Export Readiness Summit; from a C&A team member’s perspective

Gijs Buelens, Regional Merchandise Planner at C&A, is one of the six employees who were in India last week for the volunteer program which is part of the partnership of C&A Foundation, C&A and Women on Wings. Gijs shares his story about the export readiness summit for Women on Wings business partners in Delhi:

“It was a bit scary in a way. The Women on Wings colleagues mentioned that the number of participants is very much varying on the interest they have on the subject. So, will there be people showing up? It was passed 10AM… But at 10.30AM our room was nearly too small to fit all participants!
I introduced the red thread exercise. A great opportunity getting to know each other! We may come from different countries and backgrounds, but at the end of the day we are all involved in working with yarn.

Openness from participants is inspiring
During the day, combining interactive group sessions and powerpoints, we talked about: Sustainability & Compliance (by Jo), Planning Process (by Andreas), Quality Management & Design (by Caroline). Happily for us, the participants were really interested to learn about everything we present and also happy to talk about their own lives and experiences. Inspiring and very valuable to learn from them too. It was a long day as we worked on the presentation for Tuesday after dinner.

C&A team impressed by rural challenges
Day 2 was as exiting and interactive as day 1 with great discussions about the challenges these Indian entrepreneurs face in rural India. Like child labor – on which we all agreed that this is unacceptable, under all conditions. But what if you leave school at 14, which is normal for a rural child, and are allowed to do paid work only when you’re 18? What do you in that huge gap? And what about safety regulations when in rural areas it is common to work at home – do these houses require fire extinguishers? Or ancient crafts that will disappear simply because the children of the artisans prefer a job that pays more for less hours… Amazingly interesting topics.
But we were in India for the export readiness summit, so after the pop-up discussion, we touched upon The Buying Cycle (by Bernd), Sales Management (by Maria) and Marketing & Communication (myself).

Great feedback Indian business partners
After these three presentations, Ellen Tacoma, Women on Wings co-founder, wrapped up the two day workshop and gaves all participants a certificate for ‘successfully participating in the summit’. We too got one for ‘successfully moderating the summit’. Lovely surprise! But we too had a surprise for the participants: a C&A goody bag with some C&A merchandise. But the best part was the positive feedback from the participants. They were all very happy about the learnings of the summit which they would definitely take home and share with their colleagues. That’s what we were here for!

The red thread connection
Day 2 ended as we began day 1; with the red thread exercise. We used the same ball of red yarn to connect everyone by throwing the ball again and expressing our main learnings from the two days. When we were all connected with the red thread, we cut it into pieces and made bracelets out of it, which we are still all wearing as a symbol of connection.”


Gijs Buelens
For C&A team ‘Mission India’, which also comprises:
Andreas Beckmann
Bernd Kirchner
Caroline Ayello Wright
Joanna Yeomans
Maria Moraza Merino

Photography: Marcel van Mourik & C&A