Spotlight on Malaysian businesses: Riding out the pandemic storm by adapting to business changes


WE have heard many horror stories about how businesses have suffered this ongoing pandemic.

This is especially true for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have to find ways to keep their businesses afloat to survive these harsh circumstances.

For a bicycle retailer, Cyclist Wardrobe and its cycling gym partner, weathering Covid-19 has had its ups and downs.

“Being a keen cyclist myself, I knew that when I started Cycology, the first true cycling gym in Malaysia, I wanted to create an environment that cyclists can call home” said founder Daniel Yap.

“This meant creating a space that not only had a fitness element, but also a retail store to cater to the community that such a gym would attract.”

In 2018, Yap teamed up with fellow cycling enthusiast Max Ng to launch the retail arm, Cyclist Wardrobe.

What brought them together was a shared passion to offer a different perspective to how bicycling businesses are run in Malaysia.

Cyclist Wardrobe founder Max Ng (extreme left) and Cycologist founder Daniel Yap (third from right) with their team.Cyclist Wardrobe founder Max Ng (extreme left) and Cycologist founder Daniel Yap (third from right) with their team.

As both Yap and Ng came from corporate backgrounds (the former from advertising, and latter from pharmaceutical sales), they were each able to bring unique perspectives to this relatively traditional industry.

When the first Movement Control Order (MCO) was announced, Cycology was badly affected due to frequent closures but Cyclist Wardrobe enjoyed a spike in sales.

“There was a worldwide surge in demand for all things bicycle-related as people attempted to stay healthy through exercise,” said Ng.

“We were able to capitalise on this despite the closure of our retail shop because we had already established a strong webstore presence before the pandemic.

Ng added that they were also in a position to assist smaller bike shops that didn’t have an online presence to help them sell their inventory on the Cyclist Wardrobe platform.

Despite the pandemic and its restrictions Cyclist Wardrobe has continued to thrive as a business - revenue has tripled since its inception, with the bulk of growth coming in 2020.

It also shifted gears in 2020, by becoming a distributor for several key brands.

The more recent second major lockdown posed new challenges when the government imposed more stringent rules that prohibited outdoor cycling altogether.

“Our revenue dropped by as much as 80% during the second lockdown,” Ng pointed out.

“This was because our customers had no reason to buy any equipment as they could not make use of it”.

This sharp decline affected all bicycle retailers.

“Some of our associates developed cash flow problems, limiting their ability to purchase stock from us,“ Yap elaborated.

“During the lockdown, stock movement was also an issue.

“This meant that even if our associates were able to make orders, getting the inventory to them was a challenge.”

The team started an affiliate programme using its online platform for its associated retailers.

Retailers would use their own social media platforms to promote the products that Cyclist Wardrobe distributes, and when someone makes a purchase, the company pays them the full retail margin.

“We believe this programme is the first initiative of the sort offered by any bicycle distributor in Malaysia,” said Yap.

“Our expansion and our selling technique is testimony of our adaptability and something that SMEs can emulate,” Ng explains.

“Focusing on empowering our business partners and on the end-users as well as investing in technology is key to our continued growth.”

Being nimble and canny has helped Cyclist Wardrobe adapt during these challenging times, mould a business well set for the future.

Time for you to digitalise your business

The pandemic has brought some of the best and worst within the small business communities, especially for companies like Cyclist Wardrobe.

They were put to test on their fundamentals and their ability to adapt to changes fast.

Some key basics points that can be drawn from Cyclist Wardrobe’s experience above are as below:

> Clear communication at all levels of engagement, either with customers or business partners is essential. It helps set an understanding, which eases expectations and increases knowledge. Employee and team spirit can be kept high through a variety of remote work options to ensure a well-performing workforce.

> Embrace technology in your business by considering expansion in online platforms, as the rise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a future trend that has arrived much quicker due to the worldwide pandemic.

> Keep your business agile and adaptable to new changes is important. Be open to new marketing and business ideas that you feel would benefit your enterprise.

> Think outside the box and invest in innovation as that shows that you are willing to consider different solutions and methods for reaching your desired outcome. Digital solutions can help consolidate different business touchpoints and allow you to manage every aspect remotely.

> Approach your stakeholders, such as your financial institutions and suppliers to talk about repayment assistance and payment terms. You can also log on to MyAssistMSME, which was launched Jul 1 by the Prime Minister, which is part of the Penjana programme. It offers SMEs a plethora of assistance, such as business advisory and information, guidance and digital marketing opportunities.

Business owners have been trying their best to manage within the new norm and it is important for you as one to reach out to experts who can help you sustain your business.

Partners that can provide you with an effective yet value for money business solutions and further grow your enterprise despite the pandemic is fundamental.

Support Cyclist Wardrobe by visiting them at https://www.cyclistwardrobe.com/. A homegrown business highlight by Celcom Business.

Looking to digitalise your business? Discover the Celcom Business range of solutions and enjoy three months of free access at https://business.celcom.com.my/sme/business-suite

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