Leading Digital Entrepreneurship with Women’s role in E-Commerce I The E-S-I Webinar #8

Over the years, access to digital technology has played a major role in empowering women to do businesses. The number of female entrepreneurs is flourishing in digital entrepreneurship and e-commerce, bringing enormous impact and contributions to economic development, as women represent one of the biggest demographic opportunities both as market makers and consumers. Moreover, SMEs (often led and managed by women) are powerful engines that provide the backbone for ASEAN economic growth. As the region expects millions of dollars of total revenue from the e-commerce sector in 2030, achieving this growth will require more involvement of female entrepreneurs to drive SMEs and local business onto the digital platforms. Whilst there is  momentum to shape the women-led entrepreneurship landscape in the region, challenges remain as to facilitate access to finance, infrastructure, and assistance for women using e-commerce platforms. Furthermore, more needs to be done to debunk gender stereotypes and foster digital inclusion to achieve gender equality online and to inspire more women-led entrepreneurs to reap the benefit of going digital for their businesses. As ERIA research suggests, as digital commerce will continue to be an integral part in the region’s growth, empowering leading female entrepreneurs at the centre of the e-commerce sector has become critical for the post-pandemic recovery.

The 8th episode of ERIA’s Entrepreneurship, Start-Up, and Innovation (E-S-I) webinar series with the theme ‘Women in E-Commerce was held on 22 September 2021 and attracted more than 140 participants from the Asia-Pacific region.

Four entrepreneurs from ASEAN countries shared their personal journey on taking the lead in the digital entrepreneurial world:

  • Lishia Erza, CEO of ASYX, Indonesia;
  • Pennie Lim, CEO of Homa Sdn Bhd, Malaysia;
  • Mel Nava, Co-founder & CEO 1Export, Philippines;
  • Shanaz Winanto, Founder of Rorokenes; Member of eTrade for Women Community, Indonesia.

Ms Lishia Erza, CEO of ASYX, Indonesia shared her story on what inspired her to become a leading entrepreneur of ASYX, a sustainable supply chain financing company which aims to promote the scale up of SMEs and circular economies in Indonesia. Through her initiative, Melati Nusantara, she emphasized the importance of providing technical assistance for female entrepreneurs in learning digital and financial literacy. She further emphasized how the pandemic has accelerated the shift to online business and how women entrepreneurs have a good opportunity to utilize this market. To do so, Lishia underlined several important factors to support women entrepreneurship in going digital, such as: obtaining new knowledge on technologies and finance, navigating digital solutions for scaling up the business, and having a good sales track record.

Ms Pennie Lim, CEO of Homa Sdn Bhd, Malaysia, shared her journey from running her family property business to launching Homa, an online platform that offers building materials and home finishing products with a strong focus on sustainability, aiming to re-define the global home makeover community through people-centric, sustainable, and environmental values. Pennie highlighted how Homa was born by taking advantage of solving an untouched problem in the construction business. Moreover, she shared her perspective on being a female entrepreneur in a traditionally male-dominated industry, where the drive to push beyond boundaries and connect with like-minded people are needed for female entrepreneurs – as depicted from her favorite quotation of author Trina Paulus: You must want to fly so much, that you’re willing to give up being a caterpillar.

Ms Mel Nava, Co-founder & CEO 1Export, Philippines shared her experience in building online trade and services to connect thousands of SMEs buyers and suppliers across the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions. Mel highlighted how the pandemic has affected SMEs exports as most brick and mortar retail is closed and have moved online. The pandemic has further pushed the shift of focus of her business from building the right product, sales, and revenues to growing a sustainable operation for the business. Furthermore, she underscored several important skills for women entrepreneurs that want to go digital as follows: listen to the costumers, grow the business sustainably as well as adapting to unprecedented scenarios, and think globally especially in serving consumers beyond local.

Ms Shanaz Winanto, Founder of Rorokenes; Member of eTrade for Women Community, Indonesia highlighted her entrepreneurship journey that focused on developing an Indonesian artisan bag business that is both sustainable and ethical, emphasizing good products while fostering the community’s prosperity and promoting gender issues. In her view, going digital is an important tool for women entrepreneurs as they will be able to access more data, networks, market analysis, branding with purpose, and upscaling the business sales into the region and international market. Furthermore, as a member of eTrade for Women, a community platform facilitated by UNCTAD, Shanaz shared how the platform has further connected her with 100 women entrepreneurs around the globe, allowing more collaboration and information exchange on resources. She then discussed her experience with eTrade for Women by sharing her knowledge and training lessons for community clusters that work with her company.

The webinar was co-hosted by Dr Giulia Ajmone Marsan, ERIA Director for Strategy and Partnership, Ms Lina Maulidina Sabrina, Programme Officer, ERIA and Mr TJ Ooi, Founder of Curated Connectors, a Singapore-based start-up. During the Q&A session, moderated by Ms Lina, speakers discussed the challenges of going digital such as digital infrastructure issues, learning what customers’ needs, as well as building trust and transparency for a good e-commerce ecosystem. The discussion also touched upon the role of universities and policy infrastructure as an accelerator to support women in running their e-commerce business.

ERIA’s E-S-I webinar series is organised under ERIA’s Strategy and Partnership Programme, funded by Australia.


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