#04 Together with the soap stone manufacturers in Kenya
This will be the last edition of the 2012 MUJI X JICA project report. In this edition, we would like to cover the following topics.
1)Looking back on the MUJI X JICA Kenya project.
2)Two interviews from the soap stone manufacturers.
3)Report on a charity event held in the U.K.
1)Looking back on the project MUJI X JICA Kenya project.
Honestly speaking, we faced many challenges during this project and it was also a learning experience for us, too. Since it was our first time to develop and manufacture products in Africa, we faced challenges mainly involving logistics and sales channel matters.
First year was a year of "CHALLENGE".
2011 was our first year for the Kenya project, and where we were inexperienced in many ways. We overcame many hurdles such as, quality standards issues and issues in order to establish a business model to maintain the project. Kenya is a developing country and product development in such countries face strict conditions in logistic and sales channels. However, we overcame each challenge and were able to deliver the products to our store fronts worldwide.
Second year was a year of "PROGRESS"
After our first year of "CHALLENGE", for both the manufacturers and us, we targeted to better improve quality requirements and delivery deadlines in our second year. This resulted to motivate the manufacturers leading them to ambitiously improve their skills to move forward. A new challenge to develop products which will sell at a reasonable price was set by the manufacturers themselves they were seriously keen on considering ways of improvements. The methods decided and implemented by the manufacturers were:
1.Combining multiple air shipments into one time ocean shipments and,
2.Designing products equal to the standards of the manufacturers and,
3.Simplifying packages to reduce cost and,
4.Adding information, such as QR codes with web site linkages, to the packages to raise the visibility of the project.
Third year was a year of "INDEPENDENCE"
We think that three years continuance is the minimum time frame required for one project to mature. Together with JICA, we would like to continue to support the manufacturers in standardizing quality, keeping delivery dates and establish smooth communications between associated members. Our goal is to enable the manufacturers to be able to sell their product worldwide by themselves and to stabilize their earnings. We would like to continue business with the developing countries and aim to be able to brush-up our support structure. We have already started preparing for next year's production.
2)Two interviews from the soap stone manufacturers.
Here, we would like to introduce two interviews which the JICA team brought back from their visit to Kenya. From the two interviews, you can see the ambition of the manufacturers which we share with them. We hope that next year's project will be a great success and a win-win opportunity for both parties.
Oominic Ogao Oswago
It is already 32 years since I first started carving soap stone. I commute here from home when there is a large manufacturing project. In the MUJI X JICA project, I took part as a member of the carving team. This project was very strict on product quality, accuracy in size and shape and also delivery dates. It was a great learning opportunity since I had not taken part in a project with such high requirements. With the earnings from this project, I was able to pay tuition for my two children, one who is studying to become a nurse and the other to become a teacher.
I hope to continue enhancing my skills through this project.
Stanley Mochama Ondari
I am a soap stone designer, and during the MUJI X JICA project, I started off by designing product samples and teaching manufacturers how to make the products. From the experience of this project, I learned the importance of product quality and delivery dates and have become conscious of these issues for other projects, too.
I was able to finish building my house with the earnings from this project and would like to continue enhancing my skills. I'm looking forward to taking part in next year's project.
3)Report on a charity event held in the U.K
Last of all, we would like to introduce a charity event held at a MUJI store in London, UK. This charity event is to collect English books for the soap stone manufacturing region in Kenya for their newly built library and PC room, established in 2012. The library and PC room was built by an NPO who supports the soap stone manufacturers to study and find jobs within their own living region, preventing them from having to work away from their homes and families. The NPO strongly believes that the people working in their own living region will improve and lead to development of their home region. MUJI agrees with the idea and have decided to support the collection of English books at one of our stores. The photograph below shows some of the books donated (in the basket below the table) and we are looking forward to delivering them to Kenya, in hope that these books will help enrich the people daily lives in the region.
For the past two years, the MUJI X JICA project has worked focusing on holiday gift items. We have started planning for next year and would be happy if you could look forward to our next gift selection from Kenya.This column has been written by a MUJI project member with the cooperation of JICA Kenya.