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eTrade for Women eMasterclass for South-East Asia: Summary Report

eTrade for Women held its first eMasterclass for South-East Asia on 1, 8 and 15 October 2020. The eMasterclass was organized by UNCTAD with the collaboration of the eTrade for Women regional Advocate, Ms. Helianti Hilman, and benefitted from the contribution of regional experts from Endeavor, Foodizz, Accenture Indonesia, as well as eTrade for all partners such as the International Trade Centre. It also benefited from the financial support of the Governments of the Netherlands and Sweden.

Sixteen inspiring women digital entrepreneurs from five South-East Asian countries – Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Viet Nam – took part in the eMasterclass. All of them are the founders of either a digital business, or of a company that makes use of e-commerce and digital platforms as part of its business strategy and operations. The eMasterclass was a mix of inspirational and learning sessions, a Policy Dialogue and networking opportunities.


Inspirational session

The virtual Fireside chat with Ms. Helianti Hilman, eTrade for Women Advocate, and Founder and Chairperson of Javara, Indonesia was opened by Ms. Isabelle Durant, Deputy-Secretary General of UNCTAD and hosted by Ms. Karen Lam, former Host and Journalist at Channel News Asia, Author and Communication Coach. During this session, Ms. Hilman presented key aspects of her personal and professional journey as the Founder of Javara. She shared powerful learnings about how she embraced digital tools to transform a small business dedicated to selling traditional food products and generate business opportunities, while also creating value along the value chain by connecting farmers and local producers and their communities to domestic and regional markets.

Key takeaways from the session:

  • The digital journey does not have to be an intimidating one, even for conventional/traditional businesses.
  • As a business manager, one needs to know where the strengths are, and surround oneself with the right experts, so as to be able to focus on own skills.
  • One of the building blocks to succeed in the digital transformation is data management: being able to collect, store and analyse business data is key to unlock the growth potential. This also requires to ensuring that the overall team is fully in line with adopting data-led practices.
  • One of the successful features of digitalization was the adoption of a relatively simple digital solution: QR codes. Javara was able to showcase its customers the quality and traceability of its products while also reducing the costs related to information-sharing.
  • It is important to remain true and loyal to the mission of your company. By promoting the food heritage of Indonesia in a sustainable and inclusive way, Helianti’s business is providing thousands of small producers with new income-generating activities.

A replay of the fireside chat is available here:

Capacity-building activities

Experts from the region held several learning sessions where they shared their practical knowledge to help participants make the most of digital tools to grow their companies.

Cindy Alvionita, Digital Lecturer at Foodizz, and Founder of the EAT project, Indonesia, shared tips on how to adapt a company’s business canvas to digital transformation. More specifically, participants looked into:

  • How to map the business profile and key activities by using or expanding the business canvas approach,
  • Why adopting a more consumer–centric approach will help boost sales by attracting more loyal digital customers.

Cindy Alvionita also held a session dedicated to optimizing a digital marketing strategy. More specifically, participants looked into:

  • Identifying or expanding the baseline of relevant online marketing channels for targeted customers,
  • Running an introspective analysis to better know the company’s strong and week points and defining priority areas for improvement, and
  • Exploring additional growth opportunities by developing new digital offers, such as purchase or payment methods.

Veronica Cristina, Digital Marketing Manager at Accenture Interactive, shared insights about the Customer experience – from product centric to customer centric. In this interactive session, participants learned how to:

  • Pay better attention to how the company meets its customers’ expectations and focus on the outcome rather than the technology,
  • Develop content/services and products that can respond to customers’ needs and problems, and
  • Better know their customers and improve their experience by creating a customer persona tailored to the specificities of their respective businesses.

Helianti Hilman, eTrade for Women Advocate and Founder and Chairperson of Javara shared her insider tips with participants about how to use digitalization to grow a company’s business and access foreign markets. Key issues included:

  • Developing partnerships and collaborations – with similar sized companies facing the same issues – can help streamline costs and gain access to new markets,
  • While the task may seem daunting, it is important to set realistic goals for the company to grow in a sustainable manner,
  • It is important not to act as a trader and a broker: by creating value to supply partners, this will allow synergies for growing together and therefore maximize the business impact, and
  • Find supporters – for instance identify public institutions/policy makers who can help advance a common agenda.


