NOVICA and ITC partner to empower artisans in Central Asia

10 February 2023
ITC News

The new Artisan Empowerment Hub will open up online sales for Central Asian artisans to reach a global audience.

Access to international marketplaces is not equal across the world, and yet these online platforms are an important part of a strong e-commerce ecosystem. Local and regional marketplaces have opened more widely in the past few years providing growing opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

However, for businesses looking to target international clients, access to relevant online international marketplaces is vital. That’s why the International Trade Centre (ITC) partners with a number of marketplaces to facilitate access and conditions for businesses.  

At the end of 2022, the ITC ecomConnect team entered a ground-breaking partnership with the impact marketplace NOVICA to support the opening of an Artisan Empowerment Hub as part of the EU-funded Ready4Trade Central Asia project.

This will enable artisans from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to access entirely new online sales channels to target international customers.

This support to artisans helps preserve the culture and heritage of Central Asia and to re-enforce the handicraft techniques and traditional skills. This knowledge is in danger of disappearing and is protected by UNESCO.

The NOVICA Artisan Empowerment Hub provides businesses with packaging, inventory, and fulfilment services to simplify international sales. In addition, the partnership will provide not only access to the NOVICA store but also other platforms that are not directly accessible to artisans. These include the UNICEF market, Kiva Store, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Road Scholar World Bazaar, and NOVICA stores on Amazon, Overstock, and Wayfair.

Armenia Nercessian

"With the new year, NOVICA is again in expansion mode, working hard to assist more artisans around the globe,” says NOVICA cofounder and President Armenia Nercessian, a former UN human rights officer.

“We are preparing now to launch our new multinational artisan empowerment hub in Uzbekistan, serving artisans in Central Asia — in partnership with the International Trade Centre. We cannot wait to share with you the exquisite beauty and inspiration created by the hands and hearts of artisans in Central Asia, and to welcome them to the NOVICA family.”

The Artisan Empowerment Hub will help manage the complexities of international trade and shipping, while overseeing all aspects of end-customer satisfaction. To start, the hub will select 40 artisans from the Ready4Trade project, manage their onboarding onto the NOVICA online channels and handle all aspects of showcasing, selling, packaging and express shipping their wares.

Nurlan Kulbatyrov

The artisans will also receive business counselling and training on product design, quality, content, shipping, and pricing. Moreover, the Hub will oversee the e-commerce digital content creation, packaging, shipping, and returns of goods. Artisans will also receive design advice and technical support as well as digital marketing and promotion.

“QazTrade is pleased to support ITC and NOVICA in their efforts to advance cross-border e-commerce for artisans. The Central Asian Artisan Empowerment hub will open new markets for artisans and increase their revenues, positively impacting the sector development in the region. A dedicated online platform for handicrafts from Central Asia will help create stable and predictable market demand not linked to the limits and fluctuations of the tourism sector,” says Nurlan Kulbatyrov, deputy general director of QazTrade, the project’s partner in Kazakhstan.

Ulugbek Abdullaev

Ulugbek Abdullaev, the deputy chairman of the Uzbek Chamber of Commerce and Industry, adds: “The opening of a dedicated online platform for handmade producers and artisans will enhance intra-regional cooperation and increase international sales. We are very pleased to work closely with the NOVICA team and introduce this marketplace to our artisans. We believe that in the near future, NOVICA will achieve great success in bringing and promoting the unique products of our skilled craftsmen to international markets.”


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Founded in 1999 to empower global artisans and preserve endangered cultural art forms, Los Angeles-based Novica.com has become the leading online fair-trade marketplace in the world. NOVICA’s key partners include UNICEF, International Trade Centre, Kiva, Smithsonian Folklife, and USAID. Novica.com showcases and delivers the world’s handmade fair trade art forms directly to individual customers’ doorsteps. An estimated 75,000 people in emerging nations benefit globally, including artisans and their dependents. NOVICA has sent more than US $126 million in sales to artisans to date and has provided more than US $3.5 million in zero-interest capital loans to artisans. NOVICA direct-shipped fair trade purchases to customers in 80 countries over the past 365 days alone, from artisans around the world. www.NOVICA.com


About Ready4Trade Central Asia project

Within the project Ready4Trade Central Asia, the European Union and ITC are joining forces to contribute to the overall sustainable and inclusive economic development of Central Asia by boosting intra-regional and international trade. Beneficiaries of the Ready4Trade Central Asia project include governments, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular women-led enterprises, and business support organizations. The project operates in five countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.