Buy Armenian: A start-up launched during the second Karabakh war
The Buy Armenian initiative which encourages consumers to buy Armenian-made goods was launched in Armenia during the 44-day Karabakh war. Lilit Odabashyan’s publication on her personal Facebook page first grew into a group that included thousands of users who share this idea, and then into an online shop selling Armenian-made goods.
“It was the beginning of October 2020. From the very first day, the war greatly influenced all of us, including my worldview, my life in general. At first, we participated in fundraising, tried to periodically send humanitarian and financial aid to Armenia.
Over time, I realized that I want to do more, to be more useful for my homeland. I thought that from now on I would only buy Armenian goods. On my Facebook page, I started a discussion with friends about what Armenian goods we could buy in order to help our country in this way”, recalls Lilit.
She was born and raised in Aleppo, Syria then moved to the United States. She has been living in Los Angeles for 18 years.
“My husband always says that eventually, we will move to our homeland, to Armenia. We are planning to move, but I don’t know when it will happen yet”, says Lilit.
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From an idea to an online store
Both the presidents of Armenia and the foreign Armenian diaspora responded to Lilith’s publication on Facebook. At first, this was the reason to create a group on the same social media. And in a short time, the group gained more than 40,000 subscribers – during the war, many had a desire to somehow help their homeland.
This group made it possible for Armenian producers to present their goods and for potential buyers from different parts of the world – to find and purchase what they need without wasting time.
“The war shook all of us, we felt that it was time to act. We should have started this movement earlier. Armenians should always help each other. During the war, this idea united and inspired many. I would like to preserve this cohesion, not to allow the inspiration to subside”, says Lilit.
More and more Armenian producers joined the group on Facebook and the interest in Armenian goods grew. That’s when the issue of coordination and management became apparent. Lilit began to think about creating a more flexible system.
The main problem she faced was the delivery cost set by Armenia’s postal operator, HayPost Company as it caused dissatisfaction among customers from different countries.
“At the time when people started buying Armenian goods with enthusiasm, HayPost sharply raised the rates of postal deliveries, which hit our work hard. At some point, people began to cancel orders, and manufacturers panicked because of the large number of rejections. It was difficult to explain to people why they had to pay $50 for the delivery of goods worth $ 20”, says Lilit.
This was a turning point, and she decided to create a platform that would allow her to control the entire process – from presentation and ordering of goods to delivery to the client. In December 2020, work began on the creation of the buyarmenian.com website.
To get there, goods, first of all, must be of high quality. Food must be organic or certified.
“Maintaining quality is our main goal. We want to present only the best so that people buying goods from our website know that they are buying the best quality goods”, says Lilit.
Who is the website for
You can register on the site and submit your products for free. In the case of sales, 3.5 or 1.5% of the amount is withheld – only to reimburse the costs of translations and site maintenance.
According to Lilith, people from different parts of the world are interested in Armenian goods. Most of the buyers are from the USA, Russia, Canada, and Australia.
In the first place in popularity are Armenian dried fruits and sweets, herbal teas, and honey.
The e-shop product list is updated daily, allowing customers to choose from a new and fresh assortment.
More than 700 Armenian manufacturers and about 5,500 of their products are already presented on the site.
Lusine Ghazaryan is the only one in Armenia who is engaged in the production of pillows from buckwheat husks. She registered her items on the site in the spring of 2021. She says that before that she sold her products online only within the country. Pillow interest and revenue skyrocketed after registering with Buy Armenian.
“This is a good opportunity for those who have had problems entering foreign markets and sending goods for export. I am sure we will be able to conquer new markets abroad”, says Lusine.
Artist Siranush Amiragyan from Noyemberyan is a co-founder of a company that produces glass and wood items. There are not many clients in Armenia. To expand production, they need to increase sales, which is what the site does.
Ani Mushegyan, an artist and stylist from Yerevan, is engaged in the production and sale of tops with patterns and images based on Armenian architecture.
“Throughout my entire creative activity, I have tried to disseminate and popularize everything Armenian. Until now, I have depicted churches and shrines of Western Armenia on my clothes, and now I have launched a collection with the image of Artsakh churches. Most of them are in the territories that we lost during the war”, says Ani.
T-shirts with the image of Armenian churches are, according to her, in special demand among the Armenians of the Diaspora.
Lilit is assisted by her husband Nshan Odabashyan and a small team to coordinate work with all manufacturers registered on the site.
The assortment increasing day by day and the interest in Armenian goods inspire Lilith to hope that Buy Armenian can become the best platform for those who are looking for and intend to purchase Armenian-made goods:
“During this time, there were many difficulties and disappointments, but I realized that disappointment brings new disappointments, and when you work hard, you start to believe and make sure that dawn always comes after the night”.