Engagements with policy–makers

UNCTAD facilitated a public policy dialogue between women digital entrepreneurs, representatives from donor institutions and policy-makers from across South-East Asia. Participants shared their views on ways to boost digital entrepreneurship while opening up more opportunities for women, to build a prosperous and inclusive digital economy.

Participants included:  

  • H.E. Ms. Elsbeth Akkerman, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Viet Nam, who delivered Opening remarks
  • Ms. Giulia Ajmone Marsan, Strategy and Partnership Director, Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), who gave a presentation about the situation of women in the digital economy in the region
  • Ms. Helianti Hilman, eTrade for Women Advocate and Founder and Chairperson of Javara, Indonesia
  • Ms. Vanessa Erogbogbo, Head, Women and Trade Programme, International Trade Centre
  • Ms. Thao Griffiths, Policy Advisor to the Chairman, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Vietnam
  • Ms. Su Thet Hninn, Assistant Director, Division for WTO and Trade-related International Organizations, Ministry of Commerce, Myanmar
  • Ms. Shamika N. Sirimanne, Director, Division on Technology and Logistics, UNCTAD, who moderated the session.

Key takeaways from the policy dialogue

  • The ASEAN region is one of the fastest growing digital economies in the world, and some of its countries are global leaders in terms of online payment solutions. Yet the digital transformation must be made more inclusive: data shared by ERIA showed that men in metropolitan areas still have better connectivity and digital skills than other groups, bearing the risk of a widening gender digital divide.
  • One particular area where women are at a disadvantage is access to credit and capital, which prevents them from benefiting from the digital boom. Misconceptions about gender roles are still widely rooted, and women remain perceived as higher-risk profiles.
  • Panelists insisted that this is a time to think beyond traditional banking methods and to develop products that are better adapted to the needs of women entrepreneurs. The example of the partnership developed by the SheTrades initiative with a major charity and a trusted impact fund, showed that some innovative approaches are being created to unlock investment opportunities for women entrepreneurs.
  • Panelists also called for more efforts to collect data about the digital economy and more specifically about women digital entrepreneurs, as a prerequisite to developing relevant and evidence-based policies.
  • The example of Myanmar brought to light the importance of collaboration between the public and private sector to build more inclusive digital ecosystems. The country has adopted a consultative approach to bring all actors to the table to define a roadmap to adopt its e-commerce strategy.
  • Speakers also discussed the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and highlighted that women entrepreneurs across the region have been hardly hit. A recent survey conducted in Viet Nam showed the depth of the economic fallout of the crisis on smaller enterprises in the country.
  • The panel concluded that e-commerce and the digital economy opens great opportunities for women empowerment, should they be fully allowed into it. Women entrepreneurs will be one of the building blocks of the economic recovery post pandemic, and all social and economic actors have a role to play to build more inclusive digital ecosystems.

A replay of the Policy Dialogue here:


Feedback from participants

Participants who completed the eMasterclass’ final evaluation survey reported that the Masterclass was both informative and inspirational, and has helped them to gain practical knowledge to be directly actionable into their businesses.

They also indicated that being connected to other women digital entrepreneurs in their region was of high relevance. Several of them mentioned that they are especially willing to keep interacting with each other by taking part in the eTrade for Women community, to support one another, share knowledge and explore for possible collaborations in the future.

Participants gave the eMasterclass a general evaluation of 4.75 out of 5.

What some participants said: 

The Fireside Chat and interaction with Helianti Hilman was a real eye-opener to me. It gave me several ideas on how to incorporate data management and e-trade into my business.”,
Amalia Setiabudi, Founder of Ing Madyokusuman, Indonesia

It was an awesome event and I would like to be a part of it in the future too.”,
Priyanka Chetry Founder of Grocerdel, Cambodia.

Thank you so much for this Masterclass and looking forward for the eTrade for Women community”,
Rachmawati Sumartapura, Founder of Earth Major, Indonesia

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