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Human Story

Challenge of Karupalli, from aid to business

PhotoMs. Kaneko, Ms. Kozakura and Mr. Saito (from left to right)

Karupalli is the handicraft shop, located in the heart of Dhaka. It was started by Bangladesh Rural Community Development aided by JICA in 1989. The shop was opened for selling the traditional arts and handicrafts from the rural parts of the country.

The shop had been in the red financially for ten years, from 2002 to 2011. Mr. Tetsuya Saito, a JICA Senior Volunteer, came to help to improve management of Karupalli along with Ms. Mizuki Kozakura and Yuki Kaneko, who are the JICA Oversea Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV).

JICA has sent 47 JOCVs between 1989 and 2000 to Karupalli. They helped in various fields, such as improvement of quality of the products or giving advice to the people in the rural areas. From 2000 to 2010, Karupalli did not receive any JOCVs because it seemed to be successfully managed by the Bangladeshi staff members.

In 2010, a JICA volunteer joined Karupalli again for the purpose of technical assistance of handicraft. The volunteer, however, advised them to reorganize their management, rather than improving skills of making handicrafts. They seriously needed the assistance from business aspect, the volunteer pointed out. According to this advice, Mr. Saito came to Karupalli for improving the management in 2012, Ms. Kaneko came for improving hospitality in 2013 and Ms. Kozakura came for quality control in the same year.

PhotoPoint of Sales system in Karupalli shop

When Mr. Saito arrived at Karupalli, he found the serious problems in accounting. About two thirds of their expenses were allocated to the payment to the outside suppliers. But some parts were not clear. He said that he did not know where to start, but started his challenge to reorganize the management.

Mr. Saito thought that sharing the information was the first step for the accurate and responsible accounting. He introduced Point of Sales (POS) system to the shop to share the information on what are sold, when they were sold, and how much were the sales. Next step was to introduce discipline for the staff members. Since Karupalli was started as a part of governmental organization with aid of JICA, it was not easy for the staff members to have business mind. But Mr. Saito observed some of the young staff members had intention to be more independent. He felt obliged to train the young leaders for this country.

PhotoNeatly displayed products from different rural parts of Bangladesh

Ms. Kaneko, in charge of improving hospitality, first instructed the shop staffs to know more about their own products. They just piled up the products in the corners of the store when she joined. She advised them how to display and the atmosphere of the shop dramatically changed. "I think the role of private sector, especially in service industry, is getting more and more important in developing countries," she said, hoping that she would continue to work for improving hospitality in developing countries.

PhotoClothes are the most popular products in Karupalli

<p>Ms. Kozakura faced difficulty to share the importance of quality control with the staff members. They tried to use clothes with small holes or dirt, saying that the Bangladeshi people would not care. But she repeatedly told them that it was important to improve the quality of their products. "I need to keep on telling them," she said.</p><p>The growth of private sector in the developing countries can contribute to reduction of poverty. Although Karupalli is one small shop in Dhaka, and JICA volunteers don’t work there anymore, its challenge in reducing reliance to the aid and moving toward independent business has just started.</p>


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