An interview with Saif Rashid, CEO JITA Bangladesh
An interview with Saif Rashid, CEO JITA Bangladesh
Saif Rashid is CEO at JITA Bangladesh, the 7th project of danone.communities. He kindly answered my questions about the project.
What I can already share is that the key words of the interview are quite encouraging: amazing, highest, unique, empowering, dream, big task.
Enter JITA with Saif Rashid, you may never come back !
LS : Saif, you’re managing the project JITA in Bangladesh, supported by CARE and danone.communities. Can you tell us a few words about it?
SR : I see JITA as a striking example of an existing NGO development project transformed into a separate social business. It has been amazing for me to have the highest level of involvement and intimacy with this unique rural distribution model for last 7 years. When I started my journey with CARE’s Rural Sales Program in 2005 I knew this small project had the ability to be great through its unique model and our unbreakable spirit. It took extreme effort and dedication to establish the model and to build partnerships with different private sector companies. Finally for the first time in CARE's history a social business, our JITA, has been created through a joint venture between CARE International and Danone Communities in December, 2011 to operate and expand the rural sales program independently.
JITA is dedicated to empowering women through a network of enterprises creating employment opportunities and improving access to markets for those women at the Bottom of the Pyramid. The distribution model involves local rural women as door to door sellers who would buy different company products from JITA appointed local entrepreneur (known as a hub manager). This hub manager remains in the centre of supply chain to play the role of distributor. The entire system is based on certain commissions from Private companies. Currently JITA is serving Bangladeshi rural community by empowering around 3000 poor destitute women working as sales ladies, creating more than 100 local entrepreneurs and reaching millions of bottom of the pyramid consumers with health/hygiene products.
Today, JITA is defined as a social business. Why has it changed and what are the main differences with the former business model?
JITA has evolved from CARE’s Rural Sales Program. So the basic concept of rural distribution format and the vision of empowering destitute women remains almost the same for JITA. Yet many things have changed or better yet added to provide clarity. During RSP era, there was no business model or distribution model entirely focused on women sales ladies. But now by having even more focus on women empowerment, JITA is giving highest level of importance to benefiting the poor by partnering with appropriate private companies and development organizations. Now JITA is moving forward with a massive but meticulous expansion plan which would never have been possible as a mere CARE project. This expansion strategy is now being implemented with the benefit of having an independent social business identity as well as through the investment opportunity from Danone Communities. The change in vision and approach of our activity has also pushed us towards even better/robust operational structure. The amplification of our mission and work arena has made us closer to other activities such as Research and Awareness programs partnerships on rural consumers. I must admit that JITA is heading forward with a much broader impact-group compare to what we had as RSP.
In May, you went to Paris to present the project at the Global Communities Meeting, where you met many people. In what sense co-creation and partnerships are important in supporting and improving JITA?
Global Communities Meeting has provided me with an opportunity of being introduced to all the amazing people and ideas connected with Global Social Business. Whenever I think of a way ahead to create scalable sustainable impact through my social business, I think of the importance of establishing strong partnerships with any and all possible sectors; specially if the partner is driven by sustainable social objectives. Over time JITA has established and managed numerous levels of partnerships with varied entities which ultimately shaped the entire journey of this successful model. JITA is willing to take on many private company partners, if they will fulfil the requirements of providing JITA sales ladies a sustainable livelihood as well as necessities for rural consumers. : JITA partners with development in order to create sustainable social impact for rural communities. JITA's vision of bringing significant changes in the livelihood of rural consumers has been aided by the research partnership with institutes like Said Business School, Oxford University. Oxford Business School was fascinated by JITA’s distribution model and how that model will benefit rural consumers. Moreover it must be mentioned how crucial the partnership with Danone Communities has been in bringing the "JITA" dream into reality. Actually it is important to make all partners realize that we all are here together because we seek a mutual broader objective; which can only be achieved through understanding/assisting each other. You win when you are helping your partners win. That is the simple but striking secret that I have revealed through my experience with JITA.
More than 2500 women are direct beneficiaries of JITA and 86 hubs are located in 18 districts. The network is getting stronger… What are your challenges for tomorrow?
Now JITA is working with a large number of sales ladies through many distribution hubs. I am optimistic that our operation expansion will go in accordance with our vision and strategic planning. Yet many challenges will come on the road. To understand and to create proper rural consumer demand is a big task ahead. Without realizing the optimum consumer communication and demand it will be difficult to reach them with appropriate products. Also Sales Ladies will lose opportunities of more income without appropriate product baskets. Finding consumer demand will not wrap up the story rather it will create new challenge of finding right Partner companies to match with those demands.
A word to share with the community of danone.communities?
If I give my candid opinion, I must say I don’t consider Danone Communities just as a partner/investor for JITA, rather as an organization who is continuously creating opportunity for numerous social business ideas and social entrepreneurs. I am sure that Danone Communities will continue to encourage and support each and every social business idea/ model/ person that will bring change in the lives of millions and make our world a better place as it deserves.
Visit also : http://jitabangladesh.com/
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