Digital marketing skill helps people living with HIV/AIDS to develop their businesses

A digital marketing training by Kalandara Foundation supports people living with HIV/AIDS and people living with them to grow their businesses amidst two major challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic and negative stigma still held by the general society against them.

Starting his own food and beverage business was a decision made by Bima Nurseta, 29 years old, after he faced discrimination at his workplace due to his HIV/AIDS positive status. He is aware that his condition still prevents him from getting hired as an employee. The COVID-19 pandemic presented a new challenge for Bima. For over one year, his sale has decreased drastically as most of his customers also have lost their livelihood. 

A similar situation is faced by Silvy Mutiari, a 41-years-old transwoman, when she did not receive a single order for her event emcee and beauty business in 18 months into the pandemic, that she had to start a new business, selling odading (a type of fried dough). Losing one’s livelihood in the middle of the pandemic is also experienced by Sri Partini, a 41-years-old woman who is living with HIV/AIDS in Sragen, Central Java. She went back to her hometown after her workplace in Surabaya, East Java was forced to shut their door because of the pandemic. She is now selling traditional tonic drinks, locally known as jamu, to cover her daily costs.

As they naturally want to stay afloat and develop their businesses during the pandemic, Bima, Silvy and Sri participated in the training and mentoring to improve their culinary and digital marketing skills held by Kalandara Foundation in Semarang, Central Java in October 2021. This training was conducted through five phases in offline and online sessions that covered various materials.

The training was a part of the Employment and Livelihood project, jointly organized by four United Nations (UN) agencies in Indonesia, including the ILO. The joint project was funded by UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund (UN MPTF), with an aim to provide equal opportunities for vulnerable groups, which include people living with HIV/ADIS, to access means of livelihood that can improve their quality of life.

Bima explained that he had hoped that the training program could help him to increase his income. “I learned about various things related to the digitalisation of culinary business, starting from the business’ financial management to digital marketing via the marketplace, Google Business and WhatsApp Business,” he said.

After the training, Bima applied everything that he had learned by marketing his culinary products on various digital platforms, adjusted to his market target. A number of orders came in after he ran his promotional programs on his social media.

“After months of no orders at all, customers began to come back. Now I can sell 20 portions of gado-gado (Indonesian vegetable salad with peanut sauce) and a few portions of fruit juice in average per day. The slowly improved financial situation has given me a new hope,” he said optimistically.

For Silvy, the training was a beacon of hope in a difficult situation. Her sale increased from 20 pieces of odading per day to 50 pieces per day after she applied digital marketing knowledge that she received. She was also presented an opportunity to sell her odading at a micro, small and medium-sized enterprise expo in Semarang.

“Now I know more details about marketing from this training. It is not just about how to sell, but also increasing the market value of the product by using a more attractive packaging and also designing the logo placement with a contact address,” she said.

Sri also experienced a sale increase after she applied her new digital marketing knowledge. Previously, she would only sell at most 30 bottles of jamu per day. Now she must produce at least 50 bottles per day to fulfil the order that come in her instant messaging app WhatsApp. “My jamu is now getting more exposure because of the promotion via WhatsApp,” she said.

Navitri Putri Guillaume, ILO’s National Project Officer for the Employment and Livelihood project, said that ILO respects the unyielding spirit of Bima, Silvy and Sri to continue to strive despite of the negative stigma held by the society regarding their health status. “We hope that every material from the training received by the participants can reinforce their spirit to continue to improve their businesses and themselves,” she said.