Last week I was in Bogra which is in the North of Bangladesh, about 190 km from Dhaka. It usually takes about 5 hours but we left at 6am and the trafic was so heavy that we didn’t arrive until 2pm. I am so glad I sleep like a baby in the car (it helps to pass time and to avoid freaking out every 20 seconds because of the crazy way people drive here!)
Bogra is where Grameen Danone’s factory is located. It is also where the project started with the Shokti Ladies selling yogurts door to door in remote villages.
The purpose of the visit was to meet the local team and also learn about the production process. I’ve been hearing about this place for years so you can imagine how excited I was.
Luckily Nicoline came with me. She is Dutch but has been working for Danone in the UK. She’s in Dhaka for 2 weeks to discover the business and meet the team and then she will be coaching/mentoring the marketing director on a regular basis from London. (Mentoring/Coaching programs are another way for Danone employees to contribute to Danone Communities Social Businesses.)
Anyway, we woke up early on the next day for our first visit : milk collection.
This is a place where farmers bring their milk every morning and evening and where the milk’s density and temperature is checked.
(Farmers usually have 3 to 8 cows each and a local cow gives 3 to 4 liters a day. )
Twice a day the milk collected is brought to a chilling center.
(Farmers close to the chilling center can bring their milk to this place directly). Here the milk is tested again and if it passes quality control it is poured into a big tank and chilled to about 2-4 degrees celcius.
From here the milk is taken to the factory and made into yogurts (plain – vanilla – mango – strawberry). There is one production line.
After a 48 hours quarantine wait, the yogurts are either sent to the Warehouse near Dhaka (by a refrigerated truck) or distributed around Bogra.
In the small rural village, Shokti ladies carry and sale the yogurts in an ice chest. They sell about 50 to 100 yogurts a day but do not work everyday as they sometimes need to help in the fields or with other labor.
We walked around with one woman for awhile. Little by little it seemed like the whole village was gathering and walking with us.
It was such an amazing experience to walk through these tiny villages, getting a peak at what their everyday must be like. Smiling back at the children and giggling with the women although it was hard to communicate. (But for example, the fact that our ears were pierced but that Nicoline wasn’t wearing earnings made them crack up.)
These areas are definitely poor but everyone seemed so happy and loving and peaceful. In that moment I envied the simplicity of their lives… (And I am not implying that their life is easy at all!)
It was a lovely day 🙂