Tales of traditions, spices and herbs | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 04, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 04, 2020

Tales of traditions, spices and herbs

Songsari is a spice and herbal product venture that intends to be a part of everyone's family. Food enthusiasts Dolon Champa Dutta and Tazrin Farzana Zinia primarily started Songsari on July 15, 2020, and were later joined by Mamum Billah and Refat Hasan. Dolon, Zinia and Refat are currently pursuing their post-graduate education from the Department of Economics at Jahangirnagar University. Mamun pursued Electrical Engineering at World University Bangladesh.

While Dolon, Zinia and Refat oversee the marketing and PR, communication and customer service and IT and infrastructure departments of Songsari respectively, Mamun looks after the product chains, designs and photography. Their primary business model was based on building a readymade food venture, but their market research led them to a window of opportunity, which was a gap in the herbal and spice products' industry in Bangladesh. The young founders have been incorporating all their capacities to safely and effectively bring spices and grains to people's kitchen cabinets. They collect the spices and grains themselves without the involvement of any intermediary, to ensure the quality maintenance of their products, which is a major concern in this industry.

The core team of Songsari is made up of a group of avid travellers, which turned to their benefit, as they could build strong relationships with the locals whom they collect spices, lentils and herbs from.  They get chilies from Bogura, turmeric from Bandarban and choi-jhal from Khulna. "Being able to travel so much is one of the most rewarding parts of the job," shared Dolon. 

However, the founders faced challenges while convincing their families, as they left their stable jobs behind to become entrepreneurs. Zinia shared, "Struggles and obstacles are there, but I truly believe that they are followed by success and happiness."

Their initial plan was to launch Songsari in 2019, but it was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, they managed to work through the challenges and begin the distribution by 2020.

However, their production costs have increased due to the pandemic, and their product lines cannot be extended any time soon. Apart from that, the team faced complications regarding their raw product supplies, which come from rural farms — the logistical limitations interrupted their pace. However, since Songsari is an e-commerce brand, their promotional activities online weren't hampered during the pandemic.

In this highly competitive e-commerce market, new ventures are always obligated to go beyond the point of parity and introduce something new. Realising the need, Songsari takes safety precautions for the customers by providing alcohol pads with all parcels.

All parcels inside Dhaka are delivered by Songsari's team, so that they can communicate with their customers directly. The team also uses traditional techniques of telling stories via letters to people — they provide yellow postal cards and handwritten letters in yellow envelopes to their customers as they want to promote local stories besides their initiative.

With the motto to draw a link between Songsari and Bengali roots and nostalgia, they brought back stories like Monsha Mongal and Pak Rajeshwar. During festivals such as Eid, Durga Puja and Janmastami, they share old, traditional recipes like Akbar-e-Dopeyaja, Aviyal, Maach Pora of Kashijora Rajbari, Alur Dom of Shovabajar Rajbari among many others in these letters, along with details about the origins of those recipes. "I write extensively about spices and food history," said Dolon, who is in charge of the letters. "I try to inform the customers about the stories behind the spices." The founders aim to showcase the beauty of Bangladeshi culture and food habits through these stories.

"During my nine years of professional experience, I worked with several multinational and SME entrepreneurs and I want to contribute to Songsari with my experience," said Mamun.

While modeling the business, the founders of Songsari decided to especially take senior citizens into account, since they are not generally well-versed with online shopping. Bearing that in mind, Songsari introduced the point-of-sale (POS) system, where the customers can pay at home after the delivery, with their card.

Songsari also collects post-purchase feedback from customers, and uses environmentally friendly food grade packaging.

When asked about the future plans, the team shared that they intend to be a safe and secured spice and herbal supply service in Bangladesh. They look forward to opening country-wide physical branches. The founders further mentioned that among the 17 SDGs, Songsari is working towards 'Zero Hunger' and 'Good Health and Wellbeing.'

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