What We Learnt from a Three-Month Long Experiment to Develop a Framework for Identifying and Enabling Grassroots Innovations in Bangladesh .Part 2

This is part 2 of a two-part blog on the lesson learnt from a three-month long journey to develop a toolkit to identifying and empower grassroots innovations in the context of Bangladesh. Part 1 talked about the ley key features of the framework. This blog features, in brief, just a few of the fascinating local innovations that we came across while working on the strategy toolkit and testing out our model.

December 31, 2023

The Power of Grassroots Innovation in Bangladesh

By Mohammad Ruhul Kader, Founder of Future Startup, Bangladesh and

Sarah Sabin Khan, Head of Solutions Mapping, UNDP Accelerator Lab Bangladesh


Ratul Hasan, a young entrepreneur from the small city of Khulna, along with his of 5 friends, are working towards redefining the concept of electronic waste in Bangladesh. Nature Plug, their brainchild, recycles electronic waste to create new, functional, and affordable electronic products. The product line includes low-cost mini-UPS systems made from old laptop batteries, solar inverters for the electricity-scarce Sundarban region, and LED lights created by recycling and improving used ones. Theirs is a movement towards a sustainable future.  They operate from one modest room reflecting the grassroots nature of their endeavour. Their manufacturing process involves using both new and recycled materials, sourced primarily from local markets in Khulna. Despite the humble setup, their efforts have resulted in a growing customer base and high satisfaction rates. 


Wasiul Haque Bhuiyan, a telecommunication engineering graduate, has turned his hobby into a pioneering venture, OhmTech Electronics, to address the persistent challenge of load shedding in rural areas of Bangladesh. Frustrated with the poor quality of charger lights available in the market, Wasiul innovatively created 'Magic Light' – an automated charger light that operates without human intervention, lighting up in dark environments and switching off in bright ones. OhmTech's Magic Light stands out with its wireless, portable design, efficient lithium polymer battery, full charge indicator, and overcharge protection, providing bright illumination for medium-sized rooms for 3 hours continuously, and up to 7 days in standby mode. 


In Bangladesh, the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) face the common challenge of a lack of financing options and access to formal channels despite contributing significantly to the GDP. Addressing this, Drutoloan, co-founded by Abdul Gaffar Sadi, attempted to streamline financing for MSMEs by blending digital and physical methods and introduced innovation in assessing creditworthiness. Their unique credit scoring engine evaluates over 50 data points including non-traditional ones, encompassing financial habits, business performance, and compliance to assess creditworthiness. It also assists in obtaining legal documents like tax IDs. Initially starting in the capital Dhaka, Drutoloan has expanded, partnering with banks and financial institutions to bring tailored financial solutions to the MSME sector.

A Druto Loan representative helping out an SME entrepreneur

©UNDP Bangladesh

In the rural district of Thakurgaon, Bangladesh, a significant change is being spearheaded by Service Emergency for Rural People (SERP), an NGO focused on improving the menstrual health of indigenous Dalit women and girls. Confronted with health risks from using unclean old clothes and limited access to commercial sanitary pads, these women face substantial challenges. SERP's innovative solution involves training them to produce eco-friendly, reusable menstrual pads. These affordable pads, costing about USD 0.18, are sustainable and designed for long-term use, needing just four pieces per cycle and lasting up to six months with proper care. Beyond providing a hygienic solution, SERP's initiative empowers these women to start their own businesses.


Recognizing the value of the natural beauty and rich culture defining Bangladesh's rural life, Jafar, a passionate traveler and founder of Taabu Tours, has turned his ancestral village, Ekduaria, into a haven for sustainable tourism. This initiative offers foreign tourists a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the authentic village life of Bangladesh. Guests get to experience the authentic lives of the villager, staying with locals, and engaging in daily village activities like irrigating land, planting paddy, and cooking on soil stoves. There are no additional or curated activities that can interfere with local routines, except english speaking guides. This approach truly embraces the promotion of slow, respectful, and community-based tourism attracting visitors who value cultural immersion and sustainability. 


These are only five of the many initiatives we came across during our journey to designing a system for identifying and empowering grassroots innovation in Bangladesh. One common thread that connects all these stories is the agency and ingenuity of people and their capacity to come up with solutions for the problems in their lives and the lives of people around them. 

A tourist enjoying the village life in Ekduriya community tourism initiative

©UNDP Bangladesh

We believe there are many more Nature Plug, OhmTech, Druto Loan Socio, SERP and Ekduaria that are doing extraordinarily impactful work. Sadly, many of these initiatives die out or fail to scale because they rarely get mainstream attention or support.

We believe if we can identify them early and support them with resources and connections, it can dramatically change the development landscape in Bangladesh. It will allow us to harness an incredible source of energy to address our social and development challenges that we have so far either overlooked or failed to harness. 

Grassroots innovation can be a powerful driver of sustainable economic and social development for Bangladesh. We hope our toolkit, which we plan to launch in early February, will help at least start a discussion in that direction. Like every great journey, you have to start somewhere. 

Join us in amplifying the voices of grassroots innovators in Bangladesh. Together, we can nurture these solutions for a brighter and more sustainable future for all.