Vol 9 No 2 2021
Fusionex – Spearheading Digital Transformation In Malaysia Dato’ Seri Ivan Teh, Fusionex Founder and Group CEO
MRCA Launches F&B Division Reimage Your Restaurants
WM RM9 / EM RM11
MRCA and DSAM Join Forces to Support #Whiteflag
MRCA Corporate Patrons
A-5-2, 3, 3A, Level 5, Block A, Sky Park One City, Jalan USJ25/1, 47650 Subang Jaya, Selangor. Tel: +603-5882 4333 Fax: 1 700 810 950 Website: www.mrca.org.my PRESIDENT Shirley Tay Bee Koo SUNRIDER INTERNATIONAL (M) SDN BHD IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT Datuk Seri Garry Chua ROTOL FOOD-CHAIN (M) SDN BHD DEPUTY PRESIDENT Dato’ Liew Bin BRILLIANT MERCHANDISING SDN BHD VICE PRESIDENTS Datuk Seri Dr. Chai Kee Kan KK SUPERMART & SUPERSTORE SDN BHD Valerie Choo Yoke Shiem SIMPLY AWESOME SDN BHD Ken Phua Cheng Chuen BENTLEY MUSIC SDN BHD Sharan Jethanand Valiram VALIRAM HOLDINGS SDN BHD SECRETARY GENERAL Jit Singh A/L Santok Singh IRONHORSE ASIA SDN BHD DEPUTY SECRETARY GENERAL Raymond Woo Hai Shiang VENDPAYS SDN BHD TREASURER GENERAL Dato’ Winnie Lim Yoke Chin SOLUTION RISK CONSULTANTS SDN BHD DEPUTY TREASURER GENERAL Dato’ Alex Wong Che Sing HAP SENG STAR SDN BHD COUNCIL MEMBERS Dr. Affendi Dahlan DR GROUP HOLDINGS SDN BHD Alex Chong Weng Wah SAKURA KRISTAL SDN BHD Brian Tham Jee Ping WATATIME (M) SDN BHD Christine Tan Gaik Lin CT F&B HOLDINGS SDN BHD Kevin Lee Guan Keong MAXIS BERHAD Liang Foo Kuan BIG ONION FOOD CATERER SDN BHD Michael Liew Fong Tzer MARRYBROWN SDN BHD Seak Thean Pow BAGUS CURTAIN SDN BHD William Tang Chee Weng THE STORE CORPORATION BERHAD Jordan Ng Kim Leong BANNERKING SDN BHD Datuk Henry Yip Choong Hung DRAGON-I RESTAURANT SDN BHD Aiveen Wong Choy Ching CHIN SWEE FOOD SDN BHD
TRUSTEES OF MRCA FOUNDATION Dato’ Tay Sim Kim Foundation Founder Chairman Datuk Lee Hwa Cheng Foundation Chairman 2020-2022 Dato’ Eddie Choon Trustee Datuk Albert Chiang Trustee Datuk Seri Nelson Kwok T. T., JP Trustee Dato’ Liaw Choon Liang, JP Trustee Datuk Seri Garry Chua Trustee BOARD OF ADVISORS Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Leong Hoy Kum GROUP MD, MAH SING GROUP BHD Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Barry Goh Ming Choon CHAIRMAN, MCT BHD Tan Sri Dr Lim Wee Chai CHAIRMAN, TOP GLOVE CORPORATION BHD Tan Sri Datuk Ter Leong Yap EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, SUNSURIA BHD Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Tang Yeam Soon MANAGING DIRECTOR, THE STORE CORPORATION BHD Dato’ Dr. Jennifer Low, JP GROUP MANAGING DIRECTOR, QUILL GROUP OF COMPANIES PRESIDENT’S ADVISORS Dato’ Sri Dr. How Kok Choong CO-CHAIRMAN, VETTONS SDN BHD Dato’ Vincent Choo Kok Leong URBAN IDEA SDN BHD LEGAL ADVISORS Dato’ Dr Manjit Singh MANJIT SINGH SACHDEV, MOHAMMAD RADZI & PARTNERS Datuk Ringo Low RINGO LOW & ASSOCIATES HONORARY AUDITORS Dato’ Sri Raymond Liew Lee Leong MCMILLAN WOODS Datin Yap Shin Siang YYC GST CONSULTANTS SDN BHD
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Publisher/CEO V.S. Ganesan Senior Editor Vimala Seneviratne Editor Rachael Philip Contributing Editor Khaw Chia Hui Creative Designer Goh Wei Lee Advertising Consultant Faridah Ismail Marketing Manager Karthik Ganesan Operations Manager G. Revathi PRINTER UNITED MISSION PRESS SDN BHD (755329-X) No. 15, Perindustrian BS 9, Jalan BS 9/10, Taman Bukit Serdang, 43300 Seri Kembangan, Selangor. Tel: +603-8958 0186 Fax: +603-8945 5168 All articles featured in Malaysia Retailer magazine represent the personal views of contributors and are not necessarily those of MRCA & Harini Management Services Sdn Bhd. All writers automatically agree to indemnify MRCA and Harini Management Services Sdn Bhd against any loss, costs, expenses (including legal fees), damages and liabilities that might arise from their own incapacity, negligence, breach of contract or other civil misdeeds. We reserve the right to edit all articles. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2021 by MRCA and Harini Management Services Sdn Bhd. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission from the publisher. MRCA and Harini Management Services Sdn Bhd accept no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts, photography, illustration and other editorial materials.
