Women’s Empowerment in Bangladesh

The Bata Rural Sales Program, led by Bata Bangladesh, is a unique distribution model and an innovative market creation that reaches out to consumers in rural areas and at the same time empowers thousands of underprivileged women. This highly successful social enterprise has grown its business by 224 percent since launching in 2005.

The women in the Rural Sales Program – called aparajitas, which in Bengali means women who never accept defeat – sell Bata products door-to-door in rural areas of northern and southern Bangladesh. Their average monthly salary is US$115, working an average of six to seven hours a day. This is compared to the US$50 to $70 they might earn in factories.

The logistics partner for the program, Jita, is the social business of CARE Bangladesh. It allows Bata to reach consumers who were previously unreachable by facilitating the distribution of Bata products to the aparajitas. The success of this social enterprise is also due to Bata’s unique ability to manufacture the shoes locally in its own two facilities.

For Bata Bangladesh, besides the more than positive business results already achieved, and the goal of 300 percent growth by 2020, the program builds deep brand loyalty and allows geographical expansion to areas where brick-and-mortar retail structures do not exist. Aparajitas have already reached more than 400,000 households in the rural segment.

These consumers are at what is called the base of the pyramid, the poorest but largest socioeconomic population segment. Globally, the BoP market comprises 4 billion people – or 65 percent of the world population – with an important purchasing capacity estimated at US$5 trillion. According to World Bank projections, the population at the base of the pyramid could swell to more than 6 billion people over the next 40 years, as the bulk of the world’s population growth occurs there.

Recent developments in the Rural Sales Program include an intensive product knowledge and sales skills training session for women in the program: 2,100 aparajitas, 45 hub managers who ensure distribution, and six market development officers. Bata and Jita have also undertaken a pilot project in the northern part of the country for which more than 100 women were recruited.

”We feel proud to be a part of this project where, in partnership with Jita, we are working on empowering the women of Bangladesh,” said Chitpan Kanhasiri, country manager of Bata Bangladesh. “This is further proof of Bata’s commitment to female empowerment. I believe this project will go a long way and that Bata’s pioneering role will help transform strong social traditions into a positive force for change.”