It was the early 1960's and the nation's socioeconomic outlook was not a very promising one. The population was a mere 100,000. The only communication with the outside world was the Morse code and the ham radio. The only airstrip was the one laid by the British RAF and the mode of transport between islands was limited to traditional sailing Dhoni. The only resource available was tuna. Consumers were at the mercy of importers. Even the most basic food items were expensive. The country had no banking service. Development was slow with no available funds for major investments and no commercial industry.
The need became more apparent for a central organization to import goods necessary to raise the living standards and encourage development. In 1964, a fully state-funded business was set up by the Maldivian government with one key mission, to begin with: strengthening national food security. The main task of the company then named Athireemaafannu Trading Agency (ATA), was to purchase and import essential food items in bulk to be distributed nationally via local traders and ATA's own retail outlets. ATA sold its imports to the public at a low mark-up and also purchased supplies for the government.