CONTENTS / VOL. 9 NO. 2
MRCA 24th Annual General Meeting
MRCA Launches F&B Division
MRCA EVENTS/ NEWS DIGITILISATION 12 MRCA 24th Annual General Meeting
16 MRCA and DSAM Join Forces to Support #Whiteflag
20 MRCA Members Meeting 22 MRCA Launches F&B Division
23 MRCA Academy‘s Digital, Learning
MRCA and DSAM Join Forces To Support #Whiteflag
24 Technology – Retail Future In Digital (RFID)
ON THE COVER
26 Reimage Your Restaurants
28 MRCA Legal Consultative Dialogue
30 MRCA Youth Talk: Tax Tips for Retailers, What You Should Know
Dato’ Seri Ivan Teh, Fusionex Founder and Group CEO
33 MRCA Spare Your Coins Project
Fusionex – Spearheading Digital Transformation In Malaysia
34 MRCA Donates PPE and Medical
Dato’ Seri Ivan Teh, Fusionex Founder and Group CEO, shares his views on the company’s participation in the dynamic development of digitalisation, data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) in Malaysia and regionally.
Supplies to Sungai Buloh Hospital
35 Spreading Raya Cheer To Two NGOs
36 Effects of Pandemic Stress On Mental Health and Coping Strategies
President’s Message Dear Members, It has been almost two years since the first movement control order (MCO) was enforced on 18 March 2020. Since then, we have seen many businesses suffer from the adverse effects of the pandemic. Despite this, MRCA continues to forge ahead with hope and resilience, knowing that “every cloud has a silver Shirley Tay lining”. President, 2020-2022 In view of difficulties Malaysia Retail Chain faced by the retailers Association and other businesses, MRCA together with our industry partners from Malaysia Shopping Malls Association (PPK), Malaysia Retailers Association (MRA), Bumiputra Retailers Organisation(BRO), Malaysia REIT Managers Association (MRMA), Malaysian Association of Theme Park and Family Attractions (MATFA), and Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (KL) Electrical Home Appliances Dealers’ Association (SWEDA), have been lobbying the government to ease restrictions imposed on retail businesses. We issued many joint statements calling for the government to help businesses suffering income losses during the various phases of MCOs, and to allow the re-opening of all economic sectors. With our constant engagements and dialogues, I am pleased to share that we have seen positive outcomes. We also jointly raised our concerns to the government on the HIDE System which has caused fear among the public in visiting malls and other retail outlets. On this note, we attended several meetings organised by MITI and representatives from the Ministry of Finance to discuss and clarify the applications and initiatives of HIDE. MRCA has also been working closely with the government to provide more clarity on SOPs and to allow retailers to appeal for waivers or reduction of fines or penalties which may be unfairly imposed. Since last August, MRCA has organised 205 activities, of which 91 were dialogues, engagement sessions and meetings with government agencies. With the launch of our F&B Division on 28 July 2021, officiated by Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri, Minister of
Tourism, Arts and Culture, we hope to organise many more impactful activities in future. Despite challenges, MRCA has kept the momentum going with many activities – highlights of which include: “Tax Tips for Retailers, What You Should Know?”, facilitated by Dato’ Seri Raymond Liew from McMillian Woods Global. “MRCA Legal Consultative Dialogue” – Dato’ Manjit Singh and Datuk Ringo Low conducted a legal consultative dialogue session on the COVID-19 Act. “Reimagine Your Restaurants: Digital Evolution During the Pandemic in Malaysia” – MRCA Academy hosted a talk on leveraging social media platforms and driving business growth for restauranteurs, featuring speakers from Facebook Malaysia. “Effects of Pandemic Stress on Mental Health and Coping Strategies” – As stress levels rise due to loss of jobs, businesses and even loved ones during the pandemic, MRCA hosted a webinar on mental health and coping techniques. Our “A Good Deed A Week” charity initiative has brought hope to the underprivileged. MRCA joined forces with Direct Selling Association Malaysia (DSAM) to support the #Whiteflag initiative to raise RM500,000. To-date, more than 5,000 families have received food aid, and we aim to further expand these efforts. In support of all our dedicated frontline medical personnel, MRCA and MRCA Branding Education Charity Foundation raised RM400,000 for the Sungai Buloh Hospital Relief Fund, providing the hospital personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies. In addition to this, from June to end August 2021, MRCA also ran the “Spare Your Coins for Charity Project” – a fundraising effort encouraging members to donate spare change. To continue spreading kindness amidst tough times, we encourage our members and their families to collect loose change in containers, so that we can forward the funds towards good causes. A little goes a long way! This campaign has successfully raised RM11,000, which has since been donated equally to four NGOs. I am pleased to share that MRCA in collaboration with KPDHEP and CITF, arranged vaccination for retailers and their employees starting 26 July 2021 at Menara KK in Kuala Lumpur, which recently ended. For a better future, let’s continue to be strong and resilient. As quoted by Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” Enjoy our latest publication and I look forward to welcoming you at our future events. Meanwhile stay safe!
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Fusionex – Spearheading Digital Transformation In Malaysia
As a multi-award winning data technology provider, Fusionex, participates in the dynamic developments of digitalisation, data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) in Malaysia and regionally.
t the speed that digitalisation is going, it has been successfully positioning many businesses on the world map, which would have been otherwise impossible. On top of the game and trailblazing in digitalisation, analytics, big data, IR4.0, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), is Fusionex, an established
multi-award winning data technology provider. With a deep commitment to help its customers unlock value and derive insights from data, Fusionex is focused on bridging the gap between technology and business. The company is the largest Big Data Analytics company and market leader in ASEAN, bringing state-of-the-art,
innovative and breakthrough data-driven platforms to its customers, including Fortune 500 companies, FTSE companies, large conglomerates as well as a wide array of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) spanning the United States, Europe as well as Asia-Pacific. Fusionex is also an MDEC GAIN company as well as an MGS recipient. Malaysia Retailer Vol 9 No 2
LARGEST AND MOST ADVANCED CENTER OF EXCELLENCE (COE) Recognising the vast potential for digital transformation of organisations in Malaysia and the region, Fusionex established the largest and most advanced Center of Excellence (COE) in the region for big data, insights-driven research and development, as well as immersion experience. Speaking about the data centre, Dato’ Seri Ivan Teh, Founder & Group CEO of Fusionex, says, “Our Center of Excellence (COE) is an avenue that drives the adoption of digitalisation that fosters a culture of innovation and creates an ecosystem that positively impacts all sectors.”
