Women Micro-Entrepreneurs Go Digital: Leveraging Online Marketplaces for Economic Empowerment

“Small but mighty” is the perfect way to describe Indonesia’s Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Forming the backbone of the country’s economy, MSMEs account for 99% of all enterprises and employ 97% of the workforce in Indonesia. Indonesia’s rapid move towards the digital economy presents MSMEs with an opportunity to expand their market reach and overcome geographic and time constraints, strengthening their position as a driving force of the country’s economy.

Over 50% of Indonesia’s MSMEs are owned by women, but despite their large numbers, the women entrepreneurs face barriers to success, such as limited opportunities for education and growth due to restrictive social and cultural norms and family obligations and demands. As a result, their businesses often remain small, generate a lower income, and the entrepreneurs have limited digital literacy that is required to thrive in the digital economy.

To address these challenges, Kopernik, with The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and ‘Aisyiyah, as part of the JICA Partnership Program (JPP), has been providing targeted training and support to strengthen their businesses and enhance the digital skills of women entrepreneurs to support them to enter, compete and thrive in the digital market.

Improving packaging and branding of the products sold by the women micro-entrepreneurs to increase online sales

The program runs in three one-year phases, each phase catering to different groups of women micro-entrepreneurs who are part of the ‘Aisyiyah network, one of the largest Islamic women’s organizations in Indonesia.

The first phase, which worked with four businesses ended in August 2022. The current phase is working with eight women entrepreneurs, and the third phase will have twelve participants. The number of participants is kept small to ensure dedicated and tailored assistance for each entrepreneur. To prepare for the program’s future sustainability, we have also provided training to eight ‘Aisyiyah facilitators who can continue to provide support in the future.

Each phase begins with a rigorous selection process to identify highly motivated individuals, followed by an assessment of participants’ skills, vision for their businesses, and their support needs. Based on the information gathered, a tailored program is then developed to improve their knowledge and skills so that they can strengthen their business, and establish and manage their online presence through group training sessions and personalized assistance for each participant.

Product photography and photo editing workshop with the participants

The training sessions are designed to provide participants with an understanding of financial literacy, branding and marketing, and online store establishment and management.

The women micro-entrepreneurs learning how to take great photos of their products

Regular monitoring and evaluation are conducted throughout the program which includes tracking their progress, offering individual consultations, and troubleshooting any issues encountered by the participants.

Kopernik team members provide in-person consultation sessions with the micro-entrepreneurs

At the end of the first phase, a dissemination and progress-sharing event was held in July 2022 and was joined by the participants, ‘Aisyiyah network members, as well as the Director of JICA Tokyo, representatives of JICA Indonesia, and the Head and team of ‘Aisyiyah.

The event included a visit to the participating businesses where the entrepreneurs shared their experience of participating in the program as well as providing feedback on how the program could be improved.

During the dissemination event, the Director of JICA Tokyo made eco-print fabric with the assistance of one of the women micro-entrepreneurs

The dissemination event highlighted the progress and improvements of the women’s businesses and the tangible benefits of participating in the program.

The micro-entrepreneurs with representatives from JICA, ‘Aisyiyah, and Kopernik

The program is currently in its second phase, and the eight participants have already completed all the training sessions, and are applying the knowledge gained to identify their target audience and create captivating visuals, marketing materials and promotional strategies for increased online visibility and engagement via digital platforms. The entrepreneurs are already seeing the impact, with a considerable boost in their online presence, engagement and brand recognition. Some MSMEs have experienced a surge in orders thanks to their online advertising efforts, further motivating them to innovate, work on their branding and strengthen their business operations.

The success of the MSMEs is at the heart of the program’s mission, and we acknowledge that their business transformation journey is filled with both challenges and victories. We are dedicated to learning to continuously improve and innovate our program by refining the program's curriculum and approach.

We also recognize that each MSME is unique and tailored guidance is necessary to provide each business with the support they need. We are committed to maintaining the personalized and hands-on approach as a distinguishing feature of this program to support more women micro-entrepreneurs to enter, compete, and thrive in the digital market.