This study was conducted to determine if and how craft producers in less developed countries can take advantage of the Internet and e-commerce to sell their goods and so benefit their families and communities. It looked at both new business opportunities created by the Internet for craft producers, as well as how Internet and related technology can enhance existing supply chains, making key stages more efficient.
The main activities focused on capturing the experiences to date of actual producers in India and Bangladesh; to assess their felt needs, and to present groups with options to enable them to use the Internet and e-commerce for sustainable development of small businesses.
It was found that the giftware and handicraft market overall is growing, but that ATOs and the fair trade supply of craft products is losing ground to commercial interests. E-commerce, which herald a number of opportunities, is also constrained by barriers, and these factors favour the existing major players in the market rather than SMEs.
Interviews with producers in India and Bangladesh showed that even they were aware of the significant barriers. The recommendations therefore have made a few practical suggestions concerning entry into e-commerce, but have advised caution and discouraged over-optimism. Any intervention seeking to encourage fair trade production of handicrafts must consider the overall business and livelihood system, in which the introduction of ICT and e-commerce is just one small element.
In order to redress this perhaps disappointing and negative picture, the report has suggested a few future opportunities that build on the strengths and distinctives of the existing fair trade handicraft sector.
Gamos Ltd, Reading, UK, 183 pp.