DRIVING DIGITALISATION IN MALAYSIA Armed with state-of-the-art technology, Fusionex has been actively taking Malaysian companies through their digitalisation journey. Dato’ Seri Ivan says, “By leveraging on our technologies, experience and expertise, we power organisations’
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core systems with intelligent solutions such as big data analytics and AI, to fast-track their digital transformation efforts. By taking away the complexities associated with data, businesses will be able to more seamlessly incorporate automation, analytics and actionable insights into their day-to-day operations and reap the benefits of going digital.” However, it does not stop at just implementation and execution, in fact, Fusionex works closely
with customers to gain a deeper understanding of their challenges and pain points, which allows it to customise personalised offerings and recommend digital transformation plans that produce real-world results. Dato’ Seri Ivan explains that Fusionex always works in close partnership with its clients throughout their digitalisation journey to ensure long-term sustainable success. “This allows us to work hand-in-hand with them to deliver the change their organisation
9 needs and ensure successful transformation,” he says. To ensure that clients are able to manage digitalisation effectively, the company offers training courses to upskill and reskill their clients’ employees in order to empower the workforce with the capabilities and confidence to successfully transition into a digital environment with minimal disruption, hesitancy and uncertainty. Fusionex believes that this leads to expeditious rewards and ensures the competitiveness of the business in future.
FUSIONEX COLLABORATES WITH PIKOM TO DELIVER DIGITAL INTERACTIVE SPACE FOR BUSINESSES As businesses struggle to survive amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Fusionex has risen to the call to help businesses, especially SMEs, to drive business growth. In doing so, Fusionex signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Tech Association of Malaysia, PIKOM, to deliver a digital interactive space that includes an e-commerce marketplace, an exhibition and a B2B meeting space, all on a single platform. This platform will enable tech industry players to exhibit their products and services, and to virtually connect with customers in an ultimate all-inone hub, thus harnessing business opportunities across global markets. “We are grateful for being afforded the opportunity to partner with PIKOM and help them achieve greater heights. Through this collaboration, we created a digital interactive space that allows SMEs from the electronics and gadgets sector to showcase their offerings online and reach a market segment that would normally have been out of reach for many of them, especially due to the restrictions imposed by the MCO,” says Dato’ Seri Ivan. According to Dato’ Seri Ivan, by powering this platform Fusionex
provides the impetus needed by SMEs to accelerate their efforts to go digital so that they can navigate and also maintain business sustainability during these trying times. “Our cutting-edge suite offers an inclusive environment for networking and business matching to explore new opportunities and partnerships, an exhibition space for SMEs to showcase their offerings and boost interaction between exhibitors and attendees, as well as engage in live pitching sessions, attend webinars with a worldwide audience and promote brand awareness and generate leads,” he adds. Fusionex testifies that this platform has embedded performance-based tools, livestreaming features and data analytics capabilities. These functions allow exhibitors to seamlessly grow their businesses with meaningful data-driven insights, while also overcoming operational roadblocks and inefficiencies, especially those caused by the pandemic.
HOW TO MAKE DIGITALISATION JOURNEY A SUCCESS In advising companies facing challenges in digitalising their operations and business models, Fusionex cautions that without effective data technology, intelligent data management platforms and a data-driven culture, the digitalisation journey would be a tough one. In order to make digitalisation successful, organisations need to adopt a holistic approach to their digital transformation efforts rather than transforming all aspects of their business at once. “They can start by focusing on the most crucial areas and transform those business segments that will result in the most tangible benefits first, and address business challenges according to importance before tackling the rest,” Dato’ Seri Ivan advises.
With this holistic approach by Fusionex, customers can effectively transform their businesses digitally and move in tandem with their workforce, stakeholders, partners, clients, vendors, suppliers and other industry players. A key step to take before an organisation embarks on their digital transformation journey is to establish a digital transformation master plan or roadmap. “Organisations should draw up a digital transformation plan that is easy to comprehend and execute, and align their workforce with those strategies, to streamline communications and reduce any confusion that may arise,” Dato’ Seri Ivan explains. Another key factor that Dato’ Seri Ivan points out is that organisations should ascertain the initial base level of digital literacy of an organisation’s workforce, and develop ways to upskill their working knowledge and skills through training. This will help employees to be more seamlessly integrated into the new digital environment. “What’s most important is to follow through on the digital masterplan in a controlled manner so that the business, its staff, partners and workforce are not overwhelmed by the changes. Give them the tools needed to track, gauge and manage these changes in order to minimise the impact it may have on the business operations and finances,” he adds.
THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON DIGITALISATION Amidst the massive negative impact of COVID-19 on businesses, Fusionex believes that the pandemic has actually accelerated digital transformation by seven years. “According to studies by McKinsey & Company, digitalisation is unlikely to slow down. As we head deeper into the digital age, future businesses will no longer depend only on their brick-and-mortar stores, they would Malaysia Retailer Vol 9 No 2
10 also need to establish their presence in the virtual realm to showcase their offerings, connect with new markets and become part of the global digital economy,” shares Dato’ Seri Ivan. According to Fusionex, with technology at the epicentre of digitalisation businesses will be adopting next-gen technologies that automate analytics at scale with greater accuracy. This would enable businesses to utilise data-driven insights to predict market trends and be proactive in responding to these trends. Meanwhile, productive employees will have more time than ever to perform impactful tasks that may result in ground-breaking innovations and offerings to the industry. With this, employees can also expect more flexible or remote work arrangements, complemented by intelligent technological tools that support face-to-face interactions, personal development sessions and seamless organic workflow.
