Rakibur Rahman Tutul was only 13 when he started his company in the front yard of his Chattogram Pahartali home with a meagre Tk900 and a heart full of passion for chicken and dairy farming.
In a span of 37 years, his teenage venture has grown into one of the country’s largest and most successful agro-business with an annual turnover of around Tk1,000 crore.
Rakibur grew up wandering around the chicken farm in the government railway staff colony – filled with vast crop fields, ponds full of fish, and cattle. His father TS Mahbubur Rahman worked as a railway engineer in Chattogram.
Founded in the name of his mother Samsun Nahar, the Nahar Agro Group currently owns 10 companies in various sectors including poultry, dairy, and feed mills.
The group, which has 35 factories in different areas of the country with more than 4,000 workers, provides various technical support as well as chicks and feed to about 10,000 poultry farmers across the country.
“It is my dream to fulfil the needs of protein and meat in the country. I want to contribute to this sector as much as I can,” Rakibur Rahman Tutul, managing director of Nahar Agro Group.
“I work hard to manage the operating expenses of the company in order to survive and grow. My children have also taken over the company now. I reinvest the profits I make from the business. I have been doing it for a long time and will continue to do so.”
On an ordinary day in 1986, then seventh-grader Rakibur brought home 300 hens of the Fayoumi breed with Tk900 he got during Eid as salami (a gift given by elders).
He built a brooding box with corrugated tin in front of the house and started tending the chickens. After 20 weeks, these hens started laying 280 to 290 eggs per day.
Meeting the needs of the family, Rakibur started selling eggs to the people in his colony and around.
At the end of school, when his classmates indulged in sports and adventure, Rakibur used to spend time on his hobby farm.
Rakibur’s father encouraged him to work on the chicken farm. His mother Samsun Nahar used to help him in the work.
The positive response from customers made him more motivated when he started selling eggs in the surrounding area. His chicken farm grew in size over the years.
While studying in higher secondary, Rakibur expanded his business with cattle. In 1991, he bought a dairy cow for Tk1,10,000 and another one for Tk87,000 in the same year.
In 1992, he purchased one more cow for Tk1,41,000 to meet the increasing demand for milk from local buyers. Until 1994, there were 17 cows on his farm, located next to his government house.
Leaving railway colony for a fresh start
In 1993, Rakibur’s father Mahbubur Rahman resigned from the railway service through a golden handshake. He died of cancer in 1994 within six months of retirement.
After the death of his father, Rakibur left the railway colony house in Pahartali and moved to the Jhautala area of South Khulshi. He bought a piece of land there and built a farm for 2,400 broiler chickens.
The death of his father made Rakibur take more initiative to expand the business. As the eldest son, he had to take care of the family. At that time, Rakibur used to bring cows from India. About 200 litres of milk were produced daily from his dairy farm.
In the midst of it, he continued his education and enrolled in a Master’s programme. His younger brother was admitted to Chittagong University. All of their education and family expenses were borne by his income.
Business boosts with bank loans
In 1994, Rakibur requested a loan of Tk50,000 from Mohammad Mohsin, then manager of Sonali Bank Bahaddarhat branch. But after visiting the firm, the bank manager offered him a loan of Tk5 lakh.
Rakibur was worried at first because it was a large loan to repay. The bank manager gave him a week to make a decision.
After some careful consideration, Rakibur took a loan of Tk3.5 lakh and bought two more cows with the money. He took another loan of Tk5 lakh after paying off the first loan within two years.
With bank loans, the number of cows on the dairy farm continued to rise. At one point, he opened a chicken feed shop in Jhautala. The demand for broiler chicken started to increase in Chattogram and Rakibur on his farm had about 70,000 broiler and layer chickens.
In 1994, Rakibur segregated his business with names such as Nahar Dairy, Nahar Poultry, and Nahar Poultry Feed. In 1998, he started rearing parent stock (chickens that lay eggs to produce chicks) with 4,200 chicks at Kumira.
Nahar Agro Complex Ltd was formed in 2002. After that, factories were built one by one in different places of the country including Mirsharai, Sitakunda and Fatikcchari upazilas.
Thriving despite setbacks
Nahar Agro imported 46,000 parent-stock chicks from France in 2004 to set up a hatchery. After the stock arrived at the airport, Rakibur found that 26,000 chicks were dead which caused him a huge loss. At that time, his application for a bank loan was also denied.
These two unexpected events occurring at the same time force Rakibur into a quandary. He was worried about how to produce chicks from eggs produced from parent-stock chickens.
However, a loan of Tk70 lakh from a financial institution made him optimistic again. The hatchery was built in two and a half months. The journey of Nahar Agro’s first hatchery started in 2005 in Mirsharai, Chattogram.
But another menace was awaiting down the way. The bird flu outbreak started in the country in 2005 soon after the hatchery opening. Due to maintaining biosecurity, the hatchery chicks survived but their demand in the market fell.
It was a disaster for Rakibur as the price of chicks compared to the cost of production dropped sharply and running the factory became very difficult. But his passion for the business paid off in the end and Nahar Agro continued to flourish despite all odds.
Nahar Agro now
Currently, Nahar Agro has 12 lakh parent-stock (broiler and layer) chickens on its various farms. From the eggs laid by the parent-stock chickens, 22 to 24 lakh chicks are produced every week in various hatcheries.
Besides, the dairy farm has 1,700 breeding and milking cows. About 5,500 to 6,000 litres of milk are produced daily.
Nahar has four feed mills in Mirsharai, Sirajganj, and Jashore with a production capacity of 60,000 tonnes per month. These mills now produce 30,000 tonnes of feed a month — 20% of which is used by Tutul’s own farms and the remaining 80% is marketed.
Nahar Agro provides chicks, feed and other technical support to around 10,000 poultry farmers who have up to 5,000 chicken farms across the country.
Nahar Agro’s Managing Director Rakibur Rahman Tutul is currently serving as the director of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry and senior vice-president of the Bangladesh Dairy Farmers Association.
He served as the president of the Breeders Association of Bangladesh (2017-2021). Besides, he is associated with Bhatiari Golf and Country Club, Chittagong Club, Shaheen Golf and Country Club and other service organisations.
Rakibur Rahman was awarded “Dairy Icon” by the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock in 2021, Best Farmer by Standard Chartered-Channel I in 2022, and ACI Dipto Krishi Award by Best Cattle Farm in 2022.