The silk road meets the information superhighway
The Kohtrad Silk Project is a social enterprise that works with the silk producers in the Isaan area of North East Thailand. The project provides an online platform for the silk producers to sell their products worldwide.
This is done via two online shops www.silkshirtstore.com - specializing in high quality men's silk shirts and www.silkscarfshawls.com - specializing in beautiful silk scarves. Despite being only six months old the social enterprise has already begun an ambitious project to provide better internet access to it's silk suppliers. Using profits from the silk shirts and scarves sold though the project, building is underway for a community internet hub in the rural Thai village where many of the silk products are made.
The essential element for this social enterprise is the provision of an online retail platform for its producers. For the first time the independent weavers across the Isaan region were able to market their produce to buyers abroad. The area is rural and poor and so extra income generated from Internet sales could make a big difference to their lives. With the extra profits weavers could pay school fees for their children, build a business, stay in the area, enjoy their everyday work and keep their silk weaving skills and traditions alive.
Initially the main challenge of the Kohtrad Silk Project was teaching the older silk weavers how to use the Internet. The idea from the social enterprise was that the project would "run on autopilot" with orders coming in via email directly to the silk weavers who could then send the product in the post. However for the older generation of weavers, who had never experienced the Internet before, using online orders as part of their business was a very difficult transition for them. Fortunately the social enterprise helped to overcome this problem by getting the children of the weavers to take over the role of receiving the email and sending the product.