FORMING PARTNERSHIPS ACCELERATE DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES Fusionex believes that partnerships offer the ability to accelerate the utilisation of disruptive technologies such as analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), allowing businesses to focus on their core activities. “Fusionex is always willing to explore opportunities with our partners and clients to provide solutions that can promote business growth. One of the most common partnerships focuses on operational transformation. Much of this collaboration lies within the business’ internal ecosystem as it develops new ways to reinvent operating processes,” Dato’ Seri Ivan points out. With the help of modern technologies that optimise complex processes and automate tasks, organisations can increase Malaysia Retailer Vol 9 No 2
productivity, lower costs, improve quality and accelerate results. Dato’ Seri Ivan elaborates that there are partnerships that go deeper by reinventing traditional business models using predictive analytics and self-learning algorithms, which enables the identification of growth opportunities in tandem with evolving consumer preferences and market trends. “To successfully drive change with partnerships, companies need to fundamentally shift their culture, talents and mindset. This starts by introducing and implementing effective data technology and AI-powered data platforms within organisations to grant businesses the ability to seamlessly scale with agility, thus, moving them closer to their goals,” he adds. Dato’ Seri Ivan explains that as technology continues to move forward, finding the right partners is no longer an option but a necessity in order to achieve business goals and succeed. “Fusionex believes in synergistic partnerships that are effective. No one is an island and we cannot achieve greater heights without partners. We have to remember that – if you want to go fast, do it alone; if you want to go far, then do it together,” he shares.
THE POWER OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE In speaking about AI, Dato’ Seri Ivan says, “Fusionex is the first in the region to introduce an AI-powered marketing solution as well as an automated AI-powered Sales Agent, which we deployed for large global brands.” With the power of AI, Fusionex is able to help customers with automation of digital and physical tasks such as administrative and financial-related activities. AI produces algorithms that can help businesses identify pain points, and operational inefficiencies as well as provide recommendations
for prior action. It allows businesses to detect flawed or defective products and take the appropriate action beforehand. “Our AI solutions have allowed businesses to create and launch targeted promotional and marketing campaigns based on the preferences, tastes and purchasing history of its customer base or individual customers,” Dato’ Seri Ivan shares. Fusionex prescribes that another key benefit of automation is that it frees up our clients’ workforce, allowing them to concentrate on more important business tasks. In addition, AI-powered technologies have allowed businesses to enjoy massive cost savings. “For example, implementing a chatbot solution has allowed our clients to optimise their resources and to provide 24x7 services in an efficient and nontaxing way,” Dato’ Seri Ivan adds.
FUSIONEX FUTURE DIRECTION In elaborating about the company’s future direction, Angie shares, “Fusionex understands the value of creating and cultivating strategic alliances, partnerships and collaborations in order to achieve our short and long-term goals. We will continue to network and build relationships with industry players, market leaders and subject matter experts, to provide our customers with the finest solutions and services.” The company believes that digital technology will radically transform the industries and those who embrace it will have the tools and capabilities of incorporating new methods and processes into their business to achieve digital success.
– The publisher thanks Angie Lim, Senior Manager, Marketing & Communications, Fusionex, for her contribution towards the article.
“By leveraging on our technologies, experience and expertise, we power organisations’ core systems with intelligent solutions such as big data analytics and AI, to fast-track their digital transformation efforts.”
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MRCA 24th Annual General Meeting MRCA held its 24th Annual General Meeting at the Quill City Mall, Kuala Lumpur, graciously hosted by Quill Group of Companies.
n compliance with the MCO and relevant SOPs, the AGM, held on April 28th, was conducted in both physical and virtual modes. Ordinary Members were invited to join the physical meeting whilst the Associate and Affiliate Members joined via Zoom. The meeting was attended by 79 members. MRCA President, Shirley Tay in her opening remarks welcomed the Board of Advisors, Immediate Past President and Honorary Past Presidents, Legal Advisors and Auditor, Excos, Council and Members. Despite the on-going challenges encountered during her term, she
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13 highlighted that MRCA remained active and has conducted 169 activities over the past 14 months consisting of Zoom meetings and/ or webinar, academy trainings and several relevant activities conducted for the benefit of its members. She also thanked the Immediate Past President and Honorary Past Presidents for their significant contributions to the growth of MRCA. She strongly believes in serving the Members as MRCA “would not be where we are today without the unwavering support from them, aligned with the tagline ‘powered by YOU, WE serve better’”. The five focus areas during her tenure are Charity, Collaboration with other Associations and business groups, Direct Engagement with the Government, Media Support, and
Formation and Activation of Focus Group Division/Chapter. Together with the MRCA Branding Education Charity Foundation, MRCA also embarked on several new charity projects. The Single Mother Project and A Good Deed A Week have achieved great results thus far based on the amount of donations collected and disbursed. Due to this, the programmes have been extended to assist the under privileged group that are economically affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Together with a small group of seven Associations including MRCA, a coalition known as Industries Unite was formed in February this year. To date, more than 100 associations are working collectively to engage with the government effectively. Through
this participation, MRCA has been able to proffer to the government relevant suggestions which represent the interest of members and the retail industry relating to, amongst others, Government Incentives, Government Stimulus Packages, Clarity on SOPs, Business Trade Flexibility, Special appeals segmentised into various sectors and Vaccination programme roll out. With the Past Presidents’ effort and continuous initiative by the MRCA, the Association continues to strive to work closely with the relevant government bodies and agencies bridging for the members. Media support has been instrumental for the MRCA to be the medium to highlight the latest news and concerns. This year, MRCA also made great progress with the Tamil media apart from the three major media – English, Chinese and Malay. With the aim of catering to the various needs and concerns within the retail industry, several focus groups have also been formed. Contributions from the various divisions of the MRCA Association include Youth, Women Division, Southern Chapter and F & B Division. Shirley Tay also reiterated her six objectives during her term and added that she is committed to render support to the members to cope with the scourge caused by the pandemic.
