ASEAN MSMEs Try to Make Traditional Fabrics Go International
Jakarta. It is not just the tycoons and leaders of Southeast Asian nations that are coming to Jakarta for the ASEAN Summit, but the bustling city is also hosting small enterprises from across the region.
About 45 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) from different Southeast Asian nations, including Cambodia and Myanmar, have set up booths at Jakarta’s Senayan Multipurpose Building for the ASEAN Weekend Market. This three-day festival starting on Friday takes place as a curtain raiser to the upcoming ASEAN Business & Investment Summit, the bloc's private sector gathering.
It is not without reason that MSMEs are the main stars of the event.
Government data shows MSMEs account for 35-97 percent of the workforce in ASEAN countries. The sector contributes about 35-69 percent to the national gross domestic product (GDP), with the numbers varying from one ASEAN member state to another.
“Why MSMEs? They are the backbone of our economy. Not only in Indonesia but also in the region,” Arsjad Rasjid, the chair of the event’s host ASEAN Business Advisory Council, said when kicking off the festival.
And it is not for economic reasons alone. These MSMEs are here to promote ASEAN's cultural heritage, be it traditional woven fabrics or handicrafts.
“Each booth tells a story. It reflects the unique cultural heritage and entrepreneurial spirit of our people. Let us remember the cultural heritage behind these products,” Arsjad said.
The Jakarta Globe went around to talk with some of the MSMEs at the event. Many of them have the same goal in mind: to penetrate into the global market and preserve their countries' cultural heritage.
Myanmar’s MSME UKK Longyi was selling longyi, the country's traditional cylindrical cloth that is usually wrapped around the waist. The longyi was going like hotcakes, gaining huge popularity from the event's visitors.
“It is a very good opportunity for us to let the ASEAN market know that Myanmar is preserving this [longyi] tradition very well. It is a sustainable business that we are doing,” UKK Longyi’s James told the Globe on the sidelines of the event.
UKK Longyi today has multiple stores in Myanmar and is already exporting its products to the US, Thailand, and Europe. The price ranges from $5 to $150. UKK Longyi has plans to open up a store in Bangkok before expanding to other ASEAN markets. The Bangkok store would mark UKK Longyi's first international presence. James also sees huge potential in Indonesia, especially since the country has a similar culture of wearing traditional, intricately decorated cloth with batik.
"Indonesia offers a great opportunity. What is unique about longyi is that we wear it every day, regardless of the occasion. Indonesia is a good market for us to expand," James said.
Not far from UKK Longyi's booth is Tenun Atma Pahudu from Indonesia.
The Indonesian small business had traditional fabric from East Sumba, all coming in different colors and sizes.
Tenun Atma Pahudu's Ratna said she wished to make the fabric go global and was banking on the ASEAN Weekend Market to help penetrate into the international market.
“So everyone out there can wear Indonesian fabric, especially Sumba's tenun. Because I truly believe that Indonesian traditional fabric is incredibly stunning," Ratna said.
"We have not exported our products yet, but we are hoping that the ASEAN Weekend Market can pave the way," she said.