Tuesday mid-afternoon

Silk scarves

BAN NONG TAKAI, July 17 – The women of Ban Nong Takai have been weaving silk for generations, but until 15 years ago, they hadn’t made it their livelihood.

In 1992, representatives from American Express started a silk center here, training the women in marketing, product development and other basic business functions. Today, the center nets more than 2 million baht annually (US$60,241), allowing the 38 women to split about 170,000 baht a month.

The women explain in detail the process for making their scarves, from feeding mulberry leaves to a basketful of silk worms to boiling the silk strands off the skeletons to dyeing and weaving vibrantly colored fabrics.

They know the ins and outs of their trade but not of the business behind it. For example, they operate as a collective for profits but not for manufacturing: two women who make red and blue scarves must dye each batch of red and blue thread separately instead of each specializing in one color and trading to improve efficiency. Again, there are lessons related to operational processes – skill specialization, demand planning, resource pooling – that might help these women increase their production levels with a little thoughtful reallocation of work.

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