SLIM and University of Moratuwa step in to revitalise bamboo industry

Friday, 28 June 2013 04:45 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM) is widening its concept ‘Gamata Marketing’ by helping the bamboo weavers in the Kuruwita and Yatiyanthota villages, who have earned a name for bamboo-related products, in association with the year two students of the Department of Integrated Design, Faculty of Architecture, University of Moratuwa. This is the second project under this scheme, the objective of which is to enhance the traditional bamboo craft industry to a higher level and thereby upgrade the life of bamboo crafter community. The first was helping Wewaldeniya cane weavers. ‘Gamata Marketing’ promotes the marketing concept among rural entrepreneurs thereby opening a whole new world to them resulting in increasing their incomes and enhancing their living standards. The research study under their project “Design Intervention in Grass Root Level Economies” by the year two students of the Department of Integrated Design of University of Moratuwa and the Gamata Marketing Project Committee has revealed that what was once a prosperous industry is now facing virtual extinction due to a number of reasons. The availability of cheaper alternative imported products, lack of creativity resulting in the same designs being turned out over and over again thereby hardly offering a choice for the customer and a decreasing interest in the traditional ware have been identified as the main reasons. SLIM has recognised that a vicious cycle is in operation with a lack of interest among buyers for age old designs resulting in decreased sales, which in turn means less income and less profit. This results in the producers looking for low quality, cheaper raw materials out of which they turn out low quality products. These have a low demand. Meanwhile, the low incomes coupled with low wages paid to craftsmen force them to look for other more lucrative jobs. Through the application of novel designs, marketing knowledge and problem solving methodology, SLIM and the University of Moratuwa are hoping to convert this industry into more profitable entities.  The project envisages building up a close rapport between the craftsmen and the students in the first instance so that the latter will get a thorough understanding of the problems faced by the craftsmen. Site visits have helped the students to get a first - hand knowledge of the present situation and the problems faced by the craftsmen. Meanwhile, separate workshops on marketing have been held to enhance the knowledge of marketing among both the students and the craftsmen. Collaborative design and product development workshops conducted in the village targeting the development of novel designs that could meet customer needs and the craftsmen’s production capacity. According to SLIM President Gamika De Silva, SLIM treats this project as a key CSR activity and the main objective of the project is to enhance regional small scale entrepreneurs’ knowledge on marketing principles and its applications by using relevant strategies and tools for effective targeting of customer segments focused on delivering more value added products which satisfies them. He pointed out that SLIM believes that this knowledge-based initiative will help uplift their business performance and the standard of living to the next level from where it stands now through streamlining their focus, attitudes and orientation towards market based product offerings. Project Chairman, Suranjth Swaris says that a project of this magnitude requires huge commitment, time and financial cost. In this regard SLIM, as the national institute of marketinghas come forward to utilise their expertise in marketing and use their network to provide the necessary support to students to develop these novel design concepts.