Local handicraft trade going online

Danielle uses the Internet to market her products.

BUYING local handicrafts used to mean going down to the local handicraft market or craft centre to hunt for what the heart desires.

But with the industry getting more modern and technology becoming more advanced, you can buy almost anything under the sun, including local and native handicrafts, with the click of a mouse and in the comfort of home.

Local handicraft maker Danielle Lipang Lawai, 42, who is taking advantage of today’s technology to market her products online, said her interest in glass bead handicrafts has taken her ‘digitally’ around Malaysia.

Her products can be purchased anytime and anywhere as long as the buyer has either a smartphone or a computer, and of course, Internet connection.

Danielle shows some of her glass bead creations to be sold online.

According to Danielle, her online handicraft business has provided her with some free

time to spend with her family and very little pressure as she does not have to run a shop or boutique to promote her products.

All she needs are good and clear photos of the products to be posted online.

The photos are uploaded to websites or her own personal blog as well as various social media and pages where the photos will be shared and promoted by friends, family members as well as online acquaintances or followers.

The Kelabit lady from Limbang markets her products under her own brand name.

She also has her own online followers who are always looking forward to her new creations.

“RabenBeads was launched online through Instagram in October 2014, before it was introduced through Facebook. This has enabled me to showcase and market all my beads and handicrafts online,” she said.

All her online customers pay for their purchases by depositing directly into her account, and all the orders will be shipped via Poslaju or courier, while orders within Sarawak will be delivered using bus, depending on customers’ request or preference.

“There are also customers who come and collect their orders personally and will settle upon collection. Such customers normally live or work not far from my house,” noted Danielle, now residing in Kuching with her family.

According to her, most customers love glass bead accessories and women’s handicrafts.

“RabenBeads is always ready to supply its finished products to both local customers and local markets and I’m looking forward to enter the international market soon,” she said.

She said online business has become very popular among all generations, adding that online marketing is so easy as it does not require a shop and a huge capital to operate and can be done anywhere, anytime as long as there is Internet connection.

“Each post or picture uploaded can easily garner a group of online followers who will constantly be updated whenever you post about new products.

“The best part is that you can virtually meet various kinds of customers and your market has no limit.”

She revealed that she is working to get foreign customers in an effort to penetrate the global market.

She acknowledged the importance of the digital economy in this modern era, saying it could help develop the local market and enable its participants go beyond boundaries.

Danielle’s products are made of high quality glass beads.

Govt support vital

Danielle also said government support is vital in helping small time traders and sellers like herself expand their market locally as well as online.

“The government needs to increase and provide more platforms to help entrepreneurs, especially small timers like us, to promote our products.

“For example, recently the Ministry of Industry and Entrepreneurs Development (MIED) Sarawak collaborated with BorneoMart (1Stop Mart) to help vendors from Sarawak market their products in West Malaysia. There should be more such efforts to help traders like us.

“The government and related agencies should also provide suitable digital knowledge courses to help entrepreneurs improve their knowledge on online marketing,” she suggested.

Danielle pointed out that despite the many positive aspects of online marketing, there were also weaknesses.

“Online sellers are also at risk of being cheated by their customers, especially when transactions are done with total strangers.

“Furthermore, the number of sellers marketing their handicrafts online has increased and we have to really compete to succeed. There are also issues of copycats.

“This is so because when we post pictures of our creation online, there is a risk of it being seen and cloned.

Some will copy the design and sell the item at a much cheaper price.”

For the company’s continued survival in the digital market, Danielle said she needs to constantly produce quality handicrafts to give customers their money’s worth.

To achieve this, she sees to it that her products are made with only locally-made high quality glass beads or those from Indonesia and Thailand, which are not to be mixed with other types of beads such as ceramic, resin and crystal.

Today’s handicraft and bead products are not exclusive to a certain race or community as their usage in the fashion industry is wide and there are also many contemporary designs being produced by local and international handicraft makers.

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