BUSINESS MODELLING/DESIGN & STRATEGY: Strategic support to key players in the bilum sector
What was the opportunity?
For women of PNG, the art of weaving bilum has always been a way of life. Bilum weaving has been passed down from one generation to the next for thousands of years. Each bilum has its own design and story to tell. Yet despite its omniscience in PNG life, it is only been in the last few years that bilum has started to become recognised and celebrated as a national treasure.
Over the past 10 years, several committed individuals and organisations have shone a spotlight on bilum, making visible this national treasure, whilst driving inclusive economic growth. The Australian Government, through Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) Australia, has played a key role in taking bilum to the world stage, they have:
- Catalysed interest from international museums and galleries from Sydney to Vancouver
- Supported the establishment of the Goroka Bilum Festival, run in partnership with Florence Jaukae, a bilum artist and major bilum ‘aggregator’. Now in its 11th year, the festival attracts over 2,000 people and showcases the creations of over 120 bilum weavers from Wewak, Mt Hagen and Mt Giluwe, Chimbu, Eastern Highlands and Mandang
- Succeeded in identifying and acquiring key international buyers. Today the bilum industry sector is responsible for an estimated PGK 300,000 in exports per annum, almost all of which is going directly to low-income and socially marginalised women.
Against this backdrop, the Australian Government engaged The Difference Incubator (TDi), with support from Abt Associates, to provide strategic support to key players along the bilum value chain, to enhance the financial sustainability and impact of the sector. Specifically, TDi was tasked to:
- Market – work with Among Equals, a major international bilum buyer, to support them to build out a more sustainable business model and grow their sales
- Suppliers – identify the training needs of key weaver groups, keeping in mind the needs of international buyers such as Among Equals
- Platform – support Florence Jaukae, to strengthen the sustainability of the Goroka Bilum Festival and her other bilum businesses
Tell us the ‘Nitty Gritty” details…
The TDi team travelled with Among Equals to the Goroka Bilum Festival to understand their integrated relationship with the supply chain including Florence Jaukae and other aggregators and weavers.
We helped develop an international retail strategy for Among Equals with premium retailers.
We also interviewed bilum export businesses, to estimate the size of the total export market and understand other international buyers’ business models.
We spent time at the Blue Haus in Goroka interviewing the Goroka Bilum Weaver Group. We wanted to understand how the supply chain works, identifying gaps and opportunities. We mapped the skills and knowledge of the weavers to identify areas of support for them.
We interviewed Florence Jaukae and Lina Singut, to understand the role of the aggregator in the supply chain.
While in Goroka, we also worked with Florence Jaukae and Abt Associates to map the current and future business models for the Goroka Bilum Festival. We clarified assumptions in the model through observation of the event, and customers interviews with buyers and visiting guests.
We supported Florence to increase the major sponsor’s annual contribution and win another two minor sponsors, as well as identifying revenue streams to help ensure the sustainability of the business model.
From our integrated months-long work along the bilum supply chain we were successful in supporting The Goroka Bilum Festival and Among Equals to each identify a sustainable business models and the plan to get there. We also completed a Training Needs Assessment for bilum weavers which has led to the development and implementation of a bilum weaver training program, across PNG.
During the project, we also identified opportunities for the bilum industry to grow, including:
- Growing the international profile of bilum, so its reputation and status grows domestically
- Opportunity for a national bilum festival based in Port Moresby to further the achievement of The Goroka Bilum Festival
- The industry creates thousands of job opportunities and has the room to create more:
– Most of the export demand sits with natural fibre bilum (as opposed to acrylic) which creates more job opportunities with the raw materials end of the supply chain, however, needs to be supported with programs that manage sustainable harvesting.
-There is opportunity to build the weavers’ skills in micro enterprise including managing finance, understanding international market tastes/trends, and the different roles they could play in the bilum supply chain