Village-centered businesses

No one likes to leave the countryside and farm for the big city. Here's how one doll business allowed a village to stay put.

handicraft craftsman

Designs that stand out in crowded wooden handicraft market (product differentiation) are the key element that drives this company's success.

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Carving a niche: Wooden doll venture in Chiang Mai helps a community support itself in style by Chadamas Chinmaneevong

Five thousand baht a month may not seem like much to a city dweller but for families in rural areas it can go a long way.

Just ask Peeraphong Boonchata, a founder of the Ban Luang Nua Wooden Dolls Group in Chiang Mai. He says his dream has come true now that the group is selling enough of its handicrafts to earn each member 5,000 baht a month.

"Today, we have better living conditions and more choices for our future," he says. "In the past, if we wanted more money, we had to go work in town. If we stay in our village, the only thing we can do is farming. But making wooden dolls has changed our lives since 2003."  

The Ban Luang Nua Wooden Dolls Group was established in 2003 with six families related to Mr Peeraphong and seed money of just 10,000 baht.

With a bachelor's degree in Fine Arts from Chiangmai University, Mr Peeraphong designed all the products himself. He came back to his hometown determined to create a better livelihood for people in the community after he realised that city living didn't suit him.

"We had to find different designs and wooden cartoon dolls were a good answer because most other villages focused on realistic wooden handicrafts," he said

The group's first lot of 200 wooden dolls were priced between 40 and 400 baht apiece. But even some of their fellow villagers were sceptical, and even mean. Some said that even at 20 baht apiece, they wouldn't buy the dolls.

"But now, many of them have become our members because we can prove that our products are warmly welcomed. A lot of customers, both local and international, have visited our village to order the dolls," he says with a smile.

The group introduced its products at an Otop Fair in Bangkok in 2003.

"We were happy to sell all the products and earn 20,000 baht, though that didn't cover the transport cost from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. It means that customers accepted our products. Many buyers visited us in the village later," he recalls.

Today the group has 20 members producing 2,000 pieces a month for wholesale and retail sale. In fact, orders exceed 2,000 but Mr Peeraphong says quality would suffer if the group tried to produce too much. However, it will try to increase capacity to 2,200 pieces per month and teaching new members to help.

"I hope that one day tourists will know Ban Luang Nua village is the place where wooden cartoon dolls are made, in the same way they know Ban Bor Sang village for umbrellas and Ban Thawai for carved wood," Mr Peeraphong says.

(Source: Carving a niche, Wooden doll venture in Chiang Mai helps a community support itself in style, 25/04/2011, Chadamas Chinmaneevong, link

product differentiation -
designing your company's product to make it different from other companies in order to gain customers (See Wikipedia)

dweller -
a person who lives in a place
city dweller -
a person who lives in the city
venture - a new activity, usually in business, which involves risk or uncertainty ธุริกิจเสี่ยงแต่สามารถทำกำไรได้

community - the people living in one particular area ชุมชน
support - help, by giving money, for example สนับสนุน
helps a community support itself - helps a community make the money they need to care for their families

niche - a small specialized area
carving a niche - carving a niche for yourself, finding a place for yourself (in business, your work or in society)

rural - connected with the countryside outside big towns and cities ในชนบท, บ้านนอก
go a long way - can be used to pay for a lot of things they need (and will last for a long time)

stand out - can be easily seen
handicraft -
beautiful objects made by skilled people (craftsmen) using their hands (See Wikipedia)
key - the important thing คนสำคัญ
founder - a person who establishes an institution, business, or organization ผู้ก่อตั้ง
established - started, began
seed money - money used to start a new company (the initial investment in a new business)

determined - wanting to do something very much and not letting anyone or any difficulties stop you ตั้งใจจริง, ซึ่งมุ่งมั่น
livelihood - (the way someone earns) the money people need to pay for food, a place to live, clothing, etc การดำรงชีวิต, การครองชีพ
livelihood - a job or source of income (providing money to pay living expenses such as food, housing, and shelter) งาน แหล่งที่มาของรายได้
livelihood - a source of money and income such as a job that allows you to buy your family the things that they need
realised that - came to understand that
didn't suit him - was not the right thing for him (given his situation and conditions of his life)

realistic - look real, have the appearance of the actual thing 
lot - a group or set of things or people
fellow - people similar to you or in the same situation เพื่อนร่วมชะตากรรม
sceptical - not believing easily, tending to not believe, having doubts about something that other people think is true or right สงสัย
mean - cruel, not kind (treating people in a bad way)
local - in this country (here: Thailand)
international - ระหว่างประเทศ between countries

One Tambon, One Product (OTOP) -
a program to promote rural Thai businesses both domestically and internationally, started by former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin, the program modelled itself after Japan's successful One Village One Product (OVOP) program, strove for improvements in local product quality and marketing, the kinds of products promoted included local food products, handicrafts, clothes, accessories, and household items (See Wikipedia)

One Village One Product movement (OVOP) - a Japanese programme for community and regional development, communities selectively produce goods with high added value, the one product produced in a village provides revenue to improve the standard of living of everyone in the village, a limited number of 300 products have been selected over the years (See Wikipedia)

transport - to move people or things from one place to another ขนส่ง
cover the transport cost - only pay for the cost of moving the good to be sold from the factory to the shop 
means - methods; ways วิธี, วิธีการ
wholesale - buying and selling goods in large quantities, during distribution before the goods reach the store, selling to shops who then sell them to customers การขายส่ง
retail - to sell directly to the public for their own use ขายปลีก
exceed - to be more than something; to go beyond a limit เกินกว่าที่กำหนด เกินปริมาณ
suffer - to experience physical or mental pain
capacity - the amount of something that can be produced ความสามารถในการ (ผลิต)
carved - cut from something like stone, wood แกะสลัก cut out from แยกออกจาก