Traders get creative to stay in business

Trying times: A street vendor waiting for customers as the government imposed large-scale restrictions during the holy month of Ramadan, in Jakarta. — Reuters

FOR about three hours a day recently, Xavier Fabrega, 43, offered free pilates tutorials online to check in with clients. It was also to ensure they would come back once Jakarta lifts restrictions, which have kept non-essential businesses like his closed since last month.

No longer can he afford to do so, after Jakarta’s government said last Wednesday that it would extend its stay-at-home order by another month.

The Spanish national said he would need to start charging a small fee, in part to start recouping the 800 million rupiah (RM226,700) that he, his business partner and an investor poured into renovating a studio which opened in February.

Jakarta businesses and residents are rethinking how they can make ends meet at a time when officials are intensifying social distancing restrictions and limiting travel.

This week, the central government banned all commercial flights and train services to thwart the annual pilgrimage home during Ramadan.

The exodus typically sees more than 30 million people decamp from the big cities and head to their villages, potentially taking with them the coronavirus.

With their customers largely confined indoors, businesses have to find creative ways to hawk their goods and stay afloat.

Bistro-style eatery chain Union – a fixture in Jakarta’s glitzier malls – now offers cocktail deliveries in vacuum-sealed pouches.

Customers are not waiting till happy hour each Friday to order favourites such as negronis, chocolate martinis and cosmopolitans, said Wibi Hananto, spokesman for the brand’s owner, The Union Group.“It’s from Wednesday onwards, ” Wibi said of the demand online for the libations.

More practical is Novi Nooratiqah’s idea this month to add kitchen staples like onions, lemongrass and ginger to the family’s business of delivering gas canisters and 19-litre bottles of drinking water to apartments in central Jakarta.

The 23-year-old, who manages the business for her parents, said their side-hustle of selling cheap breakfasts of nasi uduk – rice, egg and tempeh – to office workers saw its sales more than halve since the lockdown started. — The Straits Times/ANN

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