Myanmar is a country rich in cultural diversity and craftsmanship, Ulla Krober tells me. Ulla is the co-founder and head designer at Hla Day, an organisation dedicated to helping Myanmar artisans find ways to innovate and market their products. “We love upcycling,” Ulla says, adding that Hla Day works with several plastic, metal, glass and textile recycling and upcycling projects. But in spite of this diversity of cultural representation and products, Hla Day and the artisans it works with are up against many challenges. Doing business in Myanmar is difficult, and now, with the repercussions of the pandemic bearing down, things are even tougher.
In this episode of Radio Ock Pop Tok, we hear from Ulla. Founded just four years ago, the organisation has made incredible headway. Hla Day provides design, business development training and marketing to any artisan who is interested in working with them. Myanmar’s political and economic landscape is challenging, to say the least. Crafts is a way for traditional artisans to earn income. In Myanmar, crafts also provides income opportunities for marginalised groups – such as people with disabilities, single mothers, and folks who identify as LGBT who may be left out of traditional jobs.
Pau Son came up with a unique way for recycling and upcycling used plastic bags and packaging.
Next, you’ll hear first hand from artisans like Peter Pau Son, founder of Shin Thant Plastics. Pau Son came up with a unique way for recycling and upcycling used plastic bags and packaging, turning them into “fabric” or “canvas.” Cleverly designed with patches of recycled plastic fused together to create whimsical and eye-catching patterns, the upcycled plastic is then sewn into a number of fashionable accessories.
Pau Son received design input and assistance from Ulla and Shin Thant products sold remarkably well at Hla Day’s shop in downtown Yangon. That is, as long as tourists are around to buy them. With no tourists, on site sales have come to a virtual standstill. Pau Son has had to lay-off his staff of two full time and 2 part time employees.
Large online shopping sites with global visibility, like Amazon, are also not open to doing business in Myanmar.
What about selling online? Both Pau Son and Ulla agree that international business, particularly for small enterprises and sellers, is nearly impossible. For one, there is highly regulated international banking, and online payment options like PayPal are not available in Myanmar. Large online shopping sites with global visibility, like Amazon, are also not open to doing business in Myanmar. While artisans around the world are pivoting from local tourism to international online marketing, both Ulla and Pau Son share the lack of these resources available to them.
I encourage you to listen to the episode and hear first-hand from Ulla and Pau Son. And, if you can please support their work.
Find out about Hla Day: www.hladaymyanmar.org
Follow on Hla Day Instagram: @hla_day
Missed the previous episodes of Radio Ock Pop Tok? Read and listen here!
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