More than 15 online shops that offer processed fish of all kinds, sell 50-200 kg of fish every day, with lakhs in turnover every month

17 July, 2023, 08:45 am

Last modified: 17 July, 2023, 09:24 am

Although Sanzana Haque Rita loves the taste of our local small fishes, she barely gets to have them because of the time it takes to prepare them. Sanzana holds a 9-to-5 job at a bank, which requires her to commute from Agaorgaon to Karwan Bazar every working day.

“Karwan Bazar has a range of raw fish and I love choto mach. But in the evening when I get back from the office, I have no one to process that fish for me and I don’t like the ones processed by the salesmen in the market who do it in a dirty environment,” she says.

Before the pandemic, Sanzana refrigerated the raw fish she purchased, so that her househelp could cut and process the fish the next day. “But by that time the fish loses its consistency,” she says.  

During the pandemic, the local fish market’s supply chain of fish was disrupted and, additionally, Sanzana’s helping hand also left her job. Sanzana began looking for alternatives and came across ‘Macher Haatbazar’ – a FaceBook-based fish market online that sold clean, cut and processed ready-to-cook fish in boxes. Fish that Sanzana could “give a rinse once or twice and toss them in the pan.” 

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“I have to pay Tk 50-60 more per kg plus a delivery charge, but if you consider the quality, and the hassle-free delivery, this is quite a bargain,” Sanzana said. 

Like Sanzana, hundreds of working women and students are ordering processed and ready-to-cook fish online from the online pages, according to the business owners that TBS spoke to. 

We found more than 15 online shops that sell processed fish of all kinds, besides processed meat. And these stores sell 50-200 kg of fish every day.

From an English-medium school teacher to the online ‘Ilish Apa’

Before moving out to Australia with her husband in 2016, Zarin Hannan worked as a teacher at one of the capital’s English-medium schools in Dhanmondi. In 2019 they returned and her government-officer husband got posted in Chandpur, the land of Ilish in Bangladesh. 

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“Everyone in our family and friend circle asked me to send Ilish to them. Over the next two years, I developed a network with the fishermen of Padma and the idea struck me. During the pandemic in 2020, I started my page ‘Macher Haatbazar’ and now, after three years, I have over a lakh followers and over 200kg fish orders every day,” explained Zarin. The confidence in her tone was palpable. 

Zarin has a team of 17 people that work in her warehouse in Banani. Her suppliers in Chandpur send fish by dawn, and the fish reach her warehouse in Banani on pickup vans. By 6 am, one team cuts and washes the fish. And then by 10 am, the delivery team heads out with foam boxes full of fish on their bikes and starts delivering. 

“We provide both whole raw fish as well as ready-to-cook raw fish; the pricing varies with an added 50tk per kg,” Zarin said. In the last three years, Zarin has had 20-25,000 customers and a pool of 100-150 regular customers that give her a turnover of Tk20-25 lakh every month. 

And Zarin gets 30-40 orders every day, most of them from working women from all over Dhaka.    

During the winter vacation of November-December, sales drop a bit as “most of my clients are people that can afford a vacation and the winter vacation season is the only time they go for one. That season my turnover goes to Tk17-19 lakh,” she added.  

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Macher Haatbazar has customers in 36 districts other than Dhaka, where they send the fish in 15-16 hours. Currently, they have home delivery services in three other districts – Sylhet, Khulna and Chattogram. 

Zarin’s page has more than 20 posts every day and she loves to write the posts herself. “As a regular writer on the WE [Women and E-commerce forum], I have earned the title of ‘Ilish Apa’ on that platform. And this writing habit has got me 80% organic reach on my page.”

Zarin boasts of not having a refrigerator in her warehouse as she doesn’t have to store any fish. She uses ice in the foam boxes so that the fish doesn’t rot on the way. “I pray that I never have to own a refrigerator because I want to maintain the quality of my service by providing fresh fish,” she explained. 

Arko and Afia – the fish-selling couple

In 2019, Arko and Afia started Heritage BD, an online shop that used to sell sweets. But when the pandemic hit in 2020, their business came to a halt. And for two months, they sat at home. 

“We live in Uttarkhan, near the Shitalakhhya River. Everyday morning, fishermen arrive with fish from the river and one day while shopping for fish, the idea struck me, and I shared it with Afia. That is how ‘Heritage BD: Matsya Kathan’ started its journey,” recalled Arko. 

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The next day they made a post on their page offering fish and the orders flowed in. “For the first 20 days, I bought fish from the fishermen and the supplier in the market. Then Afia, my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law cut and washed the fish to deliver. I used to deliver myself. But eventually, we realised that, with growing demand, this would be too hectic. So we decided to develop a team,” Arko explained.

Now, besides the four family members, Arko and Afia have a pool of 12 team members that work to process the fish and deliver them. With 30-40 orders every day, HeritageBD has a monthly turnover of Tk 7-8 lakh.

“Almost 95% of our customers are women – either working or students. And most of them have experience of living abroad. And the pandemic lockdown was a reason we received a thrust in our business,” Arko and Afia added. 

The way Ilish worked out for Zarin, it was the egg of the fish that worked out for Afia and Arko. 

“Initially we used to send the fish eggs with the fish order. But later we found out that Dhaka hotels and restaurants have a huge demand for this. Last month we sold 200kg of fish eggs in just an hour. We couldn’t believe it ourselves,” they exclaimed. 

The reason fish eggs have so much demand is that washing them can be tricky. The delicate egg sack has veins that need to be cleaned and also a sudden crack can lead the tiny egg pearls to be washed away with water. “We do the work for our customers so that they can cook without the hassle,” the couple added. 



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