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BAIC completes survey for market website

In preparation for rolling out the online platform for straw market vendors, the committee in charge of the venture has completed a Family Island Associations Survey.

The key discovery?

Bahamians have a long way to go in discovering the power of the Internet.

The report, still in its review stage, reveals that only 16 percent of those surveyed in the handicraft industry believe an online presence can help them improve profits.

Don Demeritte, a lead consultant with the Bahamas Agriculture and Industrial Corporation (BAIC), said the power of the Internet must be realized.

“At the end of the day, we’re talking about bringing two different cultures together,” he told Guardian Business.

“The market in downtown Nassau is more fast-paced. On the islands, it’s more about training, preparing and waiting for opportunities. From what I saw, about 16 percent saw it as a means of really increasing profits. We need to educate Bahamians on the power of the Internet.”

He added that most people surveyed “did not understand the depth and enormity”.

The pilot project involved seven Family Islands, Demeritte explained, including Mayaguana, Crooked Island, Long Island and Exuma, among others.

The study showed that islands closer to the U.S. and Nassau tend to have easier access to the marketplace and better structures in place to produce and move the products.

The online platform initiative is being funded through a $313,000 grant from Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), with the remaining funds coming from BAIC.

A total of $500,000 will be spent on software, website development, staffing, training, research and fact finding.

The latter was the purpose behind the recent seven-island survey, Demeritte added.

At the heart of developing the online platform is not only an effort to bring Bahamian products to the world and boost the industry, but also improve the overall quality of the handicraft sector and “create standards”.

The initiative coincides with the imminent opening of the new straw market in downtown Nassau, not to mention the new market now going up in Baha Mar.

“We need to make sure the Bahamian flavor was there and create unique selling points,” he told Guardian Business. “For example, we want to capture the essence of someone who carves wood and reflect that online. When you [are] actually creating an online platform to sell products, you’re taking a snapshot in that point in time. You have to replicate that snapshot in the virtual realm.”

The next step, he added, will be to fully assess the data from the Family Islands and begin focus group sessions in tandem with website development.

“We have invited key persons from the straw market to serve on our technical committee,” he said.

Donalee Bowe, the assistant general manager of BAIC, told Guardian Business that the greatest challenge is improving the overall quality of products for the entire country.

The offerings must be consistent for the customer, especially if they’re offered online.

“Our challenge now through the online product, [which] is being spread… throughout the islands, international standards must be reached in terms of the work being done,” she said.

“To keep our products as being ‘handicraft’, they must be a certain caliber, which requires us to train across the country.”

Demeritte felt the awareness of the online platform will grow with time, and with it, the quality. Their job is to make sure it works and subsequently resonates throughout the islands.

“The more people that see your wares, the more they’ll buy it,” he said.

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