kumar and Prema Hazra both graduated from Fisheries and Marine Resource Technology Discipline at Khulna University, Bangladesh. I met this passionate and dedicated young man during my under graduation at the same university. When the lockdown begins due to COVID-19 in 2020, Anup Kumar has just finished his under graduation comes up with the idea to use the time. Being a fisheries graduate, it was not difficult for him to understand the love of Bengalis for fish. He worked as a research assistant on various projects during his university life. From there he realized the importance of the fisheries sector. That's when he decided to do something on his initiative in this sector. He shared the idea with some university students and they agreed one by one. Afterward, the journey of the wonderful initiative started.
Anup Kumar and Prema Hazra are working on raw and ready-to-cook packaged fish in Khulna, a southern city of Bangladesh. They are marketing processed fish through high-quality packaging. Besides, various species of fish are being delivered to the buyers in different parts of the country. They have also entered meat (chicken) processing. They try to provide chemical-free fish to the consumers by collecting it directly from farmers or local fish markets. So, the consumers get better one-spot service and great quality products. Farmers benefit from selling the fish directly to Plenary Aqua at a good price. Anup Kumar also gives effort to provide them with technical knowledge about better fish culture. In the context of Bangladesh, Anup Kumar has had to face various challenges and work hard to implement this relatively new initiative.
Services such as food delivery did not stop when the lockdown was all around. Everyone then insisted on shopping online to avoid corona infection. Anup Kumar took advantage of this opportunity. Plenary Aqua begins to manifest itself by reaching the doorsteps of the buyers of quality and delicious fish. Currently, Plenary Aqua has gained a lot of popularity on the online platform. In the last year, Anup has managed to sell fish worth around 24,700 USD. While the profit figure is quite comforting, the story behind it is also quite difficult.
At the beginning of the initiative, Anup struggled to bear the expenses for the employees' salaries as well as other operational costs. Anup told me that from the beginning of the startup, he had to overcome a lot of obstacles. As Anup and Prema are just fresh grads, they didn't have enough funding and facilities so it was tough for them to penetrate in market and reach consumers. Plenary Aqua has now signed a project agreement with WorldFish to implement this potential initiative more efficiently. WorldFish is providing different ways to support this potential venture.
Anup expresses his wish that YPARD would support his initiative as his family. He wants to get familiar with other young professionals through YPARD so that he may get valuable suggestions, when necessary, like how he would increase his business and where he can get financial support?
Anup's dream with Plenary Aqua is very ambitious. He wants to keep contributing to the fish exports of Bangladesh. He is optimistic about the implementation of long-term plans like the preparation of various delicacies like frozen fish, fish nuggets, fish cutlets fish fingers, and other ready-to-fry and ready-to-eat fish items. His words highlight the lack of skilled manpower in the country's fisheries industry. There are many opportunities for fisheries graduates to work on product quality development. However, due to a lack of proper opportunities, fisheries graduates are leaning towards other sectors, losing untapped potential in the fisheries sector. He hoped that the government would create a more conducive environment in the country's fisheries industry, starting with e-commerce.
Anup Kumar, an entrepreneur expressed his feeling for the students of the universities, saying that there is no alternative but to develop oneself as an expert. There is no substitute for developing skills to survive in the public and private sectors. It is difficult to last in the business sector starting from the job if you just focus on the textbook. He believes that only the youth can keep the wheel of the country's economy moving. In the days ahead, the youth will be the game-changer in the country.
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