THE innovative blending of two types of silk, backed by university research, has boosted sales at a community enterprise in Khon Kaen province, winning over customers to the distinctive texture of the fabric.
Thonglert Sonchan, 51, was seeking to generate more interest in the products offered at Nongyaplong Community Enterprise when she began looking into how Thai silk and Eri silk can be combined into a new way of presenting the enterprise’s range of clothing and accessories such as bags and scarves,
The resulting breakthrough lifted the enterprise’s revenue to more than Bt1 million a year for the members.
“I start to produce Thai silk in 1996 when I wanted to generate more income as a cushion against the uncertainties from the variable income with my rice crop, which covers 20 rai in Nongyaplong district, Khon Kaen province,” Thonglert said. “In some years, I suffered losses with rice farming, so I sought to find a way to ensure a more sustainable income for my family.”
Thonglert said she started out in a silk venture with her savings of Bt20,000 and succeeded in making average sales of about Bt100,000 a month.
This success served as an inspiration for community to set up a community enterprise. By collaborating with people in the district, Thonglert led the way in establishing the Nongyaplong Community Enterprise. It began producing Thai silk for sale to the community and in neighbouring provinces in 2001.
The community enterprise was initially set up with 26 members – all of them women seeking extra sources of income for their families.
The enterprise was soon generating sales of between Bt1 million and Bt1.7 million a year. This translated into income in the range of Bt3,000 and Bt10,000 a month for each member.
The enterprise has since expanded to take in 50 members. That expansion coincided with efforts by the members to find new ways to produce Thai silk against the backdrop of stiff competition in the market.
In 2012, the enterprise began turning out blends and combinations of Thai silk and Eri silk. Paving the way for this advance was collaboration with Khon Kaen University on research and development,
Thonglert said the resulting products came with a different texture to the fabric, and customers liked what they saw, sending sales higher.
The products made with this distinctive silk combination are distributed at the Nongyaplong Community Enterprise and the Eco Eco Eri shop in Khon Kaen province, she said, and also are sold in the nearby provinces.
The product innovation initiated by the community was recognised with a runner-up award in the Thailand Green Design Awards 2018 announced last month. Its resource efficiency was highlighted.
“When our community received the award, that proved to us that we were conducting our business in the right way,” Thonglert said. “We had sought to differentiate our products from the competition and, in doing so, improve our sales growth.
“Our success has helped to improve the quality of life for our members, who are now benefiting from a sustainable income over the long term.”