Anou and Ebay: Making Markets Work For Artisans

Beni Ourain rugs are one of the post popular Moroccan artisan products. The rugs effortlessly blend traditional Moroccan design with a timeless contemporary feel. The rugs have been featured in numerous design magazines including Vogue and as a result, Beni Ourains can command incredibly high prices.

A quick search for Beni Ourain rugs on Ebay and Anou will quickly show the disparity between artisan and reseller prices. Take the following rug posted by Association Nahda for example. It is a large, amazing Beni Ourain style rug that was listed for sale at $320, including shipping:

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Now, take a look at the recently sold Beni Ourain rugs on Ebay. The rugs are selling anywhere between $500-$2000 dollars.

The work that goes into making a Beni Ourain style rug is in some ways indescribable: it takes multiple weavers weeks of threading wool and tying each individual pile knot to create these highly sought after rugs. Yet the monetary value created by these rugs doesn’t stay in the hands of artisans, it stays in the hands of anonymous resellers on Ebay.

But that’s how a free market works, right?

At Anou, we’re not a charity, and we’re not looking for sympathy for the weavers who get paid poor wages. Instead, we simply train weavers in the skills they need and equip them with the tools so that the market place works for them rather than against them.

After being trained by Anou’s artisan trainers, members of Association Nahda worked tirelessly to take great product shots of their Beni Ourain style rug. Once they received high enough ratings on Anou from shoppers, the rug was automatically posted it on to Ebay. Since we knew it was undervalued, the listing was created as an auction with the starting bid of $360 (Nahda’s Anou price + Ebay/Paypal Fees).

Within a couple of days, it sold for $480 dollars. Earlier tonight, the text message that Anou sends out notifying the artisan of the sale was accompanied with a phone call from Brahim, Anou’s director. Brahim told the association, “Yes, your rug sold, but it actually sold for $120 more than what you listed it for. Surprise!”

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$120 is 1,008 Moroccan Dirham, or approximately half the average month’s wage for the average Moroccan (or 25,200 Ryal for all you Morocco PCVs counting in units of 20 out there).

With Anou, the artisans got a huge pay increase, and the buyer is ecstatic that they were finally able to buy a Moroccan Beni Ourain style rug directly from the weavers who made it.

Because that’s how a free market should work, right?

11 thoughts on “Anou and Ebay: Making Markets Work For Artisans

  1. Congrats to the wonderful women of Oued Ifrane! And thanks to Dan, Brahim, and the rest of the Anou crew for enabling success stories like this to happen!

    • Hi Cheryl,

      Thanks so much for your kind thoughts and support! I will definitely forward the message to everyone in Oued Ifrane. We’re working for more success stories like this one so I’ll keep you posted!

      Dan

  2. This is exactly how a free market should work! RIGHT ON! I love the partnership to get Anou items on ebay too! What a great way to bring artisans into one of the largest marketplaces while bringing viewers back to Anou! Congrats Dan & Brahim!

  3. Dan, Thanks so much for your work on this! The ability to do this means a lot to the whole community of Oued Ifrane, and to all the communities you’re working with. Keep up the good work

    • Hi Andrew,

      Thanks so much for your message and support. I met with some members of the association in Oued Ifrane today and they were incredibly excited — their hard work is paying off!

      Dan

  4. We love our rug, it is a piece of art! We are so happy to get a great deal and pay the artists directly. Great work Dan, In all aspects.

  5. The online banking in Morocco does not exsist yet which makes it impossible to do paypal payments and receive money through internet. Anou is a great way but how does the transaction work? If artisans can not open a paypal account and you say that artisans are paid directly so how do they receive their money once the purchase is done?

    • Thanks for the comment, Peter! Actually, online banking does exist in Morocco. A friend of ours who is the CEO of hmall.ma and hmizate.ma, two leading Moroccan e-commerce sites, just closed a rather large funding round. The rapid growth of Morocco’s online banking and e-commerce environment (hundreds of thousands of Moroccans have bank cards that they actively use to buy online) made it a pretty easy decision for hmall/hmizate’s investors. Paypal exists here as well, but it is not practical for Anou for many reasons. Instead, we use local banks within Morocco to transfer money without cost to pay artisans immediately after a purchase.

      I hope this answers your questions!

      – Dan

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