It is the first day of the “Nordic Agri, Fisheries and Food Tech Delegation 2011” - a four day long programme hosted by the Norwegian and Danish Embassy in Dhaka. The ballroom is buzzing with the sound of 46 local companies meeting with 13 Nordic companies.
“Oh no! Here she comes.”
Nasreen Hossain from the Norwegian Embassy is slowly approaching the table where Norwegian company Storvik Aqua is meeting with a local fish farming company. Marking the end of the 30 minutes they have to discuss a possible venture, the sight causes the meeting to shift into controlled panic as the local company tries to get in the final sell.
“Can we just have five more minutes? Please?”
Business Speed Dating
Peder Anders Rød is in deep concentration. He represents Norwegian Company Storvik Aqua during the delegation, a company that has specialized in selling equipment to the fish farming industry. During just half an hour Rød has to explain the company’s fish farming concept based on a bacteria culture for water cleansing, while at the same time memorizing faces, making notes about the other company and constantly keeping one eye on his watch to make sure they are on schedule.
Peder Anders Rød from Storvik Aqua explaining the company's fish farming concept, Biofloc, in one out of nine meetings on the first day of the delegation.
The programme has been designed by the Danish embassy after several business delegations in Dhaka. The basic idea is that the Nordic companies meet with a multitude of different local companies during the first delegation day. Then on the following three days they can decide to meet with the companies they felt showed the most potential.
Rød admits he was skeptical to the program before arriving, thinking that there would not be enough time to get an impression of each individual company, but says he changed his mind after the first couple of meetings.
- My impression is that this is a highly effective way to meet with a lot of companies in a short amount of time. It is a perfect combination of market research and search for a business partner, he says.
After nine meetings spread out over four and a half hours, Rød has scheduled to meet with eight out of nine companies in the following three days.
- There will be little time for sleep, Rød says smiling.
Åsa Sildnes is a consultant for Innovation Norway’s Business Matchmaking Programme in Bangladesh. The programme follows a four step plan that aims to establish sustainable and profitable business ventures between Norwegian and Bangladeshi companies. When hearing about the delegation, Sildnes contacted Norwegian companies she thought would benefit from the event.
- I target companies I know have a technology or competence that could be relevant for Bangladesh, says Sildnes, and explains that it is no coincidence that all three companies are within fish farming and aqua culture.
Consultant for Innovation Norway, Åsa Sildnes, presents the Bangladesh Business Matchmaking Programme to the three Norwegian companies taking part in the delegation: Plany AS, AquaOptima AS and Storvik Aqua As.
- Fish farming is a good example of a sector were Norway has extensive experience and expertise, she says.
Peder Anders Rød admits he knew less to nothing about Bangladesh before arriving, but is full of impressions after the four day visit.
- I have experienced the heat. The intensity of the city. The population density. I have witnessed the differences between poor and rich. But after 15 meetings with local companies, I have also seen a country with huge potential, he explains on the final day of the delegation.
The Road Ahead
Following his stay in Bangladesh, Rød will go back to Norway and present his recommendations for the board of directors, who in turn will decide whether to go forward with a venture in Bangladesh.
- We have identified a lot of potential companies in a short amount of time, but the job of finding the right partner is not done, says Rød.
Storvik Aqua has gone through the Business Matchmaking Programme previously during a venture in South-Africa, and Rød is not in doubt when asked whether he would go for the Business Matchmaking Programme again.
- If we decide to invest in Bangladesh, the Business Matchmaking Programme will be the natural way to go, says Rød.
Of the thirteen Nordic companies taking part in the delegation, one of the companies have already signed a agreement with a local company. Several of the remaining 12 companies signaled that they would do the same within shortly.