Fair trade is where organizations work with artisans and individuals in creating a market for goods or handmade items. Integrating ecommerce into fair trade, many startups in Pakistan have come in to existence that are set to bring business to the local artists in the country and help them establish a name for themselves and the country internationally.
In the day and age of the internet, Pakistani startups are leveraging the technology to their fullest and changing the way how artisans within the country once operated. Some of the startups that have interlinked fair trade and ecommerce include:
It is the first online store for hand-made, unique products sourced from the region. Polly and Other Stories work with a diverse community of innovative artisans, designers, artists and entrepreneurs across Pakistan that have a unified vision of growth and dynamic product development. Polly & other stories also involves people with a creative vision and a passion to make, from rural women painstakingly crafting beautiful pieces using age-old, hand-worked techniques to a young entrepreneurial artisans crafting handmade soaps and talented men making hand-printed fabric using organic dyes and hand-carved wooden blocks.
Popinjay is another online store that brings the local artisan and craftsmen and women to the forefront by showing their beautiful work to the world. They mostly sells handmade bags and their main female artisan group hails from Hafizabad, one of the oldest districts in Punjab.
All the Popinjay handbags are lovingly made using the finest leather, silk threads, satin, and suede. The bulk of our raw materials are locally sourced.
Another online platform that is bringing the local women of Pakistan and their creativity to the forefront is Behbud that means ‘advancement’. It is a name which stands for support and strength for women. Conceived and founded by Mrs. Akhtar Riazuddin, with the help of a small group of volunteers in 1967, once operating out of a member’s home in a congested area of Rawalpindi, Behbud has now grown into a national institution in the last 47 years.
Through their skills and vocational training centers Behbud enables women to earn a living with a higher goal for them to find respect and dignity within their households and community.
Women at Behbud weave intricate designs such as Kantha Embroidery, Ralli, Shadow work, Block Printing, cutwork, and cross stitching etc.
When speaking about fair trade and ecommerce, not mentioning the famous Pakistani startup that has established itself as a brand worldwide is just not possible. Markhor is an online store for genuine handmade leather shoes.
Markhor originated when founders Sidra Qasim and Waqas Ali met with a group of craftsmen in the local village council of their hometown of Okara. Everything in that workshop was literally being handcrafted. They came to this idea when they found out local craftsman work for some of the biggest companies in the world without being rightly credited!
Another startup that is working with the local artisans is Paimona, the founder Sana Khan Niazi came to the idea of Paimona when she was abroad and couldn’t find a single Pakistani artist or label when it came to furniture.
Speaking to IDG Pakistan in an interview, Sana said “I used to do theater with Anwar Maqsood, and we used to travel around. Once in Dubai, I was shopping for my home at a store and I couldn’t anything made from Pakistan and I actually looked through the whole store to just find that one tag that said ‘Made in Pakistan. All I found was made in India, China, and Bangladesh etc”
There are plenty online platforms in Pakistan that are working for the betterment of craftsman all over, and another such is Vceela, a social enterprise that strives to empower artists and artisans. Vceela aims to connect the unconnected artisans to the local and international markets by not only providing them with a market place but also marketing them in an effective way.
Their mission is to economically empower debilitated artisans and women entrepreneurs which will in turn create lots of jobs and income generation opportunities. They deal with various categories such as jewelry, art, bags, clothing, footwear, home and living etc.
The above mentioned organizations are just a few in Pakistan that are actively working on empowering the local artisans in the country. Everywhere one looks, one can see the efforts that are being put in for the people living in the underprivileged areas with exceptional talents that just cannot be ignored.
Working for women empowerment is WE-NET, a platform for women entrepreneurs in trade good in the country. This platform has been built with the support of World Bank Group of Pakistan. There goals include: To represent Pakistani women SMEs globally, serve as an advocacy platform for Pakistani women entrepreneurs, leverage the network for network sharing and develop a database for women led SMEs to be used for trade policy.
Bringing Pakistani artists to the limelight is also the Daachi Foundation that operates in Lahore. Every year they organize an exhibition where they bring in artists, craftsmen, etc from all over the country to set up their stalls. Blue pottery, black pottery, shawls, paintings, embroidered works, carpets, books, bags etc from all over places like Sindh, Gilgit Baltistan, Balochistan, Punjab and Kashmir.
Furthermore, every year Karachi also sees The Crafter’s Expo where artisans from all the country exhibit their works of art. Varah Musavvir, the creative director of Firefly is the brains behind the exhibition and The Crafter’s Expo also has organizations such as WomenX, Women’s Inc, Sheops and Dastkari.pk as their partners.