Making that big, bold switch

Rohana with some of her tiffin carriers which she sells via social media platforms.

MAKING the shift from traditional business to digital is not easy, especially when it involves delicate craft products that require a lot of time to be completed.

However, it offers local craftsmen the chance to stay afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic as the usual galleries they work with are taking a back seat for now.

Driftwood craftsman Azah@Azahari Abd Jamal, 42, from Johor Baru, said his business had been operating at about 40% capacity since the movement control order started last year.

He said he had to switch from making large wooden furniture to smaller, wood-based craft as well as trinkets and souvenirs which were easier to sell and deliver.

“I usually make tables or chairs from discarded wood or driftwood. Each furniture usually requires three to four people to lift and move.

“But since the pandemic started, I had to focus on smaller items to sell on social media platforms, ” he told StarMetro.

He said he had difficulty moving his business online as most of his products usually required customers to view the items personally before making a purchase.

Azah showing one of the discarded pieces of wood that he plans to turn into furniture.Azah showing one of the discarded pieces of wood that he plans to turn into furniture.

“Some customers prefer to see the furniture themselves. They want to test the durability of the wood and check the colour but all that is not possible now.

“But as the general public adapt to the new norm, traditional businesses should also go digital so that we can continue to make a living during this pandemic, ” he said.

Decoupage-tiffin artist Rohana Mustafa, 55, who has been selling her products via social media agrees with Azah.

Rohana, who used to supply gift items for government department functions and birthday celebrations, said she now depended on friends and loyal customers to buy her products.

“Selling products on an online shopping platform requires us to always have a good amount of ready-made items.

“But with the reimplementation of the MCO, it has been hard to get raw materials for my products.

“Usually I can make 10 pieces of finished tiffin products within three days. But now that I sell them online, I need to increase my productivity, ” she said, adding that she preferred selling her items on social media.

Meanwhile, Johor Craft Complex director Mohd Ridzwan Misran said the craft industry needed to change its conventional ways of doing business to ensure it was not left behind.

“We have to be innovative if we want to remain relevant and competitive, especially in dealing with the current economic situation and Covid-19 pandemic.

Mohd Ridzwan says the craft industry in Johor must move towards the digital market to ensure they are not left behind.Mohd Ridzwan says the craft industry in Johor must move towards the digital market to ensure they are not left behind.

“The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry has come up with an online application called MyCraftShoppe to help local craftsmen not only sell their products online but expand their market and increase income, ” he said.He added that the products ranged from textile, metalwork, woodwork and clay to various types of crafts, accessories and souvenirs.

“This app also shows detailed information on the products such as the materials used, where they came from, who made them and how they were made.

“So in a way, it is a ‘digital craft museum’, ” he added.

Mohd Ridzwan said as of Dec 13,2020, a total of 300 artisans in Johor were using the app which offered more than 3,000 products.

He added that the government had allocated RM200,000 in the form of discount and free shipping vouchers to encourage more customers to buy the products using the app.

“The shipping vouchers are RM15 each while the discount vouchers are RM20 each.

They are available when customers register via the app, ” he said.

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