Batik Boutique, an inclusive business enterprise from Malaysia's capital city of Kuala Lumpur, is reinterpreting the ancient craft of batik textile-making and, in the process, giving the opportunity for women from a disadvantaged background to break the cycle of poverty.
Batik Boutique was a finalist in the first ASEAN Inclusive Business Awards, which was held in 2017.
The Asian Development Bank, through its Inclusive Business Support Project, is helping governments and the private sector put in place policies, programs, and incentives for inclusive businesses across Asia and the Pacific.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - For women at the bottom of the pyramid making ends meet is often hard.
But now, a modern take on the ancient art of batik is giving them the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty.
“Before Batik Boutique, I would clean homes and sell homemade food, and even that was on rare occasions,” says Fitriah binti Abdullah, a seamstress from Kuala Lumpur.
“Since I started working for Batik Boutique, I have been able to save some money and get work experience. I didn’t know how to use a sewing machine, but now I do.”
“Many things changed in my life since I started working with Batik Boutique.”
Batik Boutique works with women from low-income households.
Women are trained to create batik textiles and products, earning a living after five lessons.
“Since I started working with Batik Boutique, I have never missed a rent payment or a water bill.” Continues Abdullah.
“Now I can afford to pay for all our necessities, I am also able to save some money and even take my daughter out on the weekends.”
Women are ensured regular income while they continue to build up their skill set.
“When I first started Batik Boutique, it was very much charity aspect but I realized along the way that the way I think to have the most impact is through a business,” explains Amy Blair, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Batik Boutique.
“So in 2014. I set up an enterprise here in Malaysia, and when we shifted from the charity side to the business we saw our revenues double in one year. So we knew we were on to something, and business is the way to go.”
“And since then we have consistently seen our revenue increase by 10 to 20% every year, and we are one of the only social enterprise in Malaysia that has hit a million Ringgit in revenue, which is quite an accomplishment here,” she continues.
“Now, we work with over a hundred artisans in Malaysia–batik artists and seamstresses. In our sewing center alone, we employ eight women full time. We have trained 30 in the last year and that is continuing.”
Batik Boutique also provides a stipend to the seamstresses to cover childcare costs.
“I like working at Batik Boutique because they offer benefits like child care,” explains Siti Rohana binti Jamhari, also a seamstress from Kuala Lumpur.
“The sewing center is also near my home, which means that I do not need to spend money on transportation. They also provide free training.”
Batik Boutique’s products are now selling internationally as fair trade corporate and consumer gifts.
This is an inclusive business model giving women an opportunity to move out of poverty.