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  • By: Anoushka Bhar
  • Sep 16, 2021

Traditional Batik Comes Back Into Fashion Through Technology and Innovation

Malaysia is known for a rich cultural legacy that encompasses everything from architectural elegance to traditional arts and crafts. But as a result of the pandemic, Malaysia’s culture and arts industry has experienced a significant loss amounting to RM85 million over the past year. 

Due to this, many micro, small and medium enterprises in the arts and culture sector had to pivot their strategies to focus more on online efforts to stay connected to their customers. One such local MSME is Penang-based Batek-Lah Collection, an authentic traditional Malaysian batik brand that started its eCommerce journey on Lazada.

“From what I saw, traditional culture and arts were slowly dying out as younger generations were adapting to a more globalised and modern world,” said James Lim, the owner of Batek-Lah Collection. “Even prior to the pandemic, the interest in traditional and cultural arts like batik had been fading among Malaysians as they seemed more interested in buying and wearing branded goods. Today, not many people own even a single piece of batik clothing because it is perceived as old-fashioned and untrendy.”

To make batik trendy again, Lim took over his family’s business in 2012. Lim Trading had started out in 1980 as a wholesale batik supplier. Formerly a mechanical engineer, Lim, who was 27 at the time, had little knowledge of the centuries-old craft of batik and had to learn the ropes on his own, eventually revamping the wholesale business to become Batek-Lah Collection.

Batek-Lah Collection specialises in small-batch, handmade products produced by Malaysian artists and artisans. Lim’s products had been especially popular with foreign tourists visiting Penang, who appreciated traditional handmade crafts and helped spread the word about his store by posting online reviews on tourist sites. Unfortunately, when the pandemic hit and travel bans were imposed, sales dropped to almost zero.

Instead of viewing this as a setback, however, Lim took this opportunity to ramp up his digital strategy and also shifted his focus to getting local Malaysian consumers to appreciate the craftsmanship of batik. To reach young and digitally-savvy Malaysian consumers, Lim began actively focusing on the Lazada store he set up a few years ago. He began participating in seller campaigns and even experimented with digital tools on the platform, such as Seller Picks, a free feature that allows eligible sellers to boost their potential best-selling products on search pages. He also tapped into Lazada’s free shipping mechanism and Sponsored Discovery tool, which enables shoppers to discover products via Lazada’s search results or browsing similar products.

Meanwhile, to change the common perception among young Malaysians of batik being old-fashioned, Lim launched a new line that reflects the latest trends. The line features batik designs on sleek and stylish items, such as face masks, men’s short-sleeved shirts, women’s tank tops and zipped dresses. All these efforts have helped increase Batek-Lah’s visibility on Lazada, leading to a 30% growth in the store’s customer reach. 

“The ongoing pandemic and lockdown have certainly impacted the livelihoods of those in the culture and arts industry, including business owners and craftspeople. We hope to be able to provide more businesses, especially MSMEs in this sector, with a platform to showcase their art, help them build their online presence, reach new audiences, build their network and become more exposed,” said Darren Rajaratnam, the chief operating officer of Lazada Malaysia.

Featured image above: James Lim, the founder and owner of Batek-Lah Collection.

Anoushka Bhar is a senior manager in Lazada’s PR team in Malaysia.

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