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PRESIDENT’S OBJECTIVES 2020 TO 2022 TERM
Networking and Liaison To facilitate and enhance networking and liaison among members for business development and expansion. Provide a viable platform for members to get connected for mutual benefits.
Elevate and Uplift Women Entrepreneurs Assist female entrepreneurs in enhancing their business opportunities by providing the platform for exchanging business ideas. Working together and synergising growth in addition to giving more recognition to women in their role in business and other communities.
Build Alliance for Members who are in the Food and Beverage Industry Build a cohesive alliance for members in the Food and Beverage industry for the purposes of networking, cooperation and expansion.
Educate, Share and Enhance Retail and Business Knowhow and Technology Assist members to align their businesses to conform to new digital and online development and transformation to increase productivity and market competitiveness.
Assist in Recoveries Assist companies where possible to recover from the scourge caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by offering information and connectivity leading to better business integration.
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MRCA And DSAM Join Forces To Support #Whiteflag More than 8,000 families receive aid amidst the pandemic situation.
s Malaysians battle the COVID-19 pandemic, many have suffered the loss of jobs, income and businesses. Recognising the dire straits of many Malaysian families and individuals, Malaysian Retail Chain Association (MRCA) and Direct Selling Association of Malaysia (DSAM) have joined forces to raise emergency funds for the purchase of food supplies and other basic necessities to help desperate households and individuals.
REACHING OUT TO MALAYSIANS IN NEED The aim of both associations is to raise RM500,000 from this initiative; and thus far, food boxes have been distributed by both associations to more than 10,000 families within the Klang Valley and its neighbouring vicinities. The food boxes have been distributed to families at 9
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locations including PPR Pantai Ria, Kuala Lumpur; PPR Sri Sabah, Kuala Lumpur; Kampung Tasek Permai, Ampang Jaya; Kampung Labu Lanjut, Sepang; Kampung Baru Sungai Chua, Kajang; Salak Selatan Baru, Kuala Lumpur; PPR Seri Nilam, Ampang; PPR Hiliran Ampang, Kuala Lumpur; and PPR Pandan Mewah, Ampang. More locations are currently being finalised for on-going distributions. Each food box contains essential dry food items that include rice, instant noodles, vermicelli, sardines, baked beans, malt-based chocolate drink powder and biscuits. Shirley Tay, President of MRCA said, “Many of our members are badly hit by this pandemic. Some cannot sustain beyond 3 months with their current cash flow positions. However, we believe that this collaboration with DSAM will at least be of help to the less fortunate
as every contribution would lessen the suffering of the ‘rakyat’.” “During this difficult time, we understand many families are struggling to put food on the table. With this initiative, we are working alongside our retail partners from MRCA to help the affected families. Through this small gesture, we hope to help them to get through these challenging times,” said Datuk Tan Chong Guan, President of DSAM.
STATE OF THE RETAIL INDUSTRY Estimating that 50,000 workers have lost their jobs in the retail industry since the start of the pandemic, Shirley Tay, President of MRCA says, “We also did a survey in the month of June asking members to revert to us on their cash flow and we found that 97 per cent of respondents had only four and a half months of cash flow left. Those
surveyed said they introduced wage reduction and had downsized their retail operations.” According to Shirley, 91 percent of respondents indicated a decline in sales with 45 percent stating that they suffered a reduction in sales of more than 30 percent. In view of that, Shirley called for the government to consider more targeted lockdowns, with shopping malls allowed to operate as the rate of infection in malls seem to be quite low. She added, “Before entering the malls, they will check your temperature, your MySejahtera app and only then will they let you in. This is why the rate of infection in malls are lower – somewhere around 0.8 per cent.” MRCA’s 450 members operate 30,000 retail businesses nationwide, employing 300,000 workers throughout their companies. To boost its members’ business opportunities amidst the challenges, MRCA has ramped up its efforts to train its members to use social media to market their products and increase sales. “We are hoping that the government will give more subsidies in terms of digitalisation of business operations,” Shirley says. Malaysia Retailer Vol 9 No 2
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A RAY OF HOPE IN DIRECT SELLING Meanwhile, DSAM reported a more positive outlook with many direct sales agents experiencing growth in their sales revenue last year. Datuk Tan says, “We have 126 members in DSAM and more than half are doing well.” He said the income of many direct sales agents were not adversely affected by the lockdowns as they were more focused on health and wellness products that have now become sought-after items amidst this pandemic. “When the pandemic first started, many people did not know when the vaccine would come and it was up to individuals to improve
CONTINUE BRINGING HOPE TO THE NEEDY their immune system, and so sales of our health products increased,” Datuk Tan highlighted. He added that whilst many were losing their jobs and experiencing salary reductions, they came to realise that carrying out direct sales from home was another way to earn an extra income to tide over during these tough times. Datuk Tan pointed out that in the last 12 months, approximately 50 to 60 per cent of businesses of direct sales agents were conducted online or through the phone. Therefore, he advocates that the direct selling industry has given people some hope by creating an avenue to improve their income opportunities.
In response to the continuing need for aid by families and individuals around Malaysia, MRCA and DSAM call for members and partners to keep the candle of hope burning by contributing towards this noble cause. Cash contributions towards the #WhiteFlag initiative can be made directly via: • MRCA (CIMB no. 8600617216 or https://bit.ly/3r595cZ). For more information, kindly contact Simon Wong or Lee Choo via Whatsapp at +6012 438 0435 or visit www.mrca.org.my; • DSAM (Public Bank Account no. 3078 894 406 or via https://bit.ly/2TAVpdw). For more information, kindly contact Lawrence Cheah or Feriz Mohamad via WhatsApp at +6019 378 7937 or visit www.dsam.org.my
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MRCA Members Meeting MRCA held a virtual session for its members to provide updates on key matters and the latest developments in the retail industry over the last several months. n welcoming MRCA members to the virtual session, Shirley Tay, President, said that since business operations resumed in the retail industry and with more sectors being allowed to operate recently including dine-in for F&B outlets, many retailers would be busy sorting out the necessary processes to function fully. She expressed her appreciation to retailers for taking the time out of their busy schedule to attend the monthly meeting. She added that as retailers faced tough times amidst the several phases of movement restriction orders (MCO), MRCA is
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constantly cognisant of members’ needs and has members’ best interests in mind. “I hope with the relaxation of restrictions announced by the government in the past few days, you will be able to regain your momentum quickly,” she said.
