Operating in Matang, saloon owner Chong Kong Yew generated zero income during the MCO, but his savings helped him sustain his business at the moment.

Business is one of the many roots of a country’s economy. Ever since the commencement of movement control order (MCO) on March 18, most businesses have been on idle mode with little to no income generated.

Finding ways to keep business running

Realising the importance of helping small businesses in these troubled times, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin recently announced the Prihatin Rakyat economic stimulus package for SMEs (Small Medium Enterprises) on April 6.

The stimulus package was announced to help business owners cope financially during the Covid-19 outbreak. Aside from the assistance from the government, some business owners managed to innovate ways to further help them survive the MCO period.

New Sarawak Tribune approached several individuals from different business backgrounds for their feedback and opinions during these troubled times.

The one with zero income

Saloon owner Chong Kong Yew expressed that during the MCO he was unable to generate any income. However, he understood that the order was to control and break the chain of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 32-year-old disclosed that as he is unable to maintain a steady income, he is having troubles paying his employees, and also their EPF and Perkeso. Luckily, he had prepared contingencies and can maintain the business for several months.

Chong, whose saloon is located in Matang, said even after MCO, he would continue to clean and sanitise his shop. “In the future, I will do a temperature check for each customer who comes in. At the same time, I will limit the number of customers in my shop by only serving two or three a time.” He stressed that this is to avoid any future complications.

Just as Prime Minister Muhyiddin said during his announcement on April 10, “Once MCO is over, we will lead a ‘new kind of normalcy’”. According to Chong, his future plans for his shop will be the ‘new normal’.

The online seller

One of the most thriving businesses during this period is online businesses, whether they have maintained online or have just turned online due to the pandemic.

‘Kuih’ seller Kelly Lim said difficulties in obtaining fresh ingredients during the MCO is her only obstacle.

This is because technology allows its users to purchase necessities at the tip of the finger, ensuring a safe social distancing between sellers and customers.

Online ‘kuih’ seller Kelly Lim said business has been good for her. However, she could not offer her all-time best seller, jelly cake during the MCO as she could not obtain the essential ingredients.

Residing in Kota Samarahan, the 35-year-old said she needed fresh coconut juice for the cake. As she could not drive to Kuching freely, she said that the inability to obtain ingredients was the only obstacle.

The one with a career change

Establishing her business about three years ago, Michelle Bong provides cleaning and housekeeping services. However, due to the MCO, she was forced to stop her house to house cleaning service to ensure the safety of both customers and cleaners.

Michelle Bong had to switch from cleaning to catering this MCO season to keep her business afloat.

“The MCO had brought an impact to my company with almost little to no jobs available, but I still have to provide my employees with their monthly salary. At the same time, I also provide them food and accommodation,” said the 33-year-old.

To sustain her business, Michelle disclosed that she used the company’s savings to keep afloat and overcome this period. To reduce the impact, she said that communication between employees and employers is vital.
Recently, she had a career change to sustain her company. She is now selling home-cooked meals on Facebook to cover the daily meal expenses of her employees.

With her experience in the hygiene, Michelle said that she always maintained a high level of hygiene and cleanliness when preparing the food and that managed to win her customers over.

The one that continues

Convenience store owner, Alvin Lee is thankful that he can still generate an income even though business has not been good.

With convenience shops opened during the MCO as essential services, 27-year-old Alvin Lee took the opportunity to maintain his business to generate an income.

However, he disclosed that business has not been good for him, due to the change in operating hours and also the restriction of movements. “But it is better than nothing. I’m quite glad that I am able to generate an income, even though not many people visit my shop now compared to before.”

PHD holder in Business Administration Dr Sharifah Shukran advice business owners during this trying period to:

PHD holder in Business Administration Dr Sharifah Shukran shared some advices on how to survive business during MCO.
  1. Build up emergency savings. Whatever cash that you have right now, save it. Control your spending, don’t spend on unnecessary things right now unless you have enough allocation for it. Whatever planned before may not be viable anymore. Live within your mean and prioritise your saving. Load up your emergency fund, look for some financial assistance with the lowest interest rate. Pay off your debt especially the one that has high interest for instance credit card, keep other debts at minimum and build up some reserve fund for at least six months.
  2. Find the solution to the financial problem that you are facing and identify ways to cut back. Go through your monthly expenses and identify which items are discretionary and which items are a necessity. The discretionary items are most likely the ones that you can either eliminate now or put on hold. For example, rental of business premises. Talk to your landlord and negotiate on the rental fee. You can either ask for a waiver or a discount. Another example is the monthly subscription services, if not necessary, unsubscribe it.
  3. Government is giving a lot of assistance and incentives. Be alert. Whatever assistance that our government offers, if we are eligible, get it!
  4. “Recession-proof” your life, maximise your professional value. One of the best investments you can make during difficult economy is pursuing an education or enhancing your skills. The point is, if you can’t build up a financial buffer, focusing on making sure that you have some training and skills that are broadly going to be employable is really crucial.