Giving wings to artisan dreams


MGB is located beside Zepp KL, a 2,500-capacity concert hall by Sony Music Entertainment Japan and has a 4,000 sqft double volume centre court.MGB is located beside Zepp KL, a 2,500-capacity concert hall by Sony Music Entertainment Japan and has a 4,000 sqft double volume centre court.

MGB’s omni-channel approach encourages global growth for M’sian talents

EARLIER this year at the tail end of March, the nation’s first artisanal mall finally opened its doors in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s bustling metropolis.

The Malaysia Grand Bazaar (MGB), a landmark hub that celebrates the rich culture and heritage of Malaysia, is a key component of the Bukit Bintang City Centre (BBCC) urban regeneration project – a joint venture between a tripartite consortium of Eco World, UDA Holdings Bhd and Employees Provident Fund (EPF) – and is connected to the Lucentia Serviced Residences, The Stride strata office and Mitsui Shopping Park LaLaport.

MGB was specifically carved out for locals within the Pudu regeneration project, as a space where homegrown businesses could be part of the rejuvenation of BBCC, while showcasing their art on an international stage.

It’s not that Malaysia doesn’t have high-calibre and talented artists. The sad matter of the fact is, our artists often lack the opportunity to “perform” in the global arena, largely due to high barriers of entry. These can include high start-up costs, logistics or even government regulations.

Lowering the barriers

“The biggest hurdle for small businesses looking to expand their market is the barrier of entry; be it financially or because of knowledge,” said BBCC Development Sdn Bhd retail development head Michelle Liew.

Worse yet, the Covid-19 pandemic didn’t help matters by bringing about an unavoidable economic downturn. The largest group of casualties? Small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Unlike a chain, these SMEs don’t have large cash reserves to tide them through the pandemic and often begin as a solely online shop because of the low-cost structure.

Representing over 90% of the nation’s business establishments, as is the case in many other countries, SMEs mainly comprise home-based businesses, hobbyists and part-timers.

In the majority of cases, their art or craft is something produced on the side, perhaps by even participating at local art bazaars on weekends for exposure.

For merchants at MGB, the affordable rent, fully-fitted lots and marketing support provided by MGB is ideal, as it enables these artisans to further allocate resources and focus where it matters – their craft.

There’s even a dedicated space dubbed Karya, where artisans, micro-brands, start-ups and art entrepreneurs can join the physical retailing space by renting a cart, instead of a whole shop lot.

Karya by MGB is a specially curated shop featuring authentic artisanal creations by local microbrands and art entrepreneurs.Karya by MGB is a specially curated shop featuring authentic artisanal creations by local microbrands and art entrepreneurs.

Melding art with business

MGB saw and adapted to the boom of e-commerce during Covid-19 and the lockdowns by giving something of added value to its physical tenants using the MGB Global platform.

MGB Global is where local artists can reach international markets, either through e-commerce via Malaysia Grand Bazaar’s own Shopify (www.malaysiagrandbazaar.com) or through their dedicated marketplaces on Amazon, eBay and Etsy.

Going international and breaking into that market is deceptively simple.

Liew outlined three hurdles in opening an e-shop on marketplaces like Amazon: “You could open an Amazon account yourself, but you’re still subject to their subscription fees of RM2,000 a month, whether or not you make a sale, which makes it quite prohibitive for micro businesses.

“Second is the commission Amazon takes (up to 18%) and finally, the biggest barrier is shipping and fulfilment. There’s a lot of red tape and penalties that can be incurred if a merchant fails to meet Amazon’s criteria.”

Through one umbrella, that is MGB Global, small businesses can leverage on the services their team provides. From platform advertising to digitalisation, or customer support to even logistics planning; these are just some of the few services that go into running a successful international e-commerce shop.

Meanwhile, local brands like Bingka KL and RAAQUU have received positive reception in the United States (US) market.

A ceramic art brand, which was founded in 2020 by expert Malaysian ceramic artist Adil Abdul Ghani, RAAQUU uses a Japanese technique called ‘raku’ firing that gives each piece a unique pattern with unpredictable colours. Bingka KL, on the other hand, is known for their contemporary silk-screen printed products with a retro twist.

Through MGB and MGB Global, more local artists and homegrown businesses can expand into a physical presence, while keeping operating costs low and also obtaining exposure overseas with international recognition for their arts and crafts.

Ultimately, it’s about giving MGB’s local talents an omni-channel solution by combining the best of physical and online retailing, while focusing on the huge potential of the US market.

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