Md Yunus and Zafar Iqbal, two friends in Feni's Daganbhuiyan upazila, used to collect coconuts from different local markets and sell them to the wholesalers. They also used to sell coconut husk which is used for many purposes including to make mattresses and rugs.
In 2014, they rented a small shop to start their own business with an investment of only Tk1 lakh.
Now, they sell coconuts and coconut products worth up to Tk3 crore per year. They have been a model for success with their hard work and determination among the youth of the area.
"Once, we walked in different markets of Feni, Chattogram, Noakhali and Kumilla to sell coconut husk. Very few people bought our products. But now wholesalers come directly to our shop," said Zafar Iqbal, one of the owners of the shop.
We sell coconut and seven types of coconut products in our shop, he said.
Both Yunus and Jafar are from the Khushipur village of Jaylaskar union. Yunus oversees the production process and Zafar works on marketing. Currently, 20 people work in their shop.
"There are no artisans in the Feni area to process coconut husks and coconut shells. We had to hire them from Mandari, Chandraganj, Panchagarh and Thakurgaon areas in Laxmipur. Later, we teach some people here the process. Now there are 15-17 skilled workers in the surrounding area," said Yunus.
He added, "We have recently installed a machine worth Tk1 lakh for the production of coconut shell. Everything in coconut has business potential. Different parts of it are now being exported abroad as raw materials."
Zafar Iqbal, said, "Once coconut was used only for oil production and for making delicious sweet foods at home. Now oil is made from the white part of coconut; buttons of clothes, musical instrument ektara, different showpieces, teacup and mug from coconut shells; and rope, mattress, baskets are made from coconut husk."
"The husk powder that comes out while processing coconut is being used for roof gardening. Every year we earn more than Tk3 lakh from the sales of this husk," he added.
Zafar and his wife have already received entrepreneurial training from Feni and Chattogram BSCIC. They have plans to set up a machine worth Tk6 lakh in the future to produce oil locally. Similarly, a machine worth Tk1 lakh will be installed for making dried coconut.
He also said that the process of importing the machine from India is underway.
Zafar said, "Husk powder for rooftop agriculture is sold at Tk200 per 10 kg. We supply coconuts to public and private nurseries for planting. Our coconuts also meet the demand in different parts of the country including Dhaka, Chattogram, Rajshahi, Naogaon, Chapainawabganj and Dinajpur."
"Somedays, we deliver 15-20 truckloads of coconuts. A truck can carry 8-10 thousand coconuts. The price of coconut per truck is Tk3-4 lakh," he added.
Yunus said, "Coconut products have multidimensional commercial potential in the country. But banks are not interested in investing in this sector. If we could get bank loans, we would set up a factory to increase our production capacity. We expect the help of people concerned in this regard."