Online entrepreneurs leverage on digital and social media channels during the lucrative Ramadan and Hari Raya months, writes Balqis Lim
IT’S Ramadan and with more consumers turning to digital and social media channels for matters connected to the holy month and Hari Raya celebrations, small businesses are tapping into the opportunities arising from this.
BOTS talks to several online entrepreneurs on their plans to boost their business during this time.
Based in Kota Damansara, Nurul Shima Home Food Delivery has been in the industry the past four years. Owner Nurul Hashima Abu Aris says she will open up to seven slots daily according to time and area of delivery.
Hashima, who started with cooking for family and close friends, only decided to grow the business and open her own social media accounts in 2014.
“During the first year, I only cooked for family, close friends, and for some customers introduced through word-of-mouth. In the second year of the business, I set up Facebook and Instagram accounts for food delivery.
“My husband, who is a Web designer, helped to set up a website for my business,” says the 36-year-old mother of three.
From that time, Hashima’s food delivery service has become known to people from all over the country.
Before venturing into the industry, Hashima worked as an executive at a production house. After her second pregnancy in 2007 when she suffered intense sickness, she had to give up her office job and do part-time work at home. She then began this business in late 2012.
Hashima cooks all the dishes by herself with no helper. At times she has to cook 20 dishes for a slot.
During Ramadan, orders double up and reach close to RM8,000. On normal months, average sales are around RM4,000.
Hashima says 90 per cent of her orders have come from Instagram.
“Instagram is more mobile-friendly, and can reach more people in a shorter time. And with the use of hashtags like #fooddelivery, I now have regular customers from Singapore, Indonesia, even Brunei who order my food every time they come to Malaysia,” she says.
Muslims tend to opt for delivery services during Ramadan, hence the increase in orders, Hashima explained.
Orders are taken every day but no delivery is done on Sunday, as Hashima needs the day off to buy groceries and prepare ingredients for the week.
For the fasting month, Nurul Shima Home Food Delivery offers five package dishes at a discounted price.
“From what we encountered last year, only my regular customers got to order the package dishes in the first week because they ordered them early. So to be fair this year, I only opened the orders a day before fasting so that everyone can grab a slot during the first week,” she says, adding that list of package dishes can be viewed at www.shimafood.com.
Besides food delivery, online sales and traffic also increase in the lead up to and during Ramadan for Elite Mélange, a fashion and lifestyle brand selling premium scarves made from luxe materials.
Chief executive officer Noor Adlina Jaffar says because of the high demand, she is doubling the stock for Ramadan.
“I expect the sales to also increase as people buy more scarves in conjunction with Hari Raya,” says the 26-year-old entrepreneur.
Elite Mélange was founded early this year, after Adlina graduated with a Master’s in Management from Taylor’s University in December 2016. Only two months into the business, some of the batches have already sold out, including its famous design, NYC.
“For every design, we produce only up to 100 pieces, and don’t usually restock the same design but if there is a high demand, only then do we add more.
“Our latest designs, Oxford and Seven Seas, were released early this month, and are almost sold out,” says Adlina, who works full-time at a maritime company in Klang.
To mark Hari Raya, Elite Mélange is releasing another two new designs this Ramadan, which come with a twilly scarf that can be wrapped around handbags or the neck (for the non-hijab wearer).
Adlina says technology is important for her business especially with the new generation mostly do its shopping online. “Now that everyone uses devices and gadgets with access to the Internet, everything is just a click away. Shopping is made easier.
“Doing business online can reach more people worldwide and does not need much capital compared to opening a boutique. And from what I observe, the younger generations are more reachable through Instagram while the older generation uses Facebook, but having various social media platforms is also important.”
Adlina’s view is shared by Fadli Hanafi Razali, a 35-year-old baker who runs his online baking business through Instagram @thebakingbachelor.
Fadli says most of his customers are social media friends and followers, while the rest are overseas customers, VIPs and royalty.
“I can say 80 per cent of my customers are from Instagram.
“I have three Instagram accounts for my business, but all orders are all done through Whatsapp for easy reference,” he says.
Fadli says the use of social media is very important as almost everyone has a social media account. He says it is the best platform for online business entrepreneurs to start small.
“It is essential as early exposure for those who want to start an online business because social media also provides opportunities and a free platform with minimal capital.”
Fadli, who was a travel planner, started to bake five years ago. He used only a hand mixer and small oven, and only made simple desserts like brownies, cheese tarts and congo bars as it was just a hobby then, “I sold the desserts to Facebook friends and at my workplace, and slowly, my business grew through word-of-mouth.
“From a hobby, it became a side income but I only do it after working hours and most of the recipes were obtained through the Internet. I started to take more interest in baking and went for classes with professionals to improve my skills,” says Fadli who is from Negri Sembilan.
Now a full-time home baker, Fadli has over 80,000 followers on Instagram. He also teaches personal classes and online classes.
Ramadan, Fadli says, is peak season and he can make five times more income compared with other months.
Fadli says he also had to buy more ovens and hire helpers to cope with the demand. Normally orders for Raya cookies are only during the festive season but Fadli plans to sell them throughout the year.