When the going gets tough...


Tough measures: Many offices are left empty as most countries including Malaysia restrict people’s movement with the Covid-19 spread. – Reuters

WITH the two-week movement control order (MCO) in place to curb the spread of Covid-19, many Malaysians are reporting serious drops in income. However, many are refusing to let this lower their spirit and they are finding alternative ways to cushion the blow.

And despite the financial difficulties, everyone Sunday Star talked to has expressed their support for the MCO as they believe it is a necessary step to protect the country from the global pandemic.

Interior designer Syaza Saifuddin, 30, is doing her part to help other small businesses make ends meet during this difficult time by providing free advertising through her social media channels.

“I have seen other smaller businesses really struggle, like those who sell at night markets and workers who are getting unpaid leave. So, I asked them to provide me with a link to their Instagram page so that I can help to promote their businesses, ” she tells Sunday Star through Instragram messenger.

“I don’t have a large platform myself but I just thought it would be nice to help each other out, ” says Syaza, who has about 7,500 followers on Instagram.

“I received help from bigger platforms and I thought it would be my responsibility as a fellow Malaysian and small business to pay it forward. We all need all the help we can get.”

To keep her own business running, Syaza is taking on more jobs that do not require her to go out like drawings and design conceptualisation. This is helped by the fact that many of Syaza’s clients are tech-savvy.

“I am very privileged in the sense that some parts of my job does not require me to go out. Yet, I do feel the strain and I can only imagine those who have it harder than me. It’s important to help those who are actively trying the best they can to make up for their losses.”

It is important for all Malaysians to abide by the MCO to slow down the spread of the virus, says Syaza: “It is a necessary move that unfortunately comes with its hardships, so I hope everyone is safe.”

The MCO, enforced from March 18 to March 31, introduces a complete ban on all movements and large gatherings including religious activities, sports, social and cultural events. It also restricts all overseas travels by Malaysians, tourists and foreigners entering the country.

Childcare centres, schools and tertiary institutions, and all government and private premises except those involved in providing essential services have been ordered to temporarily close. Due to this, a large number of Malaysians will be working remotely from home.

For freelance branding manager and writer Avinash Sagran, 30, money is tight. To make up for income loss, he is being proactive in looking for temporary work opportunities.

“I’m trying to be as stringent as possible with spending. I’ve resorted to reaching out to friends or people on LinkedIn to give me some freelance gigs like subtitling or translation, ” he tells Sunday Star over Facebook.

Avinash resigned from his previous full-time job eight months ago to help care for his elderly grandmother. He is now looking to resume full-time employment but it is hard to come by at this time.

“I struggled to land a single interview because of the Covid-19 outbreak.I get emails from companies saying that they aren’t interviewing candidates until the end of April, ” he says.

“Freelance jobs are also drying up because the competition for that is higher.”

At the moment, Avinash’s earnings can just about cover his bills and basic expenditure.

Although he is financially burdened, Avinash accepts the MCO as a crucial measure.

“A short term inconvenience for the greater good for us all. I’m hoping people will band together and do the right thing instead of being careless, ” he says.

A businessman in the event management sector Melvin Lee, 36, is in the midst of converting physical events into digital events as a way to make ends meet.

“We are doing podcasts, digital launches and digital conferences for our clients.This is the only way to survive, ” he tells Sunday Star via Whatsapp.

However, the MCO has affected even digital events, says Lee.

His company schedule is empty from March until June due to cancellations and postponements, says Lee, whose events management company, Moonman Events, has a workforce of 52 people and an overhead of RM260,000 a month.

“Every company, client, supplier, boss and even staff has their own commitment. Businesses are advised to temporarily close, but our commitment is still on the run. Staff have to pay for their house, car, groceries and other necessities.

“Our company has offered interest free loans to staff – two months advance salary with repayment tenure of 12months and zero interest, ” he says.

Lee calls on the government to provide more assistance to companies to help keep them afloat during this time.

“I strongly support the MCO. Let’s not be selfish as this is a worldwide pandemic, ” he says, advising all other meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions (MiCE) industry players to stop public events until the situation is under control.

Covid-19 has put a significant dent on Nadirah R. ‘s beauty product business.

“At present, RM61,000 worth of my stock is still at sea. All my stock in Malaysia has been wiped clean, there’s nothing for me to sell anymore, which resulted in me losing a lot of income, ” says the 34-year-old.

To cope with the loss, Nadirah has restrategised her operations by focusing on only one sales platform from the multiple she had before.

“I’ve also started taking pre-orders so that my cashflow won’t be that badly affected, ” she says, adding that she has cut down on hiring part-timers and is managing everything herself to save cost.

“It’s exhausting but you do what you can at the end of the day, ” she says.

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