Usually, people take sweets, snacks or fruits while going to their in-laws' house but Mahbubur Rahman Helal from Habiganj took spice powder to visit in-laws in Zakiganj upazila of Sylhet.
Are spices not available in Zakiganj? Available, but many people like Helal buy Grihini spice powder from Al Baraka Consumer Products in Habiganj and send it to their relatives and loved ones.
Al Baraka Consumer Products Proprietor Shamsul Huda claims that good quality and affordable prices have gradually made Grihini spices popular in Habiganj and adjoining districts.
Shamsul, 48, a resident of Jalalabad in Habiganj, is the eldest of three sons and two daughters of late Maulana Abdul Kuddus and Sajila Begum. He dreamt of becoming a successful businessman from an early age.
After completing higher secondary education from Habiganj Brindaban Government College, he migrated to Saudi Arabia in 1996 to work as a manager at a supermarket. But he continued to ponder how to realise his childhood dream.
Shamsul returned to the country in 2005. As advised by a few friends, he started a business as a wholesaler of rice, with Tk15 lakh capital that he got by selling a land of five decimals.
In the first year, many customers bought rice from him on credit and did not pay back. Soon, his business capital came down to Tk4 lakh. Yet, he continued the business by borrowing money from his younger brother Shibbir Ahmed who was an expatriate in Saudi Arabian.
At the same time, Shamsul started thinking of another business.
Allegations ran rife that chilli powder sold in the market had brick powder mixed in it. Some unscrupulous businessmen were also sent to jail.
Shamsul then set up a spice mill. His honesty and dedication won the hearts of consumers and traders. Traders from the neighbouring district of Moulvibazar came to his mill for grinding spices. The business continued to grow. He expanded the mill by installing more machines.
In 2016, he started marketing chilli, turmeric, coriander and cumin powder in plastic jars under the brand name Grihini with the slogan "Rannai Adi Saad" (Original taste in cooking).
At first, he and another man used to take orders from shops and houses and deliver spices. He assured the traders that his spices would be cheaper and he would refund if anyone found the spices not good.
Shamsul focuses on maintaining quality instead of advertising his products that became popular by word of mouth.
"We buy good quality dried chillies, turmeric, cumin and coriander from the market because if the raw material is not good, neither the colour nor the taste of the spice powder would be good. Moreover, people do not need to buy separate containers for storing spices as there are plastic jars instead of polybags. Spices of other companies are available in colourful packages and it is not possible to see the colour of the spice. Our plastic jars are transparent, which housewives find convenient," he said.
Shamsul said some expatriates from London, the USA, Canada and the Middle East bought spices when they returned from Bangladesh. He hopes Grihini powdered spice will be well known all over the country and abroad one day.
Tania Ferdous Tarafdar, a homemaker, said, "The smell and taste of Grihini spices are unique. Spices are the main ingredients in a curry. No matter how much effort you put in cooking, the taste may not be good."
Another housemaker Shamima said Grihini species mixed easily during cooking and its colour and taste were much better than that of other companies.
Selim Mia, the owner of Shahadat Store in Habiganj, said Grihini spices were sold more than other brands. Its reputation has spread throughout the district for the quality of its products.
Shamsul said a process was underway to expand Al Baraka Products to three other districts of Sylhet.
At present, the factory is equipped with six spice grinders and other machines worth Tk50 lakh. He has decided to launch ready-mix meat spice, biryani spice and crushed mustard.
Shamsul said his spices were available in all small and big shops in the district. Goods worth Tk1-1.5 lakh are delivered to shops in two vans every day.
Products worth Tk30 lakh are sold per month, from where Tk4-5 lakh is spent to pay salaries of workers, on packaging and other purposes.
Al Baraka Consumer Products has all the business-related certificates including trademark and approval of the Bangladesh Standards & Testing Institution and the Department of Environment.
He has made his younger brother and another person partners to expand the business. He has not taken any loan from any bank.
"As our business flourished, a private bank offered a loan of Tk3 crore, but I did not accept it. Bank loan means interest, which Islam forbids," Shamsul said.