Street hawkers go digital

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Face-to-face service: Nurain selling soy food and drinks at the Danau Kota bazaar, apart from taking up online orders since last year.

PETALING JAYA: Ramadan bazaars, an annual nationwide affair trademarked by open-air markets packed with people looking for meals to break their day-long fast, went digital in 2020 due to Covid-19. This year, although some states allowed bazaars to operate, many street hawkers are sticking to online platforms, after the trial run last Ramadan bore great success.

For almost 20 years, Nurain Mohamad Nasit’s family has been selling hot soy drinks and tau fu fa (soybean pudding) at their shop but would open a stall at a Ramadan bazaar for one month each year.

When Covid-19 cancelled Ramadan bazaars last year, Nurain, 28, said her family had no choice but to embrace digital platforms such as online marketplaces and delivery services.

“We only started getting our feet wet using online platforms and delivery services since the pandemic hit last year.

“In 2020, because there were no Ramadan bazaars, we tried out delivery even though we had no prior experience.

“As a result, we received a lot of response from customers but it does require extra hard work.

“Although Ramadan bazaars have returned this year, we choose to continue providing delivery services due to high customer demand although we also have set up a stall at the Danau Kota bazaar, ” she said.

“Deliveries can reduce risks, especially during this pandemic, ” said Nurain.

Nurain added that the Malay Hawkers and Small Traders Association also did not encourage too many sellers to set up stalls this Ramadan as a safeguard against the virus.

“Only about 60 stalls have opened at my bazaar, ” she said. Mezan Md Said opened his shop in Bachang, Melaka, three years ago but never tried online platforms until last year during the MCO. The 42-year-old whose menu includes murtabak, roti Jepun and asam pedas, used to trade at Ramadan bazaars since 2008 before opening his own shop.

“I find it better to sell on online platforms during this pandemic than at the bazaar because the markets can be crowded if not managed properly and social distancing can be hard to do, ” he said.

Nur Hanim Ibrahim, 33, was a full-time bridal attire tailor before Covid-19 hit but turned to selling food from her home last year when the MCO saw weddings being called off.

Although initially nervous about the business shift, it ended up working so well that even her husband left his graphic designer job to run their business full time, said the mother of one.

“Last year during Ramadan, I sold kuih from my home in Batu Caves and sent it to customers via runners and it did very well, I was earning better than when I made bridal outfits.

“This year, I’m selling assorted dishes such as nasi kerabu and ayam percik. “As cooking at home and sending orders out has been so efficient, I’m continuing with that this year and will not be opening a stall, ” she said.

Nur Hanim added that working from home enabled her to care for her almost two-year-old son and also keep herself safe as she is currently seven months pregnant.

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