PETALING JAYA: The past few months have been tough for businesses, especially local brands and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), but new marketplace BeliLokal aims to change the course by connecting them with a new generation of customers.
It was during the movement control order, implemented to break the chain of Covid-19 infections, that brought business to a screeching halt - many SMEs lost their source of income, which in turn created a ripple effect in terms of job loss.
Realising the need for SMEs to connect with their clients, Star Media Group (SMG) quickly started dedicated Delivery Services pages across all its platforms from print to digital.
Following the success of the initiative, it is now spinning it off into the new portal branded as BeliLokal.
“It’s about doing our part to spur the economy and support local SMEs.
“Due to this crisis, our nation’s businesses are struggling to stay afloat and are in need of help - now more than ever. It’s time for us to come together as a nation to support each other in any way we can.
“It’s why we were inspired to create BeliLokal, an easy way for Malaysians to support fellow Malaysians, ” said SMG chief business officer Lydia Wang.
Raising brand visibility
The portal, with its core centred on supporting local businesses in a fun and young way, takes a ‘hyper-localised’ approach to make it easy to use and relatable to Malaysians.
A platform for Malaysians made by Malaysians, BeliLokal has a significant advantage as it is backed by the nation’s top media group, Star Media Group (SMG). SMG currently reaches more than 24 million audiences, with its own media platforms across digital, newspaper, radio and over-the-top advertising covering three languages (Bahasa Malaysia, English and Mandarin).
She added, “We want to give the underserved market a voice to increase their visibility in the market. SMG pledges to strongly support businesses via our entire platform, leveraging our audience and media coverage to drive traffic to the site.”
This means that individual brands will gain exposure not only on BeliLokal, but also benefit from being aggressively promoted on The Star Online website and SMG’s various social media platforms to help boost traffic and increase awareness of the brands.
Beyond that, however, is the site’s distinct take: as a marketplace focused on engaged storytelling, it champions and breathes life into brands by telling their individual stories - be it the origin of their brands, or their products and services.
At the same time, it enables consumers to discover brands on its platform. But that does not mean that only new and emerging brands can leverage BeliLokal.
Even seasoned brands in the market can find value in being able to show consumers a different side to themselves, or showcase their entire range of products or services through the platform.
“We want to connect to the hearts of Malaysians in the way we communicate and drive the nation to support local businesses.
“We’re not merely just listing partners in a directory format, but helping to further uplift their brands in an engaging storytelling marketplace, ” she stressed.
To begin with, BeliLokal is onboarding local businesses and brands in five popular categories: food and beverage, health and beauty, home and living, education and services with more being added by the day.
With the click of a button, customers can now engage directly with the sellers on their products or queries via WhatsApp, email or phone call, while businesses can be part of BeliLokal by registering on its website.
Connecting businesses with consumers
For Plant and Pots Studio co-founder Jeff Loh, it is vital for small businesses to have platforms like BeliLokal to increase brand exposure.
He said, “We [small businesses] don’t have large budgets for marketing; we have very restricted budgets. With BeliLokal, people get to know us better and we have more exposure to the community.
“BeliLokal is important because it helps Malaysians to support Malaysian businesses. With this in mind, compared to other platforms that carry international brands, I think that’s where it differentiates itself.”
MyBurgerLab co-founder Chin Ren Yi echoed the same sentiments, noting that there are many local businesses that are still unknown to the Malaysian public.
“There are a lot of local brands that do not have the budget or publicity that a lot of international brands have. With BeliLokal, there’s a lot more focus and spotlight on local brands to help us stand out and maintain a certain level of business that allows us to survive through this downward period.
“For us, to be a part of this, Ï feel that there’s a sense of patriotism. We’re a group of entrepreneurs who are homegrown and believe in supporting the local community, providing jobs and keeping the economy running, ” he opined.
Brahim’s Holdings Bhd director Datuk Seri Ibrahim Ahmad, on the other hand, stressed on the importance of supporting local businesses by increasing public awareness on Malaysian brands.
He added, “BeliLokal’s stance to support local businesses creates a lot more awareness in what we sell. Some people are still not aware that we have local food products that are of high standards and just as good as any imported products.”
BeliLokal is a very good initiative as it provides smaller companies with a platform to reach out to consumers, said Claire Organics founder Louise Chu.
“It’s like a shoutout for local brands like us. Even a lot of local consumers don’t know we exist, so it’s a really good platform for us to showcase [our brand and products].
“Ïn terms of supporting local brands, BeliLokal really aligns with that spirit of everyone coming together to support each other’s growth, ” she said.
Check out BeliLokal at https://belilokal.thestar.com.my/shop.aspx.