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Buying Jordan’s art online: e-commerce platform connects artisans to customers

By Camille Dupire - Jul 03,2018 - Last updated at Jul 03,2018

Officials pose for a group photo during the launch ceremony of Souq Fann in Amman on Tuesday (Photo by Camille Dupire)

AMMAN — An innovative e-commerce portal connecting Jordan's artists, artisans and handicraft producers was launched on Tuesday, aiming to help these local vendors access new economic opportunities and tell their creations' stories to the public. 

Established by the social enterprise Leaders of Tomorrow, under the patronage of Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Lina Annab, the platform was developed in partnership with Oxfam and the King Hussein Foundation. 

In the presence of EU Ambassador to Jordan Andrea Fontana and UNESCO country representative, Constanza Farina, Annab stated: "Nowadays, when we go to the supermarkets, we notice that 70 to 80 per cent of the products sold are made outside of the Kingdom. However, we have a great wealth of producers here in Jordan, and this is a phenomenon we should all fight in order to boost local production."

In a lively discussion with the platform's executive director Sami Hourani, the minister discussed how Jordan’s cultural and tourism sectors can benefit from such a platform, commending Souq Fann for "helping these businesses grow". 

"Our artisans have incredible gifts to share with the world, and we think anyone who has access to their creations will agree," said young entrepreneur Hourani, adding "while vendors across the Kingdom are all highly-skilled artisans, many have a difficult time marketing and selling their products. Some live far from major cities and markets; some have other responsibilities at work or at home while some haven’t been able to take full advantage of the Internet as a tool to grow their businesses".

He said Souq Fann (or “Art Market” in Arabic) is "a door to new possibilities for these craftspeople's businesses". 

"It gives them access to new markets across the Kingdom and around the world, connecting them with new customers, and increasing their sales," Hourani stated, stressing "at the same time, Souq Fann gives customers around the world a window into the rich history and culture of communities across Jordan".

The user-friendly online platform provides shoppers with a wide variety of the Kingdom's handmade and locally-produced goods, gifts and crafts, which reflect the story of Jordan's producers.

"Each product tells a story about the person or people who made it. Like our items, each story is unique," Hourani noted, citing the case of Safaa Abbasi, a 31-year-old craftswoman from Irbid. 

Since her early age, Safaa has been drawing, making handicrafts and acting. Because she is a wheelchair user, her mobility was highly reduced and she faced many difficulties in terms of transport and work opportunities. 

"I wanted to prove to myself and to society that I could change my life for the better. So, with the help of my sister, I started manufacturing baskets and wedding accessories and selling them to my relatives and friends," Abbasi recalled, noting that her products became increasingly popular among her entourage. 

"However, I am still facing a problem in accessing capital to get more material. This platform will really help me expand my customer base and continue steadily making my way towards success," she rejoiced

"From the comfort of their computer or mobile device, customers can browse through hundreds of high-quality products made with pride," Hourani told The Jordan Times after the launch, stressing that "we provide a place for small-scale artists and artisans to share and sell their work online to increase their economic independence and support their craft". 

"Online tools empower artisans no matter where they live or who they are, and an easy-to-use method of marketing, payment and delivery can put everyone on an equal playing field," the platform director said, adding that "Souq Fann can revolutionise the model of these small-scale businesses. Supported by Souq Fann’s technology and marketing features, artists and artisans can focus on what’s most important: the quality and creativity of their craft”.

For 47-year-old Majid Al Batayneh, who lives Irbid Governorate with his wife and four children, working in crafts was much more a source of pleasure and happiness than of financial gain. 

When he retired in 2005, he said he felt "a great vacuum in his life". He started focusing on his former hobby of wood painting and realised it brought him both respect and appreciation from his peers and self-fulfillment for creating something beautiful appreciated by its owner.

"As I thought about expanding my hobby into a business, I was confronted with the challenges of acquiring timber regularly, but also of marketing my various products to the public. With its outreach to the entire Kingdom, Souq Fann will really help in getting to know about my work," Batayneh said.

Accessible at www.souqfann.com, the independently registered social enterprise seeks to become financially sustainable within 5 years of its launch, according to its website.

Once a purchase is made, Souq Fann, which displays 300 products from dozens of vendors, handles packaging, customer service, and delivery to customers throughout Jordan.

"Ultimately, we aim to increase our market share in Europe by beginning to export our products in late 2018 or early 2019 to Europe and throughout the MENA region," Hourani stated, voicing great appreciation for the promotional support of the Ministry of Tourism, the Jordan Tourism Board, the EU/UNESCO NET-MED Youth project and the European Regional Development and Protection Programme for the Middle East.

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