PRESIDENT’S PREAMBLE Shirley shared that MRCA council members are all focused on achieving the six major objectives of the association for the welfare of its members and the retail industry. “I am happy that the much-awaited launching of the F&B Division was done with a bang on 28 July. The timing was perfect,” she beamed,
talking about the launch which was officiated by Datuk Nancy Shukri, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture. “The F&B division, along with other divisions and chapters, will work on more activities aiming to help our members in all possible ways,” she added. Shirley explained that MRCA has been in constant touch with the authorities, government agencies and other trade associations as well as coalition groups on a bigger scale to discuss pressing issues affecting the businesses of members. She shared that MRCA recently engaged with KPDNHEP and vaccination programme authorities.
Another matter of concern that MRCA raised to the authorities was the general lockdown on all businesses which is not practical, and should have been implemented on a localised basis. She highlighted that after the constant engagement with the government, the government is now agreeable to classify lockdowns based on the severity of COVID-19 positive cases. “We have also been talking to the government to regulate the two largest food delivery platforms in view of the high commissions charged to F&B operators. We were not happy that our members were not able to survive,” Shirley highlighted. “KPDNHEP has been calling these two big players to engage with them to explain how commissions are being charged,” she added. Additionally, MRCA has also been raising concerns to the government on the clarity of SOPs and to have a one-stop centre so that business establishments can easily obtain the latest updates. The association has also been continuously pushing the government to provide rental relief, and will continue to pursue this matter for the benefit of members. MITI has been providing guidelines and SOPs, specifically for the manufacturing sector. In the past, the high penalties levied on manufacturers had been a cause of concern while operating conditions and restrictions have not been entirely clear. In view of that, MRCA has been urging the government to provide clear guidelines and to provide an avenue to appeal fines or penalties. MRCA is also working closely with Industry Unite (IU), which has 130 trade organisations in its fold. Presidents of various trade associations have come together to clarify SOPs and regulations in view of the relaxation of restrictions. Shirley reminded the members that despite the challenges faced,
MRCA continues to push for education and learning opportunities for members, especially in digitalisation, through the MRCA Academy. In an effort to provide accurate data to the government and industry groups, MRCA has conducted three surveys which include the Malaysian Quarterly Retail Sales Survey, the MRCA FMCO and National Recovery Plan Business Impact Survey, and MRCA Members Survey on Rental Issues. The surveys have successfully highlighted the severity of issues faced by retailers and provided the government with an accurate picture of the retail industry. Shirley also expressed her deepest gratitude for the contributions of members towards MRCA’s charity drives, namely the MRCA Sungai Buloh Hospital Relief Fund Donation Drive, the MRCA & DSAM Support White Flag Charity Drive, and “Spare Your Coins for Charity” Donation Drive. She urged members to continue to work towards restoring business operations and to reach out to MRCA for assistance if required.
OTHER UPDATES Over the last two months, MRCA has clocked in 31 activities which include a combination of engagement sessions with the government, webinars and trainings. MRCA has been actively working to speed up the vaccination programme among retailers so that businesses can resume operations. During the meeting, members were also updated on HRD Corp’s latest revisions to the PSMB Act 2021 which stipulate that it is compulsory for organisations with 10 or more workers to register with HRD Corp. Upon joining, employers will receive financial assistance, certain government fundings, consultancy, allowances and access to various resources. In supporting environmental
conservation, MRCA attended a meeting with the Ministry of Environment and Water, together with several other organisations to discuss the appointment of two agencies for the disposal or repair of electrical and electronic items. A meeting with the Prime Minister’s Department was held alongside other associations to relay the dire straits of retail business owners, the increase in closures of businesses, cash flow problems and the inability to resume business operations. Concerns were brought up to KPDNHEP on fake products being sold on Shopee and Lazada, which is a challenge for members who are trying to build their brands. MRCA also attended a meeting organised by MITI and representatives of Bank Negara Malaysia, to discuss HIDE applications and initiatives. The Women’s Division organised several events that included a mental health talk, and yoga sessions for the benefit of members. The Youth Division’s activities included an ongoing membership drive, and webinars on digital marketing through TikTok and social media marketing, as well as talks on marketing campaigns and skills, among others. MRCA Academy’s updates included several initiatives including webinars on branding, the survey exercises, business recovery talks, dialogues on national recovery plans, and a conference on tech and innovation by INTI International University, among others. An update on MRCA’s membership revealed that the association has 435 members comprising 233 ordinary members, 184 associate members and 18 affiliate members. New members joining MRCA in July were welcomed into the organisation, while new applications were announced for the information of members. Malaysia Retailer Vol 9 No 2
MRCA Launches F&B Division In an effort to protect food & beverage (F&B) retail businesses, MRCA has taken a targeted approach with the launch of the F&B division.
