How These Businesses Responded To Malaysia’s Movement Control Orders (MCOs)

Pressures Caused By The Ongoing Movement Control Orders (MCOs)

Many small, medium and informal businesses in the country are at risk of shutting down, due to the pressures caused by the on-going Movement Control Orders (MCOs).

In early June, the New Straits Times reported that as many as 90% of micro, small, medium and informal businesses in the country are at risk of shutting down, due to the pressures caused by the ongoing Movement Control Orders (MCOs).

The article quoted Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives (Medac) Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, who said that the prediction was based on an online survey carried out by the ministry between Feb 15 and March 5 involving 3,855 entrepreneurs nationwide.

“From the survey, 54 per cent of them, namely micro-enterprises, said they could only survive between three and six months,” Wan Junaidi was quoted as saying. “It is feared that this situation will contribute to job losses for more than three million people.”

How These Businesses Responded To Malaysia’s Movement Control Orders (MCOs)

Many Malaysian from the small-and medium-scale businesses have been affected by the MCO spoke to a few entrepreneurs whose small- and medium-scale businesses have been affected by the MCO. One business had to shut down, another has pivoted into consultancy work while another is employing a wait-and-see approach.

Let’s hear their stories.

Shut down completely: Readers Paradise, Ampang Point

Readers Paradise shop had to shut down in July 2020 due to the MCO
Photo source from Reader’s Paradise FB

At its height, this rental bookstore attracted around a hundred people monthly. The shop was famous for its great selection of fiction and non-fiction books that people could rent for low prices between RM6 to RM10 each.

However, the business had been slow for its last few years due to the popularity of e-books, and Malaysians’ low reading habits.

When the MCO came into enforcement, that was the last straw, and the shop had to shut down in July 2020.

“I was thinking because it was run by me alone, a sole proprietor, I would get leeway by the management of Ampang Point but unfortunately rental had to go on,” owner Harjeet Sidhu, 62, told “That was the nail in the coffin.”

Harjeet said people were reluctant to come to his bookshop because of the MCO restriction. The shop’s small size also meant that people were worried about being in close proximity with other customers.

He also said that the government should have made it a proper lockdown and solve the COVID-19 problem once and for all and not “opening this business and closing that business” but said ultimately this it was a “grey area to begin with.”

Harjeet is thankful however that the bookshop was a side hobby rather than his sole source of income (because of the low prices of the book rental, the shop was barely making even RM1,000 monthly). He has since donated the books to various charities and religious organisations.

Pivoted into consultancy work: Food Addiction Ventures

Copper was THE place to dine during its heyday
Photo source from Copper FB

In 2015, an upscale modern European restaurant called Copper, owned by husband-and-wife chef Chai Chun Boon and Zeehan Zahari, entered into Kuala Lumpur’s F&B industry and food enthusiasts were delighted.

At its peak, their restaurant would almost reach full capacity daily. Copper was THE place to dine, and appeared in various restaurant-to-go lists, including the ‘Top 20 Restaurant in Malaysia 2020’ list.

However, when COVID-19 hit, the couple decided to change their game plan: instead of going ahead with their usual dine-in service, they crowdfunded and cooked 500 meals a day for doctors and frontliners to repay their service for the nation.

And when the first MCO began, it soon became obvious to the couple that they had to close Copper last July and pivot their business for good.

“We have downsized significantly and now we do consultation work,” Zeehan, 33, told “If we have a company we are consulting and they hire us for a year, what we do is we offer the menu and offer one or two of our staff to see that everything is done correctly.”

Currently, the business is not profitable and is just enough to keep afloat for the time being.

The couple also offers the services of chefs-for-hire (whereby people hire chefs to cook at their house or establishment) and have also gotten into R&D work.

“We have been on survival mode since last March,” Zeehan lamented.

Wait-and-see approach: Get Active Sdn Bhd

The fitness industry is one of those that were affected badly by the MCO
Photo source from Get Active FB

Chloe Lai, 45, has been running Get Active gym since 2007 but the recent MCOs are taking a toll on her business.

The gym, which is located in Bangsar, is currently closed temporarily as gyms are classified as non-essential businesses.

Pre-MCO, Get Active was quite successful, attracting as many as 320 customers monthly on average. Customers enjoyed their personalised fitness programs that were charged as cheap as RM126 per session.

One of Chloe’s main concerns right now is her staff who are on commission and not on a fixed pay. “I am trying to get them the Prihatin subsidy from SOCSO to give to them but so far there are none.”

She is a part of a coalition of gyms pressing the government to classify gyms as essential businesses.

“The Malaysian Fitness Coalition, a loose coalition of private gym owners and operators throughout Malaysia, urges the government to reclassify the gym and fitness industry as an essential service, and prioritise the reopening of the sector at the earliest possible opportunity,” their press statement said, using the hashtags #LetFitnessHelp #FightItWithFitness.

The coalition is adamant that this would not only save the gym and fitness industry but also help Malaysians improve their health, especially during this pandemic.

For her, shutting down the gym is not an option, especially since she has invested so much in her business, especially with the pieces of equipment.  Instead, she is considering making house calls.

“If I can predict the future I would be able to plan,” Chloe said. “But now there are just no plans. Period.”


It is sad to see many businesses closed down due to the pandemic’s effect

These are a few of the businesses that are facing difficulties during the MCO. Many more are suffering from a lack of business to sustain themselves.

A few iconic businesses such as Hotel Istana, Coliseum Cafe at Jalan Tar, and Yut Ket Coffeeshop have closed down during these hard times.


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