Fashioning a cultural shift through digital innovation by empowering SMEs, women entrepreneurs and artisans to move from ‘lowest price’ to ‘highest value’

27 Sep 2017 14:00h - 15:30h

Event report

[Read more session reports from WTO Public Forum 2017]

The session focused on how digital innovation and technology can create new trends and challenges, and how small and medium enterprises (SMEs), women entrepreneurs, and artisans can be involved in the process.

The moderator of the session, Ms Lucy Hockings, Presenter at BBC World New, UK, asked the panel about the significance of value and how value is perceived by consumers. Mr Matthew Drinkwater, Head of Fashion Innovation Agency and Centre for Fashion Enterprise, UK, shared his opinion that the notion of value is difficult to define in the emerging technology industry, and that the motivation behind his work, which is mainly in fashion, is not based on value. Ms Rupa Ganguli, Founder of SPINNA Circle Ltd, UK, pointed out that in the fashion industry, the price of the product often determines its value, but that there are lot more factors involved in the creation of a product, and that understanding the different elements that go into the making of it would enable the consumer to understand and appreciate its value. Hockings asked whether the consumers prioritise the value or the price of the product. Mr Amit Jay Shah, CEO of HIROLA Group, UK, pointed out that consumers see the price of a product first, then its value, and suggested that consumers should be educated about value in order to spread the message across the market. Ganguli mentioned that part of what determines the price of a product is the cost of labour. She gave an example of women entrepreneurs who put a lot of time and effort in developing their product, which is part of the production cost. The consumer should see this effort as part of the value of the product, and these entrepreneurs should be paid for their skills.

Ms Myriam Said, Founding partner, Kifiya Financial Technology Plc, Ethiopia, talked about consumers having access to information about farmers, who often face obstacles such as financial difficulties and climate change. This information would enable the consumers to appreciate the value of raw materials which are used to manufacture goods. Said believes that e-commerce platforms would help consumers understand the value of goods and help them gain direct access to the producers. Ms Manisha Mohan, Scientist at MIT Media Lab, USA, shared that she added value to clothes by integrating wearable technology that can interact with the world.

Shah discussed the positioning of brands in order to create greater demand. He stated that both businesses and consumers are responsible for selling the stories of the brand. Ganguli drew on her trading experience, saying that there is no right standard when it comes to exporting and customs. Drinkwater shared that his company has produced belts which charge mobile phones, but that they had faced challenges because of safety and health regulations. Mohan mentioned that it is not only regulations that needs to be considered, but also the access and sharing of consumers’ information among retailers, suppliers, and manufacturers.

Said shared how digital payments have facilitated the activity of farmers by enabling them to receive and transfer money rapidly. Local small and medium sizes businesses (SMEs) are also using digital platforms to communicate with farmers for ordering and confirming the delivery of goods. Ganguli argued that payment challenges remain to be tackled, and that a single solution cannot be implemented to all countries, who have different payment policies.

In the session, it was suggested that the WTO make regulations to lower taxes, thus encouraging the creation of e-commerce platforms. There were also discussions on how technology can minimise the volume of production and the consumption rate, by using 3D printings and robots. Mohan presented her work on clothes that can detect signs of assaults and communicate with the surrounding to prevent those assaults.

by Aye Mya Nyein