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Agrobank SMEs Entrepreneurs Restrategise Businesses to Remain Relevant while Enduring COVID-19 Situation

KUALA LUMPUR – Agrobank Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) continue to be proactive and restrategising their businesses smartly to remain relevant especially in coping with the changes in the standard operating procedures (SOPs) based on the current situation in curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sharing experiences in managing their businesses during the movement control order (MCO), Zaharah Zainuddin, Managing Director of Akie Group Sdn Bhd and Norsyakirah Othman, Manager at Wezlay Enterprise appeared as panels to discuss on the topic: “Setahun Pandemik Covid-19: Tips Berdaya Saing dan Formula Bergerak Kehadapan” in the first series of the UMBI AGRO 2021 programme held via Facebook LIVE Agrobank on Thursday, 28 May. The an hour and half dialogue session was moderated by Rosli Jusoh, Head of Centre of Excellence Agrobank (ACE).

Both businesswomen who have been active in the manufacturing and sales of muslim frozen food industry for about six years shared the same sentiment that entrepreneurs should lift themselves from the comfort zone and restrategise their sales techniques to ensure the continuity of their business even though there is a reduction in the total sales in this uncertain situation due to the pandemic.

Zaharah Zainuddin who produces burger patties under the brand name of Akie Burger said, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected many businesses around the world and it must not be looked at as a major problem, instead entrepreneurs look for solutions to ensure the sustainability of their business and kept up under any circumstances.

“For example throughout this MCO period, the government has limited business hours to 8:00 pm only. This move has affected many small business owners to operate as usual, this applies to us at Akie Burger as well. We have 68 entrepreneurs working under us and most burger stalls operate at night. Therefore, I cannot decide not to continue working as usual, I will continue to operate by business as usual and rearrange the schedule of my workers so that they are able to work at the factory to process burger patties”.

“I am confident that in any circumstances, there will be customers and if it is not today, we may have customers tomorrow. As for me, most important is to gain consistent sales, though it may not be much but I have to be patient to face this situation.  Yet when opportunities open up in the future, entrepreneurs should quickly seize the opportunity and double-up their efforts in increasing the sales of their business,” she added.

She said, entrepreneurs must be efficient in managing their finances and expenses, while act smartly in seizing opportunities to obtain financial aids offered by the government as financing facilities to assist Malaysian SMEs affected by COVID-19 and moratorium to sustain their businesses.

Meanwhile, Norsyakirah Othman from Wezlay Enterprise who produces frozen and baked pizza said, she had to shut down her business for one month during the early stages of MCO in March last year, and faced difficulty paying up salaries.

“At that time, I could not pay off their salaries, however with the government financial assistance and continuous support from Agrobank, I managed to get out of that situation and today I am able to compete on par with the leading pizza brands in Malaysia by offering 20 types of pizza suiting local and western flavours.

“I had to restructure my business, I appointed sales agents consisting of housewives in areas around Jengka, Pahang. I had to change my target customers from university students to family groups and I moved my premises to a larger space in order to comply with the SOPs set by the government. In addition, I also provide food delivery services to my customers,” she said.

Sharing her motivation that helped her strive harder to be at a better position compared to the year before, she said, the crucial situation of COVID-19 pandemic is certainly not a barrier for a person to succeed, in fact entrepreneurs should focus on other factors such as satisfaction obtained by taking into account feedback from customers, the spirit of not giving up and using the power of social media to market products to their targeted groups.