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By Rosemarie Khoo Mohd Sani
KUALA LUMPUR, April 15 -- Once upon a time, the technological revolution was something many had feared.
But today, business owners worldwide have benefited from various technological advancements, which helped to boost efficiency and ease many a transaction.
Such advancements had also created more jobs, helping many businesses to stay afloat during tough times.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses -- including small traders -- had to quickly adapt to the government’s strict standard operating procedures to curb its spread, and many had shifted to e-commerce platforms such as GrabMart and GrabFood to sustain their business.
To help the business owners, Grab had introduced the #TechUntukSemua initiative -- an inclusive and accessible technology to ensure that no one is left behind as the nation rebuilds itself post-pandemic.
Even older and more traditional business owners are beginning to take their business online, including 61-year-old Zakaria Allaham, and 53-year-old Siti Nor Aisyah, as they knew that digitalisation would help them sustain their livelihood.
From ‘Gerai’ to Online Stall
Zakaria used to work as an administrator at a car workshop before deciding to import cattle from Thailand and venture into the meat business.
Being new to the trade, Zakaria had to learn everything from scratch – the different cuts, the meat grading system, and even how to cut the meat.
Eventually he fell in love with the meat business, and decided to set up a stall in Pasar Batu Lanchang in Georgetown, Penang.
“In the beginning, I did the paperwork in the morning and cut meat in the afternoon. This went on for about five years until I decided to run the business full time.
"Some of my customers would even get me to cut meats they bought elsewhere ... apparently there was something special about the way I cut,” he told Bernama.
However, when the Movement Control Order (MCO) started, Zakaria’s sales went down by 70 per cent.
To cope, he joined a WhatsApp group, together with other small business owners and started getting orders from there.
He soon realised they needed to do more to make ends meet, and that was when he joined GrabMart which enabled him to sell meat to consumers conveniently, delivering the cuts via Grab’s fleet.
"Many people my age are not sure about selling their products through an online app, but you have got to give technology a try or risk being left behind.
"When our business is online, we become more accessible to buyers. It is never too late to learn new things, and in my case, technology has truly become a lifesaver as it keeps my business going," Zakaria added.
Recipe for Success
Siti Nor Aisyah was a housewife and worked as a cleaner while her husband ran a humble stall, selling Arabic food.
The couple had opened a few stalls in Bukit Bintang and Melaka, but due to location issues, all their business ventures were a miss.
However, the couple still persevered and headed back to Melaka, but this time, they decided to venture into the hospitality business by opening a guest house.
Unfortunately, business was still slow as the area was not a hotspot for walk-ins. So they tried to get the guest house listed online, something they had never done before.
“We had never used the internet before, or even own a computer. But we believed we could do it, and so with a second-hand laptop and some guidance from a friend, we did.
"Once our guest house business started to pick up, we went back to what we knew best - food. We opened a new shop not far from our guest house and catered to our guests and other customers,” said Siti.
According to Siti, they joined GrabFood rather early and had benefited from the decision.
"When the first Movement Control Order was implemented, we were not affected as much because we had already been on the platform for six months. Our loyal customers knew where to find us to get their naan and tandoori fix.
“Technology really saved us, that is why we have continued to promote ourselves online. In business, there are no mistakes, only lessons,” she said.
Meanwhile, in its continuous efforts to uplift the community, Grab had recently announced the GrabForGood Fund which seeks to support programmes that will have a lasting impact on the quality of life for its driver, delivery and merchant partners, and the broader community of Southeast Asia.