Step into the Parlour: TSTT launches digital craft store for artisans
Janelle De Souza
TSTT has put the artisans of TT, and eventually the Caribbean, on the international market with its new e-commerce platform, Parlour.
Through its partnership with the Export Centres Company Ltd (ECCL), Parlour will be home to the national digital craft store CraftHubTT, showcasing a range of local crafts and making transacting within the Caribbean simpler and more effective.
The aim is to help its vendors build and transform their businesses by providing a digital ecosystem to support its vendors in modernising how they promote and sell their products.
Speaking at Parlour’s launch at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain on Saturday night, TSTT chairman Sean Roach said he was certain the e-commerce platform would be a significant milestone in the realisation of government’s 2030 vision and digital transformation operational plan.
“Parlour’s ambitious and attainable vision is, and I quote, ‘To be the number one e-commerce marketplace in the Caribbean, a brand synonymous with online and mobile shopping in its markets.’ Our long-term goal is to partner with 100,000 sellers and enable them to attract millions of consumers towards their products.”
Export Centres Company Ltd interim CEO Kaisha Ince said 20 “craft ambassadors” from both Trinidad and Tobago, as well as their products, were being featured on CraftHubTT, including the Drag Brothers.
TSTT assistant general manager, emerging services and innovation, Keino Cox said in the future, Parlour would be more than a platform to sell craft. It would also be about services, art, cuisine, and more.
The Parlour University online learning portal would provide sellers with the opportunity to grow their business. And TSTT expected to launch its online wallet, PAYPR, to integrate no-cash payments with Parlour to provide users with a simple, safe and affordable way to complete transactions.
Also, in October, Parlour will extend its network to the regional and global marketplace allowing millions of customers, including those from the diaspora markets of the US, Canada and the UK, access to the Caribbean’s diverse range of products.
In his address, Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales expressed confidence that the restructuring of TSTT would benefit TSTT.
“TSTT is an important stakeholder in the communications sector in TT and they represent who we are as the red, white, and black – the people of TT. And, therefore, we have to walk with them. Even though they are going through some challenging times, I believe, and we all should believe, that TSTT will remain on the national landscape providing telecommunication services to the people of TT.”
Speaking of Parlour, he said he had confidence in the “bold and innovative” move to revive the concept of the parlour and “rekindle the spirit of Caribbean entrepreneurship.”
He said many people struggled during the pandemic and many local and regional businesses were negatively affected because of not modernising their marketing to match the increase in internet shopping.
However, many did adapt and there was a great increase in e-commerce activities.
“Online sales in TT and the wider region have strengthened year on year, especially in the absence of brick-and-mortar stores being open, with online sale records set to be broken in many parts of the region. The growth of online retailing has steadily increased throughout the years of the pandemic and seems set to continue uninterrupted on this upward trajectory.”
Giving the feature address, Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said a 2022 report by Morgan Stanley pointed out that global e-commerce increased from 15 per cent of total retail sales in 2019 to 21 per cent in 2021 and 22 per cent in 2022. it also said the e-commerce market had much room for growth and retail sales could increase from US$3.3 trillion in 2022 to US$5.4 trillion in 2026.
“These statistics are revealing and show the importance of initiatives such as Parlour. Marketplace platforms are invaluable and provide a huge opportunity to entrepreneurs, particularly MSMEs as a viable option, to take their businesses online without having to worry about the backend workings, which can be a deterrent. Online sales are no longer an option, but a necessity.”
She said the government was in the early stages of negotiating with the UNConference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) for an e-trade readiness assessment and development of an e-commerce strategy. Also, in 2020, her ministry launched the International Trade Centre’s She Trades platform which focused on empowering women to connect with trade opportunities.
The government also completed the Electronic Funds Transfer Policy (EFT) so that online payments could be made to any government agency. And her ministry was working with the Treasury Department, under the Single Electronic Window Expansion Project, to define the requirements for the implementation of electronic payment systems for TTBizLink.
“E-commerce is a critical tool, which can be used by both entrepreneurs and Government to grow the economy. Going forward, we need to ensure that businesses are better prepared to participate engage in e-commerce and embrace and adopt it to keep apace in this rapidly evolving digital economy.”
Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe encouraged those present to go into their communities, find artisans, and enrol them in the platform. She also encouraged organisers to have strict rules and guidelines to keep the products authentic.
“It’s not only about selling. It’s about training, exchanging ideas, creating networks, creating partnerships, and to me, that’s the true beauty of this initiative.
“It’s not only about the commercial side. It’s about preserving our culture and preserving our heritage.”
CEO of the Export Import Bank of TT Navin Dookeran said his bank was hoping to launch a Catalytic Fund by the middle of next year. The fund would allow export-oriented companies to access financial support and earn foreign exchange.
TSTT CEO Lisa Agard added that Parlour had the potential to affect economies and change lives.
She said bmobile had the products and services to digitally transform and support entrepreneurs and provide them access to communications technology.
“The sheer scale, credibility and logistics that TSTT’s size, strategic partnerships and brand equity bring to Parlour will make it larger and more high-profile, and propel it further and faster than any of its competitors. This will translate into greater capacity for sales.
“And then, of course, there are all the additional features built into Parlour to create an entire ecosystem designed to meet the needs and support the goals of our small and new artists, artisans and entrepreneurs.”