If you don’t have knowledge about the business you are doing, it is not possible for you to survive. But if you know about the business, then there can be no loss, said Jannat Ashraf, the owner of Jannat Aquarium, in an interview with The Business Post’s Shakhawat Hossain Sumon
Why did you start up such a business?
I always wanted to do something special. As I would have liked aquarium fish and birds since my childhood, I first started collecting fish fry through my home aquarium. I never thought as a woman that nothing would happen to me, but I always thought about what should be done to make me happy and I did everything in such way.
One must truly love the work being done. If you think that you will make a profit by buying and selling on the market, then it is not possible to go far with that business.
The main reason behind the decision about setting up of the aquarium was so I could do it at home. I didn’t have to go to a shop or market to sell fish fry or aquarium fish. I can do business from home.
I used to produce fish fry in my home aquarium and sell them to a businessman at Kataban; He bought fish fry and took them away. He again sold them outside Dhaka.
My investment now totalled Tk 20 lakh. And there was a daily sale of about Tk15-20 thousand. But sales have dropped significantly during the post-pandemic period.
Now I am a successful businessman as a result of my hobby of keeping various types of fish in an aquarium at home. I set up a hatchery to increase the breeding of aquarium fish. I have been doing business for 15 years at Shahjahanpur in the capital’s Khilgaon area.
Who were your partners at the beginning of business?
My husband had been staying abroad for a long time. As a result, I was alone when I started up the business. I had to take care of my two children. Besides, when my husband goes abroad, he takes me from village home and leaves me in Dhaka. As a result, I had no one to call my own in Dhaka at that time. But my passion and dedication have brought me here today.
I had some friends who were doing this business at that time. They used to sell aquarium fish to various shops to earn a living.
Many times they couldn’t collect money by delivering fish to Kataban. Those who took fish fry also complained that it was not good. As a result, they suffered losses.
Then they told me that since I am producing fish fry in the aquarium, let a shop do it instead. Although there was no agreement at first, I later opened a shop on their advice where I produced fish fry, and they used to take them from me and sell it in Kataban.
Even I distributed leaflets in various places as part of campaign. In about 15 days, many came to know that there was an aquarium shop here. Although I faced various problems, I overcame them.
Aquarium water is an important thing; how do you maintain?
Water is a big factor in aquariums. Supply water contains chlorine, which is harmful to fish. As a result, if you turn on the oxygen machine and leave supply water running for one night, chlorine will dissipate. The fish can then be easily released and reared in that water. If chlorine in water is too high, it stays for 24 hours.
That is why it is not right to leave the fish in the aquarium after buying them; they should be used after a day.
Another thing to note is that before releasing new fish into the aquarium, one should be released at a time, not all at once. If the fish lives for an hour, then water should be fine. And if the fish dies, water should be further purified and then released.
Many times, our reserve tank contains two days’ worth of old water. If that water is to be used in an aquarium, water can be tested in the same way.
What advice would you give to someone new to this business?
If one wants to do big business, he must make big investments, and more than that, he must know about them. But I think it is better to start up this kind of small business. Business should be learned by investing little by little.
It’s better to learn and still go big. Since it is a live item, there are a lot of risks involved. But you have to have a lot of patience, and you have to give a lot of time.
And investment depends on the type of business.
Do fish also suffer from fever?
While we are all familiar with the proverbial “frog’s cold,” “fish fever” may sound new to many. But for those who are in the aquarium business or who keep aquarium fish as a hobby, this is old news.
Aquarium fish get fever, and for this reason, fish heaters must be used. Then the movement of fish will be normal in two or three days. In this kind of disease, the fish sits quietly in one corner without much movement.
Fungus disease affects fish in addition to fever and white spots. When many fish are together, they breathe through gasps. Then the fish’s throat swells. Then there is fungus in the throat. It kills the fish quickly.
The other is a white spot; for that too, you have to pay for a heater. This type of problem is mainly seen when the fish has a fever.
What were the obstacles to moving the business forward?
About 15 years ago, many people laughed at me when I started up this business. I can’t do it as a woman. The women will run a boutique and will do handicraft work. They think they can’t stay in business. They say I am doing wrong business. I would say time will say if I am wrong or not. Dare to venture into this business and see that there is no need to make losses if you have a love for business.
Although there was some resistance from my family at the beginning when they saw that I could do it, there was no resistance from them. However, many problems have to be faced with nearby shops. Being a woman tries to harm the business.
Water used for fish should be tested, and fish diseases should be known. Skilled manpower is required for this. But it is not there.
The business has suffered a lot during the Covid-19 pandemic. I had a hatchery. From which I used to earn lakhs of taka a month. It had to be closed. I am trying hard to turn it on again.
How is fish sauce made?
Most of the aquarium fish come from outside the country. Now many people are cultivating this type of fish in the pond as well. Fish for eating in the pond and aquarium fish are being farmed in mosquito nets at one end.
Basically, the supply of such fish is highest in Feni. At one time, I used to supply fish to Feni myself. Because of the closure of hatcheries during the pandemic, they are now imported from Kataban. The majority of the fish come from Feni. When you order them, they come to the store themselves.
Online is now the easiest place to sell?
Everyone thinks that the aquarium business requires a lot of capital investment. However, if you know what you’re doing, anyone can make and sell fish fries in their aquarium at home. Now it is very easy to sell these fish fry. Online, there are hundreds of groups on Facebook where aquarium fish and fry are posted for sale and bought by those interested.