On Saturday (April 25), four government agencies – the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, the Housing and Development Board and the Urban Development Agency – issued a joint media statement saying that domestic entrepreneurs must do so meet certain criteria to continue working during this breaker period or may be fined $ 1,000.
Many Internet users believe that this verdict came after Suria actress and influencer Ateeqah Mazlan posted a video of herself on social media.
The video that has now been deleted has now gone viral by calling the authorities to clarify whether food companies can work at home under the new extended circuit breaker regulations.
However, their actions led to hatred and criticism. She was referred to as a "snitch" and was condemned by many business owners at home for losing her rice bowl.
Screenshot from the HDB website
How do owners deal with the situation after food companies at home are forced to temporarily shut down (this is expressly stated by HDB)?
Vulcan Post spoke to three such owners to get a first-hand look at how this news affected them (author's note: the replies were processed for brevity).
Yani Arshad, 36, co-founder of Mangkok Kami
Yani Arshad (right) and husband, co-founder of Mangkok Kami / Photo credit: Yani Arshad
My husband and I started mangkok kami at the end of 2017 and sold halal variations of the Japanese beef bowl from home.
The news was a shock as we depended on our grocery store for much of our monthly income. After the first shock, I became very stressed (thinking about our finances).
Although we fully understand that companies based in their own country should stop, the news could have been delivered better to meet our expectations. They could have let us know at least a week in advance so we could clear (our inventory) or take care of our customers so we had time to plan ahead.
Not only that, it was also very confusing because the different government agencies reacted differently. MTI had replied to some business owners at home that their business could still run as long as customers were not offered the option to pick it up themselves.
HDB said the same thing on April 22, but the rule was revised the next day. All domestic F&B companies must now shut down. This information was "hidden" in the FAQ section of their website.
The criteria also had a gray area. Technically, I could still operate because my business is done exclusively online and I only accept delivery for my orders (we pay our friends who are grave drivers for the delivery of the orders).
Ultimately, the relevant authorities should have spent some time figuring out what the impact could be (for business owners) if there was a sudden stoppage, and instead figuring out how to minimize contact when making food deliveries, similarly at large companies like GrabFood and Foodpanda take care of it.
As a business owner at home, I don't ask for much – just the ability to find income and make ends meet.
My husband's income has been severely impacted since Covid-19 was launched in January. Mangkok Kami has helped to cover the loss of his income and it has been one of the ways for us to afford our bills, responsibilities and bringing up three children, along with the income from odd delivery jobs and our savings.
We have since applied for all the necessary financial aid (not yet approved), but the help we may receive will not be enough to help us. We are grateful for the government grants, but it takes some time before approval is granted and money is credited. Ideally, we should take every opportunity to find income, and in our case it was our home business.
Rina Muhammad, 60, owner of an F&B business at home
I started my business in the 90s. At the beginning I only made traditional Kueh-Lapis as there weren't many home sellers who baked them, but I started to bake other goodies like pineapple and Nutella tarts over the years.
When I heard the news for the first time, I was very worried because I had already bought most of the basic ingredients with my own money.
Since most of my customers are regular customers, I do not collect any deposits from them and will only collect the payment after their orders have been picked up or delivered.
In addition, I usually produce an average of 10,000 to 12,000 pieces of cake during the Christmas season. I already had about 1,000 to 2,000 orders for Hari Raya, but when the decision was made, my orders went to zero and I now have a store with unused ingredients.
Fortunately, I have very supportive customers who understand my plight and are ready to keep their orders until the breaker is raised.
I'm also lucky that this home business isn't my only source of income, so I don't have any financial problems with this closure.
Regardless, I don't think this temporary hiring is necessary because there are other workarounds that allow companies to work from home. If the reason for this decision was to reduce human interaction to curb the spread of the virus, we can deliver contactless at any time and only accept cashless payment methods.
Only Aisah, 27, founder of bykrisp
Photo credit: Aisah only
I am a full-time tax advisor and part-time tutor, and I founded bykrisp last year, which specializes in sweet treats like cakes and cookies.
When I heard the news, I was initially shocked and don't know whether to stop or sell. I chose the latter because so far there have been no complaints from my customers such as contamination.
At the moment I only accept small orders from my close friends and will only deliver to the rest of my customers after the circuit breaker has been raised.
I also take orders for Hari Raya that have been running since late January. Many have pre-ordered from me, but when the news came up, some asked for a refund. Those who requested refunds actually had substantial orders, such as 10 bottles of cornflakes (retail for $ 20 each).
However, I am not upset about the cancellation and trust that many more will buy from me. In fact, after the news, a customer bought even more from me to support me, so I didn't actually suffer a big loss.
I also hired a social media influencer to review my goodies, and she helped write a post asking her followers to help affected home bakers. This post actually helped a lot as more orders were generated to compensate for the loss of canceled orders.
Regarding other pending orders, I am grateful that my customers really understand. Most of them told me that they are ready to wait until the circuit breaker is open or when the green light is given to resume delivery.
When it comes to delivery, it is important to me to adhere to the rules for safe distance with my customers and delivery agents. I only allow pick-up for customers who live nearby, and yet I will place your order outside of my home to minimize contact.
In order to encourage those who opted to pick it up themselves to choose the delivery option, I even lowered the delivery fee to $ 7 (which is between $ 10 and $ 15 depending on the region).
I have also informed my delivery staff that they should not stay in the customer's house for too long. If no one opens the door, I told them to just place the order outside their home and take a picture to prove it, which I will then pass on to the customer.
The F&B sector continues to be hardest hit
The Covid-19 has taken a toll on many sectors, and this decision has again shown that the F&B sector remains the most affected.
As mentioned by Halalfoodhunt in a video appeal, the vast majority of domestic companies only sell to make ends meet, and some of them are entirely dependent on it as income.
In fact, many people have turned to selling food at home, mainly because they have lost their jobs since Covid-19 hit our nation.
For the Malay Muslim community, many of them live on making Hari Raya good for their income, and because of this sudden decision, they have had to endure the cancellation of orders and food waste.
In conversation with these affected business owners, it becomes clear that they have made proactive changes to comply with existing hygiene and distance measures in the light of Covid-19.
While Minister Masagos Zulkifli has criticized those who "encourage" domestic F&B operators to put pressure on the government to grant exceptions as "irresponsible", we only consider it fair that the voices of those affected are heard.
Their plea is simple: allow them to earn income by having them operated, and they are more than willing to take measures to safely distance themselves.
At the moment we can only hope that the measures for small domestic companies will be eased across the board.
Selected image source: The Halal Eater / bykrisp