E-bazaar: Entrepreneur’s thoughts!

To ensure businesses continue as usual during the Movement Control Order (MCO), the government together with relevant organizations launched an e-bazaar initiative.

In contrast to traditional Ramadhan bazaars where businesses are conducted physically, the e-bazaar program enables entrepreneurs to sell their products through online platforms such as Grab and social media (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp) – and this has paved a way for entrepreneurs to progress towards digitalization while adhering to the social distancing rule outlined by the Ministry of Health (MOH).

For many bazaar operators, this is a first time experience and we at the Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii), took this opportunity to conduct a “digital chat” with some of them to learn what is it like to operate a virtual bazaar.

“One of the main differences I experience is that it is easier to gain customers from other states due to the lack of geographical boundary when it comes to selling and promotion. However, we can only deliver certain types of food products to customers residing far away due to the nature of the product”, said Mursyidah Syahirah bt Md Said, an entrepreneur of Cakes By Mucy.

Picture credit: Mursyidah Syahirah (Cakes by Mucy)

Mursyidah also explained that the reachability through online platforms are far greater, allowing them to obtain more customers with a simple advertising campaign expedited through populated digital platforms such as Instagram and WhatsApp. Plus, it is the Internet – people are constantly browsing hence there are always potential customers at any given time.

“Prior to this, only people who happen to be nearby our bazaar will notice our presence but with the availability of the Internet, it makes things so much more easier, especially with the advantage of online advertising through Facebook and Instagram. We can utilize this to sell our products to customers who never even knew about our existence, therefore enhancing our market penetration. All you need is a smartphone with a camera”, she added.

Nur Atikah binti Mardi of Wak’s Tebu and Soya said that the e-bazaar initiative benefits both entrepreneurs and public – from an entrepreneurial standpoint, businesses can continue to operate, allowing them to continue gaining income while the public do not need to risk themselves by going out of their house just to get food.

Picture credit: Nur Atikah (Wak’s Tebu and Soya)

“Usually, we will hire extra manpower to help us run our stall and manage customers. Now, as we go digital, we have turn into a family business, negating the need of hiring extra manpower as all of the work are done together as a family, from the comfort of our own homes”, expressed Nur Atikah.

Operating an online store also raises some concerns regarding logistics (delivery of products customers) but with the availability of various delivery service providers such as Grab and Lalamove eases the transition towards a digital lifestyle.

“To me, the e-bazaar initiative a step forward towards digitalization, providing a platform for local business owners especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to expose and expand their business. Moreover, it provides an opportunity for business operators that were forced to shut down operations and also, for new and potential entrepreneurs to begin their journey in entrepreneurship, the digital way”, said Tengku Muhammad Muhaimin bin Tengku Salim of IC11 Café.

Picture credit: Tengku Muhaimin (IC11 Cafe)

E-bazaar is a new element all of us are experiencing, especially for those in entrepreneurship. Challenges are bound to be faced but they can all be overcome with ease through various experimental approaches to online marketing.

“One challenge we all face is the number of entrepreneurs utilizing these online platforms. Prior to this, only those with entrepreneurship experience will open physical stores to conduct their business but now, all you need is a social media account, a smartphone and basic communication skills to handle customers and marketing. This leads to extra competition amongst business operators, a healthy one of course”, said Tengku Muhaimin.

Nur Atikah said, “We’re location in the outskirts while most of our orders come from the city. From a logistics standpoint, it is a bit difficult to organize deliveries to our faraway customers, but we overcome this by appointing our own runner to handle deliveries, on top of utilizing existing delivery services such as Grab”.

“Despite the challenges faced, my team and I believe that this is the right way forward, especially in embracing the new normal that we’re all about to go through. It is an inevitable transition and the only we way we all can grow is to adopt and adapt to the changes and learn from mistakes”, Nur Atikah added.

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