National Craft Day Opens Doors For Local Entrepreneurs

Last update: 03/04/2015

By Sakini Mohd Said


KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- It used to be that those desiring to own beautiful and unique handicraft would have to travel down to remote villages to find it.

Some would travel great distances only to find that the items they wanted were either sold out or not to their liking.

This inaccessibility to quality handicraft is due to its limited quantities in urban markets, in addition to its artisans being poor at commercial networking.

Even if these handicrafts can be found in the city, its price would have multiplied due to additional costs incurred from transportation and middlemen.

However, the national craft industry started experiencing changes when the National Craft Day (HKK) was introduced in 2003.

The annual celebration helped gather all handicraft entrepreneurs registered with the Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation under one roof.

Though it is now easier for the public to get their favourite handicrafts in one place, will the National Craft Day play a role in elevating the status of the handicraft industry? More importantly, will it help entrepreneurs generate better income?


EYE-OPENER

"Yes, it can," said hand-drawn batik entrepreneur Zainiza Zaid.

The owner of Zaiza Art Colletion has never missed an opportunity to join the HKK celebration since signing up with Kraftangan Malaysia in 2007, adding that market prospects were promising.

The Kuala Lumpur Craft Complex on Jalan Conlay, near KL's golden triangle, housed the 13-day event that began on March 26 and ends on April 7.

"The location is a attracts local and foreign tourists. For entrepreneurs like me, whose business in based in another state, my buyers usually comprise those from around the state.

"An opportunity like this allows others a chance to view for themselves the uniqueness of the Perlis batik," she said.


IDENTITY

The HKK highlights the methods, motifs and patterns used in the production of a craft, so that visitors would be able to see the uniqueness of the nation's heritage and culture.

Zainiza believed that gathering handicraft artisans from across Malaysia under one roof to showcase their work was an excellent way to do so.

"Besides, sales are limited in Perlis. But our past sales records show that we could sell between 20,000-30,000 batik products within the 13 days of the HKK.

"This is something that I have not been able to achieve easily, even though my products are sold around Perlis. This is why I've never missed taking part in HKK," she said.


BUSINESS MATCHING

The benefits of such events are not short-term. Besides the jump in sales, entrepreneurs will also find themselves on a better and wider business network where they will be matched with potential distributors and resellers.

One of those who have benefited in such a way is Mohd Fahmi Mohamed Ghazali, a young ceramic crafts entrepreneur from Kuala Kangsar, Perak.

He was matched with suitable distributors and resellers and is today able to market his products outside of Kuala Kangsar.

"Competition in the Kuala Kangsar market is stiff, because there are many ceramic entrepreneurs there. The existing market focuses on the locals or tourists who drop by Medan Seramik Kuala Kangsar.

"However, my ceramic products have gone beyond the local market after HKK introduced me to craft resellers and distributors," he said.

Since taking part in the HKK five years ago, the 26-year-old said he had been able to form business relationships with traders in Brunei and Singapore.

They were attracted to the intricacy of his handiwork, its interesting motifs and the contemporary colours in his products.

Many other craft entrepreneurs have also benefited from business matching. This has led Kraftangan Malaysia to give full focus on the concept of market expansion.


OVERSEAS EXPANSION

For local craft entrepreneurs, business matching with renowned international craft distributors and wholesalers is a good platform to introduce their newer products.

It also provides them with feedback on current market trends.

Kraftangan Malaysia Marketing Division director Sahaimi Abd Manaf believed that 17 foreign traders interested in forging cooperation with local craft businesses attended this year's HKK.

They include those from South Africa, the United States of America, Ireland, Russia, the United Kingdom, Pakistan and Korea.

To facilitate the matter, Kraftangan Malaysia has arranged for meeting sessions between local craft entrepreneurs and foreign traders based on their needs and interests.

"This is the first HKK for some of the traders, and second for others. We hope that they will placing orders for our local handicrafts.

"By reselling our products and their countries, they would be introducing the products of our nation's heritage to the global market," he said.


FOCUS

This window to the global market is what lures local artisans to take part in HKK as a way to strengthen and expand their businesses.

This can be seen in the growing number of entrepreneurs participating in the event every year.

This year's edition saw 638 participants, a marked increase compared to only 110 participants when the event was first held in 2003.

Textile traders dominated the HKK with 255 followed by forest-based products (128 entrepreneurs), wedding services (83), handicrafts (69), land-based products (52) and metals (51).

Last year's sales were RM20.8 million, surpassing the target of RM20 million. This year Kraftangan Malaysia aims for RM25 million in sales.

"The National Craft Day aims to celebrate the contributions of entrepreneurs and artisans in making the local craft industry and national economy flourish.

"However, priority for participation will be given to those who are already registered with Kraftangan Malaysia to join the event," he added.

-- BERNAMA