Taking on the e-commerce challenge

Klang showing her ‘kain burie’ attire, which she is now selling online.

FROM selling jungle products at roadside stalls and five-foot ways, a group of B40 women has adapted to using digital technology to alleviate poverty.

When the opportunity to learn about e-commerce and handicraft-making arose, some 30 of these enterprising ladies from Kampung Sijiram in Kota Samarahan did not think twice to sign up.

Among them were single mothers and housewives from hardcore poor households, who took part in an upskilling project organised by non-governmental organisation Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) between April and July.

“Participants learn about e-marketing and soft-selling techniques while utilising social media. They also undergo soft skills development and learn handicraft skills, such as beading, weaving and making traditional native costumes and apparel,” programme trainer Yalina Fiona Keith, 36, said.

“E-commerce has global outreach and does not discriminate in terms of marketing and consumers. Handicraft products are unique and we see this as a good start for these women in becoming entrepreneurs.

“They learn from scratch and we guide them to set up their online presence, make sales and deliver products,” she added.

With work experience in sales and marketing, including 10 years as a cabin crew member, Yalina said digital entrepreneurship is an efficient channel to help small businesses, especially those from the rural community, as it connects suppliers to consumers directly to maximise the marginal income effects of e-commerce.

Ita taking part in a handicraft-making workshop.Ita taking part in a handicraft-making workshop.

Yalina, a wealth planner and in-house trainer for a cabin crew training academy, said training doesn’t stop at providing the know-how but will continue guiding these women to grow and develop other income-generating outlets.

“In terms of personal growth, I can see that the participants are more open to the idea of doing online business compared to before, when they just relied on word of mouth to promote their products.

“Socioeconomically, some of them are homemakers and vegetable sellers. Now, they can call themselves entrepreneurs because they have successfully sold their products online.”

Yalina expressed hope for continuous development and support of such programmes.

“When women are empowered holistically, they invest in their families and the community, spurring economic growth and creating a more stable society on the whole,” she said.

Sadia, which organised the project in collaboration with the All-Party Parliamentary Group Malaysia Sustainable Development Goals (APPGM SDG) initiative, said Kampung Sijiram has 64 households with a population of 272. Most of the families are categorised as hardcore poor.

“They depend on jungle produce and planting a little bit of fruits and vegetables to supplement their income,” a Sadia representative said.

However, he said the crowded suburban village, about 58ha in size, does not provide the people with sufficient land to do proper farming.

“The main objective of this project is to connect the target group with experts and experienced individuals in related fields to improve their skills and knowledge to be more efficient.

“This aims to maximise productivity and quality to be competitive,” he added.

APPGM SDG was set up in 2019 but dissolved following the 15th general election in November last year. The training programme is now implemented under SDG Society, which also allocates funding.

Ita Pantau, 58, said she lacked confidence in handicraft-making and online business when she first started the programme.

Now, not only has she overcome her fear of e-commerce, she has managed to sell a few items online.

“I felt great and confident after attending the programme. I set up an online platform to sell my products and I could not have been more excited when I sold my first product.”

Ita is currently selling traditional clothing with Iban motifs known as “kain burie” and beadwork called “selampai”, which she learnt to make at the programme.

Housewife Klang Inyau expressed gratitude at the opportunity to learn something new to improve her livelihood.

The mother-of-three has experience in weaving and bead-making but was nervous and anxious about trying out online business.

“The classes gave me confidence as I gained knowledge and awareness of the mechanisms and prospects of e-commerce.

“I started through WhatsApp with known contacts and local customers, as I was afraid that strangers might disrupt my business online.

“However, now I am confident to take the next step to set up my store online.”

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