Navamalar Naggappan firmly believes in helping those in need and the best way to help, she says, is by empowering them. If there is a phrase she lives by it is this: If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; but if you teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.
The Ketua Komuniti India Kampung Tungku is no stranger to doing good deeds. During the pandemic, Navamalar, 40, cooked meals and ran errands for Covid-19 patients who were quarantined in the hospital or at home.
Since then, she has progressed to helping the underprivileged in other ways, namely teaching them about e-commerce or “how to sell stuff online”.
“With the increasing costs of living, many find it difficult to survive, especially those who aren’t well off. So it’s my aim to teach them about digital marketing as a way to earn an income,” says the mother of one son.
Navamalar recently organised a digital marketing workshop for this purpose.
“We need to evolve with the times. Many people have turned to online platforms for shopping during the pandemic and even after the MCO was lifted, this trend has continued because it's convenient and easier,” she says.
Recently, about 50 people from the Sungai Way community as well as other areas as far as Puchong, Bandar Sunway and Klang, attended the free workshop which was publicised through social media.
“Not all the attendees are from the B40 community, but we've encouraged the B40 community to take advantage of this opportunity to learn something useful,” says Navamalar.
“The workshop is a step-by-step walk-through on how to do digital marketing, and includes a starter kit - box, bubble wrap, and other materials - which they can use for their online business,” she says.
Participant Murkadevi Lethemenan, 50, from Puchong, says that the workshop was useful and that she'll be "selling stuff online soon".
“I’ll do some research on what I can sell. It might be beauty products since I currently do facials for people,” says the housewife-cum beautician whose husband works as a lorry driver.
Another participant Carol Kee, 38, says that everything is more expensive now and it’s necessary to find ways to earn a side income in order to survive. Kee, who works in accounts, adds that digital marketing is a good way to do so.
“Nowadays, most people buy online because it’s more convenient and you can save on transport and time,” she says.
Workshop attendee Janet Wilson, 40s, who volunteers with Persatuan Penduduk Kota Kemuning/Seri Muda and has been helping lower income families, including single mothers, says the workshop will be useful to help people earn an income.
“This is important knowledge for all, especially those who need to earn an additional income to survive. And we’re here to help,” says Janet.
Bridge to the needy
Navamalar adds that the government has set up good programmes to help the underprivileged, but there are those in need who aren't aware of them.
“Our purpose to be a ‘bridge’ to these people, to bring such aid to them,” she says. “Sometimes, we also have to help them apply for these programmes because they either don't know how to or don't have a device to do it with,” she explains.
Kampung Tunku Adun (state assemblyman) Lim Yi Wei who officiated the event shares about some of the new initiatives the government has implemented to help lower-income families.
“Our latest aid to help the poor is BINGKAS (Bantuan Kehidupan Sejahtera Selangor) where families with a household income of less than RM3,000, will get RM300 monthly for essential groceries. This is an evolution of our previous single mothers programme KISS (Kasih Ibu Smart Selangor) where they get a card and an allowance of RM200 per month for groceries and other essentials. So BINGKAS is an expansion to include single fathers and poor families. And the amount provided has been raised,” says Lim.
“While some aren’t yet aware of these initiatives, in Kampung Tunku, we’ve tried to ensure the aid reaches the people by putting up banners to tell the residents about the programmes. That's for the SMUE (Skim Mesra Usia Emas) which offers a RM100 birthday voucher for senior citizens and OKU, and also funeral benefits once they pass away,” she says.
“There's also another banner for Skim Peduli Sihat now renamed Iltizam Selangor Sihat. It's a health card which people can take to the panel of clinics and the amount will be deducted from there,” she adds. "We also distribute newsletters – in different languages to reach a wider segment of the society – throughout the area near the marketplace to inform the community about these initiatives."
“The B40 community has been drastically impacted by the increasing cost of living and higher prices of goods. We hope that these traditional brick and mortar business owners can learn to transition to online so that they can have access to a wider crowd,” says Lim.
Lim adds that on their part, one of the things the federal government can do about the increasing cost of living, is to ensure that there is enforcement on the control of prices, especially for chicken and eggs.
“For the the Selangor government, we've implemented this programme Intervensi Harga Makanan Ehsan where we ensure the relevant agencies are selling chickens at the ceiling price of RM8 to RM10 throughout the state. There’s now a scarcity of chicken and what the state is doing is trying to increase the production of chickens and we've implemented agricultural projects to produce more corn feed for the chickens,” she says.
It’s our desire that the workshop will be useful to the participants and will help them to improve their earnings, she adds.
Workshop facilitator Jamie Thoo from Shopee Malaysia says most people think starting a business – especially an online one – is difficult, and they’re not confident of doing so.
"But with the right knowledge and support, anyone can easily do an online business," she says.
Thoo, who has been an online merchant for six years, cites herself as an example.
“Years ago, when I was living in Kuala Krai, Kelantan, I wasn’t able to find a job that offered a salary I could survive on since there weren't many job opportunities in a small kampung," she reveals.
Thoo then decided to start an online business with just a capital of RM500. Since she was pregnant at that time, she decided to sell baby's items such as clothing.
“Everyone has a skill – whether you wish to sell items you make yourself or items you get from a supplier. Even a skill like cooking, baking or craftwork can produce a product (eg: cakes, cookies, jewellery) for sale online,” she says.
“Of course, we’ve to be wise and select products that aren't easily perishable so they won’t expire easily. All you need is a smartphone to take pictures of the product, then upload it to the online platform, and you can liaise with your potential customers using your smartphone too. All this is doable, it’s not impossible,” she adds.
At the workshop, participants learnt the basics of digital marketing: how to find the right product to sell and where to get supplies; how to decide on a brand name, design a logo and online store; how to upload items for sale, liaise with customers and encourage them to buy; etc.
“If you already have a physical shop, this can be an online extension of your business,” she says.
Thoo provided a lot of practical tips and insight on running an online business such as pricing, bundling, packaging (a product to look more attractive and marketable), and online marketing.