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Dear Padian Subscribers,
by Jon Southurst, Tokyo
Brunei once had a reputation as one of Southeast Asia’s key trading hubs. It can become that again, say the makers of Brunei’s first e-business portal.
For over 500 years, Padians were river traders who sold their goods from boats in Brunei’s Kampong Ayer (water villages). Their contribution to the local economy, and Brunei’s reputation in the wider area as a trading port, became invaluable as they brought necessary items directly to residents from shops, farmers and other traders further away.
That’s the kind of entrepreneurial spirit Rushdi Ibrahim and Shafique Hussain want to reinvigorate with Padian.com, a complete e-business hub created by AMIR Consortium Sdn Bhd* and designed to connect Brunei’s small and medium enterprise (SME) operators with local and overseas clients, customers and government tenders.
“We wanted people know know: we are here,” says Rushdi, Operations Director and one of the project’s owners. The portal is at the forefront of Brunei’s efforts to restore its historic reputation as a trading center, after decades of watching larger neighbors like Singapore grab the spotlight. Their success will depend on attracting users not just in Brunei, but across ASEAN and the rest of the world. Padian.com is an active participant in trade shows around the world — the two have spent the past week in Tokyo drumming up new business and meeting local entrepreneurs, many of whom remain unaware of Japan’s appeal and marketability in other parts of Asia.
“Our initial focus was to help Brunei SMEs,” says Shafique, Padian.com’s Head of Marketing. “They had good products but not marketing and IT knowledge. We wanted to give them the opportunity to sell their products and image online easily, so they can just focus on producing products.”
“We wanted to make it very Bruneian,” he adds, referring not only to local produce but the country’s image as a place to make deals. “We wanted to help businesses grow, to reach out to others and build a bridge between all countries in the region.”
The ASEAN-Japan Centre in Tokyo runs frequent Southeast Asian showcase events throughout the year and this week they’re introducing locals to ‘Peaceful Brunei’. Brunei Darussalam has plenty of economic clout in the resources sector, its Sultan is famous for being one of the world’s wealthiest men and the Brunei Halal brand is famous throughout the Muslim world for its quality and standards.
The country probably isn’t on the radar for most Japanese tourists, though, and two representatives from Brunei’s travel industry sought to win them over at a seminar earlier today. Japanese tourists like their destinations safe, healthy and clean: Brunei is all those things. Japanese tourists are very interested in nature and food: Brunei has great examples of both. Japanese tourists love to drink: sorry, you can’t buy alcohol in Brunei but BYO (bring-your-own) is allowed and tourists will be fine. Any mention of golf will turn heads in Japan and Brunei has plenty of great golf courses. Yes, Brunei is affordable and yes, there is plenty to see and do.
Preserving the legacy of the Padian spirit
Waleed PD Mahdini Apr 10th, 2010
THE early traders of Brunei Darussalam made their income from plying the routes of Kampong Ayer (water village) selling their wares from food to clothing and silverwares. These traders or hawkers who sold their goods in their sampans are called the Padian. They were mostly women and had existed for the past 500 years until their gradual disappearance in the early 20th century when Brunei began to develop and modernised its infrastructure.
The Padians have played an important role in the socio-economic history of Brunei. They were instrumental in bringing the daily necessities for housewives at their doorsteps in the once thriving villages of Kampong Ayer. Sundry shops in the mainland were mostly run by Chinese businessmen and the Padians would trade grocery goods from these sundry shops with the silverwares and woven cloths from the water villagers and fresh vegetables and fruits from farmers near the riverbanks. Indeed the Padians operated their own floating market and traded anything their customers would need. Their enterprising spirit was the beginning of entrepreneurship in the sultanate.
The young Bruneains of the new millennium and even the future generations may not be familiar with the Padians and their significant contributions in making the economy of Brunei flourish during their time. At the moment, the Padians have been immortalised in the form of souvenirs made of silver, where tourists can find at souvenir shops and the Arts and Handicrafts Centre.
But the Padians deserve a much better recognition and proper place in the history of entrepreneurship in Brunei.
Four young technopreneurs at the iCentre, a business incubation centre for Information Technology Research and Development established by the Brunei Economic Development Board, are giving the Padians a symbolical rebirth on the Internet.
One of the technopreneurs is Hj Mohammed Dato Seri Paduka Hj Talib who developed the web portal. Speaking to the Bulletin, he explained, “Padians were the SMEs of Brunei in the past. They may have vanished with the advent of Brunei’s modernisation, but the `padian’ spirit will experience a new rebirth, which is why by naming the web portal as Padian.com will be a fitting tribute to the economic contribution of the Padians in Brunei’s socio-economic history as this would forever preserve the legacy of the Padian spirit”.
They developed a new website aptly called padian.com to help modern Bruneian SMEs bring their products and services not only within the island of Borneo, but also to the BIMP-EAGA region and ultimately beyond the Asia-Pacific region.
“By doing so, the new Padians of the new millennium —the current local SMEs in Brunei — will transform the way business is done, and that is using the Internet as a vital tool and reaching out to its customers in the global market. Padian. corn will become the future hub for all SMEs in Brunei as their gateway to the global market,” said Hj Mohammed.
The younger generations of Brunei are mostly computer literate and Internet savvy. They can easily access any information found in the Internet. Creating the padian.com would not only bring awareness to the people of Brunei on the significant role the Padians have played in the economy of Brunei, but would also create a permanent imprint in their minds of the essence of the Padians’ existence. The spirit of Padian will surely be remembered, through which the spirit of Padian would linger on forever.
When asked how this would differ with other established online stores that are already operating in the sultanate, the young technopreneur spelt it out: “Those online stores use a B2C type of portal, which is similar to Amazon.com. But Padian.com will encompass the B2B, B2C and C2C features in the long term. At the moment, the start-up phase will focus on B2B to enhance the networking of SMEs with other business enterprise in the Asian region and worldwide.”