Founded in 2014 in Mazar-i-Sharif, Arasta Detergent Company produces laundry detergent, dish washing liquid, glass cleaner, and a selection of soaps and shampoo. The company has 20 employees, of which 16 are women, including the Administrative and Finance Manager. The company was not reaching its full potential; the business was hampered with slow manual product packaging procedures that were not efficient. The cost of the finished products was too high, and coupled with poor quality packaging, the result was business stagnation. Company management also did not understand customer demand, and their market was limited to only the northern Afghan provinces.
After learning about USAID Women in the Economy’s (WIE) private sector development services, Arasta Detergent applied for a mini grant needed to purchase an automated packaging machine. This machine has various functions, including filling and capping bottles, as well as date marking. The machine allowed the company to double its production from 8 to 16 tons per day. By changing from manual production to an automated system, production costs decreased by 20 percent, allowing company revenues to increase by almost 35 percent. With the increased output, Arasta hired two more female employees.
Wanting to reach new markets, Arasta Detergents also participated in the Forward Together: Women in Business regional trade show held last year in Mazar-i-Sharif, and later in a large national trade event for Afghan women’s businesses held recently in Kabul. As a result of the trade fairs, Arasta signed three new sales contracts worth AFN 1,200,000 with dealers and supermarkets in the central and southern regions of the country.
“The trade fairs WIE organized helped get the Arasta name and brand out into new regional markets, and we gained a good understanding of our target markets needs and wants. We developed partnerships to help in product distribution; this is helping our products become known nationally,” said Mr. Mohammadullah, Owner of Arasta Detergents.
Women in the Economy is a four-year program working to improve the viability and growth of women-owned businesses as well as those businesses with a female workforce of at least 30 percent. The program also works to provide job skills training based on market demand, and helps Afghan women gain on -the-job-training and work experience with the ultimate aim of helping them getting new or better jobs.