RCA launched the F&B (Food & Beverage) Division at a virtual event that was graced by Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia. The event was attended by MRCA members, honorary past presidents, executive committee members, guests and media partners. The F&B Division, which is headed by Datuk Seri Garry Chua, MRCA Immediate Past President, is aimed at representing the voices and plight of F&B retailers. The key objectives of the division include supporting members in matters of business; to organise events to encourage and foster collaboration; to equip members with the right skills, information and training; and to promote professional development of division members. Besides lobbying for fair charges by delivery platforms, Datuk Seri Garry said the division will also lobby for healthy competitive behaviour from delivery platforms. The F&B Division has pledged to lobby for extension and improvement to the Covid-19 Act to protect and preserve retail businesses affected by the movement control orders (MCOs). “We will also be lobbying for dine-in for vaccinated patrons as soon as possible, and business recovery funding for small and
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medium enterprises (SMEs), as well as for government-initiated mediation on outstanding rent issues between landlords and tenants during MCOs (Movement Control Orders),” Datuk Seri Garry. He added, “Most F&B retailers, I would say, are suffering tremendously because they have big rentals to pay. We hope the government would also give us a strong subsidy (rental) of 50%, or at least 30-40%. That would help a lot with the goodwill and compassion of landlords. I think most of the F&B retailers could stay in business easier as a result and not collapse because cash flow is very tight.” Datuk Seri Garry pointed out that the impact of the pandemic is worse
than the 1998 economic crisis, with 70% of retailers struggling to make ends meet. In addressing the viewers, Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy said, “This new division will be a concrete and formidable platform for MRCA members, not just to assist and support each other, but also to expand the business network to foster more collaboration, goodwill, and understanding. It will also benefit entrepreneurs in developing local businesses and attract more F&B brand participation, which will ultimately increase economic activities to ensure viable long-term benefits to stakeholders within the industry.” She added that the launch of MRCA’s F&B division is timely and in line with the Ministry’s transformation strategies to enhance demand sophistication by increasing tourist experiences that are unique, differentiated and memorable. Therefore, it is important to increase the value of services and goods provided to tourists. The launch of this Division is also expected to help MRCA members in the F&B industry to gain invaluable opportunities to raise businessrelated issues and gain access to first-hand information from the authorities that would benefit their respective business.
MRCA Academy’s Digital Learning Journey ecognising the rapid pace of digitalisation in business, MRCA Academy organised a series of events over the last few months to upskill and raise greater awareness among retailers on the power of digital tools for business growth. In an effort to help retailers automate their e-commerce businesses, MRCA hosted the “E-Commerce Automation Solutions” webinar via Facebook live stream free-of-charge for 100 members. The session featured two distinguished speakers, Choon Ee May, a certified HRDF trainer and Yong Hui Yie, a member of Malaysian Mensa Society. The trainers shared their vast experience in the e-commerce space and enlightened members on the ease of doing business by automating e-commerce. The digital journey can be a complicated affair, therefore, MRCA Academy leveraged on the experience of Senheng to present to retailers a webinar on enhancing business know-how and operations efficiency. The webinar entitled “Digital Journey By Senheng” offered
SMEs a detailed view of Senheng’s comprehensive digital retail solution to emulate. The webinar participants also received a free copy of the book by Mr KH Lim, Founder & Group Executive Chairman of Senheng Electric, entitled “Digital Journey: The Game, The Rule, The Way Forward for Businesses in Digital Economy”. The session covered several interesting topics that included e-commerce solutions and operations, CRM restructure, seamless and digitalised inventory management, business data analytics, marketing automation, and digitalised human resource management, among others. MRCA Academy invited the renowned e-commerce platform, Carousell, to host a webinar on “The Power of C2C Marketplaces in Malaysia”, guiding retailers on how to leverage on the power of C2C marketplaces to clear stocks. The session featured Tang Siew Wai, Country Head of Carousell Malaysia who presented on the main topic, while also sharing tips on how to be successful in the C2C space, as well as how to leverage on CarouBiz (Carousell for Business)
h Malaysia Retail Collaboration wit (MRCA) Chain Association August 2020
to strengthen O2O businesses. Participants also had the opportunity to learn from case studies and testimonials of success stories. As TikTok takes the social media space by storm today, MRCA Academy hosted a webinar for retailers on how to leverage on this platform to reach out to the new generation of consumers. The webinar entitled “Get to Know the TikTok Generation” featured Mia Ong, General Manager of MGAG Media, who expounded on effective content creation for TikTok, insights on consumer trends, social consumption of Gen Z and TikTok case studies in Malaysia. The session helped retailers to understand the dynamics of TikTok as a marketing and branding platform which can help to grow retail businesses and generate leads. MRCA Academy will continue to deliver insightful and thoughtprovoking business advisory sessions for members in the months ahead in line with the division’s aim to continue to enhance the knowledge of members on the latest developments in the market and the industry. Malaysia Retailer Vol 9 No 2
Technology - Retail Future in Digital (RFiD) By Stan Jit Singh, Secretary-General, MRCA
“You can have Data without Information, but you cannot have Information without Data”.
