SME Owners On How The Confusing MCO Rules Have Affected Their Business

SME Owners On How The Confusing MCO Rules Have Affected Their Business And What They Think The Government Should Do

A few states in Malaysia are still under EMCO as the case are rising

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, various Movement Control Orders (MCOs) have taken place.

While most of us would agree that the MCOs are for the good of society, however, one common complaint sticks out: the rules and regulations are often vague, confusing and up to differing interpretations.

One of the groups affected by this is business owners. 

This article spoke to two SME owners who have had their business affected by the confusing MCOs, what they are doing about it, and what they think the government should do.

Siti Rafitah Binti Rakhimi, 37, Owner Of Api Pizza

During the first MCO, Api Pizza business has dropped 70% since there was no dine-in allowed

A Pizza started in February 2019, operating from a food truck based in Putrajaya. The same year, they had opened two other businesses selling burgers in Cyberjaya but had to be closed down because of the pandemic.

For now, I have three full-time staff and another two part-time riders for food delivery.

Delivery to nearby places such as Cyberjaya, Bangi and Kajang is a bit difficult because of road closure so our food riders have to use other alternative routes that are a bit far which means more delivery charges for the customers. 

During MCO, we are only allowed to operate until 8 pm. This is not suitable for food operators because we have shorter hours to prepare food. Most of our customers will only order for dinner so therefore the orders are limited.

We try to open the business at 12 pm but still, for my menu, pizza and pasta customers usually prefer to order in the evenings.

During the first MCO, my business dropped 70% since there was no dine-in allowed and customers stayed at home. So we tried to adapt to the situation. 

I printed physical flyers and then distributed them at residential areas to promote my business and also provided delivery services. Slowly, the business started getting okay and I could hire more staff and riders to cover the delivery.

I also listed my business on Foodpanda and Grab but I had to pay a higher commission – around 30% from the sales –  so by doing our own delivery we have more margins. Both my business and customers get the benefits.

I also tried to be more creative and active on social platforms such as Instagram and Facebook to make my business presence known. At the same time, I increased my marketing to reach more customers.

Sometimes I offered promotions and gave discounts to attract customers. I also applied for the Penjana marketing grant to market my business on social media. 

My advice for other SMEs is to stay strong, adapt to the changes, reach customers by going digital, market your products on social media, and focus more on delivery rather than just waiting helplessly for customers to come.  Never give up, try to help each other during this difficult time. 

Before the MCOs, there were 14 food trucks open, but now only 4 are open daily including my truck. Sometimes my sales are only RM50 a day, so they prefer to close business.

Some are forced to do other jobs to survive, such as becoming food delivery riders to earn a living to support their family. 

My advice to the government is to focus on targeted areas to control and give other areas with low cases of COVID-19 to operate normally as long as all the SOPs are followed. Turun Padang (go down to the field) and see how SMEs and small business owners are struggling.

Emellia Shariff, 31, CEO Of The Malaysian Institute For Debate And Public Speaking (MIDP)

Emellia Shariff, 31, CEO of the Malaysian Institute for Debate and Public Speaking (MIDP)

MIDP is an educational institution that works on improving soft skills literacy and accessibility in Malaysia. We offer a wide range of classes, workshops and competitions to students between 7 – 17 years old to facilitate their development into confident and persuasive speakers.

We also do corporate training and consultation for companies who are interested to use soft skills tools as part of their engagements and campaigns.

As a company in the service industry, we are affected a great deal by the vague, non-comprehensive and confusing SOPs. For the longest time, we were unclear about how we can operate our business, the rules and boundaries we need to adhere to, and how to deal with our students and clients. 

We decided early on that we will not risk the safety and well-being of the hundreds of young students that we work with. We transformed our operations online a week before the government announced the first-ever MCO in March 2020.

Even after that, even when the government loosened the restrictions, we maintained our operations online.

We had to take on many transformative efforts throughout this period including massive cost-cutting measures, re-designing our entire education system, pedagogies and processes, as well as restructuring our entire business model to operate 100% digitally without letting go of our core operations.

We also expanded the business into areas that we can tap into in the digital market. 

Despite the struggles, we are grateful that we managed to keep all our employees without any lay-offs or salary cuts. Above all, the welfare of the employees is important – if they do not feel safe, stable and secure, they will not be able to be productive and contribute to the company during these challenging times.

My advice to the government: as business owners, we all know that decisions should be made based on data and projections that are backed by science.

Take time to do identify red flags, conduct risk analysis, engage with stakeholders and come up with solutions based on specific problems in specific areas. There is rarely a one-solution-fits-all, so look at the issues on a state-by-state basis and understand the needs of various stakeholders in the country.



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