Uzbek Traditions Gain New Audience through E-Commerce

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Friday, February 18, 2022
Abduvali Abdukayumov featured above

USAID Helps Uzbekistani Artisans Reach Global Markets

Abduvali Abdukayumov is invested in both the past and future of applied art in Uzbekistan. Abduvali is an art expert, researcher, and curator of applied arts at the State Museum of Art of Uzbekistan. The museum’s collection is known for its embroideries, fabrics, carpets, and traditional clothing.

“I was initially drawn in by the vintage clothes, fabrics, and embroidery,” he says. Through his work, Abduvali soon connected with local artists and craftsmen keeping national traditions and artistic techniques alive in the present day. He was quick to recognize their talent and potential to reach an international audience.

At that time, however, artisans were not able to sell their goods abroad and produced only for the domestic market and tourists. In 2014, Abduvali took to e-commerce website eBay to start selling contemporary artisan products online.

“My first deal was selling embroidery from our artisans in [the town of] Nurota. Later, I posted several items, including vintage embroideries from the late 20th century. I thought my work was done and that the products would sell themselves. That was a big mistake.”

In early 2016 he saw his sales taper off, and knew he had to take a more curated approach. “I decided to diversify the goods in the store and exhibit more clothes made using vintage embroideries. The clothes quickly sold out, and then I decided to sew chapans [traditional robes] and decorate them with embroidery. I hired craftswomen who lived in rural areas. They sewed robes, coats, and dresses on vintage sewing machines and by hand. That is how I started my production and began to study trends.”

In 2019, Abduvali visited the GroundZero coworking center in Tashkent, where he met Lola Saifi. Lola is an artisan and businesswoman. She launched her own art gallery Human House in Tashkent. “Lola asked for help opening a store on eBay. So, we opened the Human House online store together.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed brick-and-mortar stores in 2020, leaving many local artisans without income, Abduvali decided to help by training artists to sell their products online. He started by helping a few friends set up shops on the online marketplace Etsy.

“Lola Saifi told me about the eBay Central Asia Hub project, funded by the International Trade Center as part of the Ready4Trade Central Asia project and USAID’s Future Growth Initiative. She offered to take part in the eBay Central Asia Hub project as a coach,” says Abduvali. “I was introduced to digital commerce trainers, one of whom was Fabian Staechelin. Thanks to USAID and Ready4Trade Central Asia, Fabian has helped many of our artisans open stores on eBay and taught them how to sell online.”

Participants in the USAID-supported eBay Central Asia Hub training learned how to analyze the market with eBay seller tools, use photos for product presentation, design and build an online store, and develop shipping and privacy policies.

After the training, Abduvali revamped his online store and relaunched operations in December 2021. As of January 2022, he sold 26 items, valued at over $2,000. Now he is working with Fabian to set up a U.S.-based fulfillment warehouse to reduce delivery times.

After the training, Abduvali went on to teach five local entrepreneurs the basics of e-commerce, which allowed them to sell their goods on Etsy and eBay. His students include miniatures master Feruza Temirova, now known as Feruzart on eBay; Farrukh Ergashev of the Bukhara Suzani embroidery company, now selling on Etsy and eBay; Markhamat Umarova, Tashkent-based clothing designer now selling on eBay; Abdullo Narzullaev, master of Gijduvan ceramics, currently selling on Etsy; and Feruza Akhrarova, clothing designer from Bukhara who recently opened her own eBay store. Abduvali continues to receive requests from other artisans interested in launching eBay and Etsy sales. In the future, he would like to offer e-commerce courses in order to reach more members of the artisan community.

Abduvali is also a father of four children, and says that his youngest daughter does beautiful beadwork and has dreams of becoming a fashion designer one day. With his extensive experience and growing network of professional mentors, he is committed to investing in a new generation of artists. “I will help her fulfill her dream,” he promises.

In 2021, USAID partnered with the Ready4Trade project to create the eBay Central Asia Hub and trained 20 entrepreneurs from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to expand into e-commerce. As a result, 18 participants have launched online stores, listing a total of 462 products and reaching a total of 60 sales in their first five months. The sellers have received tailored, one-on-one support throughout the process. Through the eBay Hub, entrepreneurs across Central Asia – 80 percent of whom are women – have gained access to new customers worldwide and are leading the way in regional e-commerce transformation.

Last updated: July 20, 2022

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