Connecting Central Asian businesses to international markets through e-commerce
The International Trade Centre, a joint UN and WTO agency, with the support of the European Union, helps small businesses from five Central Asian countries sell artisanal products through e-commerce marketplace NOVICA.
(Almaty) E-commerce platform NOVICA launches the Silk Road region Artisan Empowerment Hub and Artisans Connect online store in Central Asia to support small businesses to sell handmade goods online, as part of the Ready4Trade Central Asia project funded by the European Union and implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC).
Access to international marketplaces is not equal across the world, and online platforms play a key role in strengthening the e-commerce ecosystem. With this launch, artisans from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will be able to access new online sales channels to target international customers.
“The European Union’s Ready4Trade Central Asia project is a project of cooperation. We believe that Central Asia will be stronger together, too. The Ready4Trade project supports e-commerce for small businesses in Central Asia. Using NOVICA, Artisan Empowerment Hub businesses of Central Asia will be stronger, better visible internationally and more resilient,” said EU Ambassador, Kestutis Jankauskas.
Onboarding businesses, making sales
The Artisan Empowerment Hub will help manage the complexities of international trade and shipping, while overseeing all aspects of end-customer satisfaction. To start, the Hub will select 40 artisans from the Ready4Trade project, manage their onboarding onto the NOVICA online channels and handle all aspects of showcasing, selling, packaging and express shipping their wares. The Hub provides access to the NOVICA store and other platforms that are not directly accessible to artisans. These include the UNICEF market, Kiva Store, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Road Scholar World Bazaar, and NOVICA stores on Amazon, Overstock and Wayfair.
“The rich arts and handmade jewelry traditions of Central Asia will impassion millions of fairtrade customers,” said Roberto Milk, co-founder and CEO of NOVICA, adding, “We are working hard to help preserve and strengthen the region’s incredible decorative traditions, in which ornate amulets and talismans still rule – and where the jewelry arts are passed down from generation to generation.”
The e-commerce store, Artisans Connect, highlights goods from businesses that have received e-commerce capacity building and one-on-one coaching as part of the four-year project. In Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the project supported 34 trainers and 155 artisans and businesses (of which 98 are women-led). ITC-trained national coaches hosted over 1,200 one-on-one tailored sessions in 28 regions in the three countries.
In addition, 50 artisans and businesses in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan received customized support to adapt to these countries’ e-commerce ecosystems. As of 2022, over $2.5 million in sales were achieved through online channels opened or optimized by the project, in advance of the permanent Artisan Empowerment Hub launch. In Kazakhstan, the capacity building and coaching initiatives were implemented in partnership with QazTrade Center for Trade Policy Development JSC and the Union of Artisans of Kazakhstan.
Building on a strong partnership
“For small businesses to trade more in global markets, connecting to online marketplaces is key,” said ITC Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton. “It’s not only about getting online, but having the skills to attract customers, to package and ship goods, and to engage with customers. With the launch of this Hub and e-commerce store with NOVICA, small firms will have the practical support they need to sell more handmade goods to customers worldwide, quickly and smoothly.”
ITC and NOVICA first signed a memorandum of understanding in 2021 and have since been collaborating closely to improve opportunities for artisans globally. The global handcrafts sector has major growth potential: The market was worth $752.2 billion in 2022. Historically, only the smallest percentage of that global sales figure trickles back to artisans and working conditions for many are abysmal. NOVICA and ITC are working together to tackle these issues.
Notes for the Editor
About the project:
Ready4Trade Central Asia is a four-year EU-funded project implemented by the International Trade Centre in close collaboration with national partners, designed to contribute to the overall sustainable and inclusive economic development of Central Asia by boosting intra-regional and international trade in the countries of the region. Beneficiaries of the Ready4Trade Central Asia project include governments, small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular women-led enterprises, and business support organizations.