Pran-RFL Group, one of the largest conglomerates in the country, plans to make huge investments to manufacture edible oil, flour, pulses, salt and other consumer staples to reposition itself as a leader in the consumer goods market.
The business group has already completed the construction of a large part of its new industrial park on a 180-bigha plot of land in Gazipur's Moktarpur to produce essential products. It is also setting up poultry farms in Moulvibazar and Habiganj, and a mobile phone manufacturing plant in Narsingdi.
Also, the group has taken initiatives to expand the production capacity of its garments, footwear and glassware factories.
Pran-RFL is set to invest at least Tk1,700 crore in 2022 alone, officials of the conglomerate have told The Business Standard. This will create 20,000 new jobs, they expect.
"We are investing in sectors that can meet the demand of local consumers and increase exports. We also want to help the agriculture sector grow and create employment," said Ahsan Khan Chowdhury, chairman and CEO of Pran-RFL Group.
Staples such as edible oil, flour, semolina, pulses, sugar, salt etc. constitute a significant portion of the huge consumer goods market, mentioned Kamruzzaman Kamal, director (marketing) of Pran-RFL Group, adding they are currently working on a plan to produce all types of essential goods except sugar.
Company officials said the new industrial park in Gazipur called Kaliganj Agro Processing Limited will have plants to process soybean and refine oil. There will also be units to produce flour, salt, pulses, starch, and feed meals, among other products.
The group plans to invest Tk1,500 crore in this sector this year, they said, adding goods produced in this industrial park are expected to hit the market by the end of the year.
As per Light Castle, a global market research company, Bangladesh has a consumer goods market of $200 billion or roughly Tk17,00,000 crore.
Currently, the market leaders in the consumer goods sector in the country are City Group, Meghna Group, TK Group, Bashundhara Group, S Alam Group, Abul Khair Group, etc. City Group alone has an annual turnover to the tune of around Tk25,000 crore.
Mobile handsets, garments and poultry
Pran-RFL Group has been in the country's electronics market for a long time with their brands Vision and Click. Now, they are going to produce mobile handsets under the brand name Proton.
For this, the company has already set up a factory at Pran Industrial Park in Narsingdi. The factory will produce smart and feature phones as well as various types of mobile accessories including headphones, batteries and chargers.
Pran's Proton phones will enter the country's Tk12,000-crore mobile phone market and compete with other brands including Samsung, Symphony, Walton, Vivo, Oppo, Realme, Techno, iTel, Infinix, Five Star, and Nokia among others.
Kamruzzaman Kamal, director (marketing) of Pran-RFL Group, said, "Our factory has the capacity to manufacture one lakh smartphones and 1.5 lakh feature phones per month. Proton phones will hit the market next March."
Even though Pran-RFL is a pioneer in agro-processing in the country, the group was not directly involved in poultry farming. This time they are setting up a poultry industry on 150 bighas of land in Moulvibazar and Chunarughat of Habiganj.
The company has already completed the infrastructural construction at a cost of Tk40 crore. Around 15 crore eggs and 360 tonnes of chicken meat would be produced here annually, officials said.
According to sources, the poultry market in Bangladesh has already exceeded Tk30,000 crore mark. Currently, there are more than one lakh poultry farms in the country and the number of registered parent stock farms is 206.
The country produces about 4.5 crore eggs and 3,000 tonnes of chicken meat per day.
Pran-RFL also looks to produce different types of underwear and polo shirts at the Barindra Industrial Park in Godagari of Rajshahi with an investment of Tk50 crore. Kamruzzaman Kamal said initially, 2,500 rural women will be employed here.
Expansion of footwear and glassware production
Officials at Pran-RFL Group also outlined the company's plans to expand its footwear and glassware plant amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The existing shoe production capacity at their footwear factory at Narsingdi Industrial Park will be increased from six lakh pairs to nine lakh pairs at a cost of Tk35 crore, while the production capacity of the glassware factory will be tripled to 7.5 lakh square feet with an investment of Tk55 crore.
Founded by Amjad Khan Chowdhury at an initial investment of Tk5 lakh, Pran-RFL Group started its journey in 1981 as Rangpur Foundry Limited (RFL) with tubewells and agricultural equipment to provide pure drinking water and irrigation facilities to the poor.
In 1985, the company entered the food processing business with a small-scale cultivation of banana, papaya, pineapple, tuberose, etc in Narsingdi by forming Agricultural Marketing Company Limited.
Since then, Pran-RFL Group has been one of the market leaders in the country with a wide range of products including drinks, sauces, jellies, chanachur, chips, spices, chocolates, bakeries, frozen foods, toiletries, dairy products, housewares, and electronics.
At present, the company has an array of 2,800 products under 10 categories.
About 1,29,000 workers are working directly with the group, which is the highest in the private sector in Bangladesh. But, around 15 lakh people are directly and indirectly dependent on the group. The group has an annual turnover of over Tk20,000 crore.
Currently, Pran's products are available in 145 countries of five geographic regions including Southeast Asia, Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America. It has sales and distribution networks in the USA, Australia, UAE, Saudi-Arabia, Qatar, India, Oman, Malaysia, Singapore, and Somalia with full-fledged offices, warehouses and other support.
The group has started its own production plant in India to accelerate its continuous growth.