DEMYSTIFY ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) So, what exactly is AI? – Firstly, AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. The term may also be applied to any machine that exhibits traits associated with a human mind such as learning and problem solving. And so, in the final analysis, and to simply put it, AI is the intelligence that is artificially created for a particular fit and purpose or intent in business, operations, monitoring or research, and that means, anything and everything where it applies. The ideal characteristic of artificial intelligence is its ability to rationalise and take actions from all data sources, and that have the best chance to achieving a specific goal or outcome to provide a slate or position, for a near accurate decision-making process. A subset of the AI is machine learning, which refers to the concept that computer programmes can automatically learn from and adapt to new data without being assisted by humans. On the other hand, deep learning techniques enable this automatic learning through the absorption of huge amounts of unstructured data such as text, images, sound or video to provide Malaysia Retailer Vol 9 No 2
the correct analytics and perhaps predict the business outcome. When most of us hear the term, AI, the first thing that comes to mind is, Robots. This is because the movie makers have created that sense of belief from “Star Trek”, “Star Wars” and so on, have weaved stories about human-like machines that wreak havoc on Earth or the neighbouring planets, but nothing could be further from the truth that this science is fictional in nature. Let’s not write this off so soon because with the emerging technologies and the technological revolution cycle and development, it has impacted the current IT & business landscape and we are not far from using AI to disrupt and bring that needed benefit to the organisation in a new and improved way as well. After all, data points are readily available and all we need to do is capture them to good and sound use. AI can be categorised in three areas respectively for easy understanding and for clarity, namely, Soft AI, Hard AI, and Deep AI. Soft AI – Soft AI can be referenced to as being used in Smart Homes, Smart Appliances, Smart Offices, where processes and interval activation of devices are based on conditions, senses and motions arising in that environment. Hard AI – Hard AI can be referenced to as being used in Smart Cities where a more complex management of the environment is needed in controlling the environment, example, Traffic, Street Lights, Monitoring Cameras, Pedestrian Walks, Information Kiosks, Emergencies, Bus Stop Management,
Crime Watch, Facial Recognition, Fall Detection and so on. Deep AI – Deep AI can be referenced to as being used in Smart Factories where some degree of automation has been implemented with the view to automate processes using Robotics for Manufacturing & Production, Early Warnings for Equipment Maintenance Management on Wear & Tear, Manpower & Labour Force Controls, Security Management, Human Fall Detection and Monitoring Premise For Emergencies & Logistics. Incidentally the above is not an exhaustive list as there are many other related applications and areas that AI is deployed for its rightful purpose in managing the most difficult task/s at a greater speed, accuracy, reliability and flexibility to drive home the benefits and results. SMART HOME
What makes AI powerful and effective is that AI feeds on the data received from various data source points, coupled with Big Data. Sets of algorithms, permutations, mathematical formulas, data patterns and data behaviour are embedded together, supported by the high computing power to produce accurate desired results with precision, speed and in a timely manner without any room for error. Although we know that in the technological world, we sometimes refer to “Bad Data” as “GIGO”, meaning, “Garbage In Garbage Out”. Whilst this may be true, AI does need to feed on good data to ensure its data accuracy, data reliability, and data integrity. And thankfully today there are good AI operatives working within the system to weed out and isolate or reject the so-called “Bad Data” and so we are comforted by this notion. In comparison, can a human mind produce the same results with such
WHAT ABOUT AI IN RETAIL?
speed and accuracy? And you have probably guessed it right, it’s totally impossible for obvious reasons. Why not?, after all isn’t the intelligence created by humans in the first place? You are right as well but it simply cannot be done. However, even though the intelligence is artificially created but over time, what has happened is that the so-called AI Engine mimics these setups and with continuous process of machine learning or deep learning has capabilities to “learn” and “understand” the data pattern, frequency, velocity, behaviour, appearance, and so on and with the power of the scientific algorithms encoded within the AI Engine and Framework, will make sense of the data to provide reliable information for its good use with actionable intel and allow organisations to make sound and informed decisions about a situation or their business. Please let me put this into
SMART STORE – IN-STORE DATA POINTS In Retail there are a number of applications and areas where AI is heavily used to solve business, operational challenges and other pain points. Examples of areas where AI is heavily deployed are as follows, namely, 1) Improved Demand Forcasting, Advance Replenishment & Inventory Optimisation 2) Make Effective Pricing Decision For Merchandising 3) Suppliers Stocks Management & Performance 4) Customer Touch Points Tracking Purchases Experience, Behaviour & Facial Recongition 5) Transform Drive-Thru & Pick-Up Points on Customer Experiences 6) Development of Effective Promotions Up sell & Cross sell 7) Staff Optimization On Service & Performance 8) Timely Order Management, Tracking, Fulfilment & Logistics For Stores & Online Orders 9) Store POS Transactional Fraud Detection & Security 10) Reduction in Shrinkages & Automate Weighing Scale Pricing Management 11) Increase Sales Through Conversational AI Chatbots Using Social Media The use of AI continues to revolutionalise Retail
perspective and without naming one of the busiest airports in the world where flights take off and land about every three minutes or so. At the entrance of the departure area there are a good number of smart cameras carefully and precisely crafted for their positions to capture high quality images to track passengers leaving and it takes just one second to compare 16,000 facial images with that of the control hot database list to pick out suspecting passengers with criminal record/s or reported by Interpol. One of many AI’s uses is assisting in real time to battle challenging situations arising and one can never imagine how difficult it would be if this was ever done manually. One of AI’s effective applications utilised is in real time situations arising and there are many more to list in the AI world plus in just about every industry that there is, where the power of AI can be readily deployed to harness benefits.
over and above what has already been mentioned and this journey continues as new business applications are built upon the AI foundation and framework combined with Big Data in creating the competitive advatage for the Retailers to take hold of their businesses and to build upon them. Over time, AI has also shifted the business landscape providing Retailers business opportunities to venture into new grounds in terms of its timing to restart, revamp, reorganise and rebuild their businesses through the Digital Revolution. It is said that the timing can’t be more than now to come on board to take that Digital Journey to embrace AI to create the impact and reshape the organisation’s destiny, if you have not already done so. In the continous use of AI & Big Data, over time this will create what we call today, “Data Driven Cultured Organisation”, for data is the new “currency”. The pandemic equally has brought this huge opportunity to allow Retailers all alike to embrace newer technologies to disrupt their current business to overcome the roadblocks, obstacles, and cut through the devastated landscape left behind by the pandemic to move forward with a winning start and get to a better place with AI. The Time and Future is Right Now.
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Reimagine Your Restaurants: Digital Evolution During The Pandemic In Malaysia MRCA Academy presented a talk on how to drive the restaurant business forward amidst the pandemic which has resulted in tremendous consumer shifts.
ith the state of lockdown at different levels in Asian markets, international travel restrictions and safety priority, the restaurant business in Malaysia has had to adapt to evolving consumer shifts amidst the challenges posed by the pandemic. On 25 June 2021, MRCA Academy presented speakers from Facebook Malaysia and KFC Malaysia, among others, to share their perspectives on the evolution of the restaurant industry.
CONSUMER TRENDS In 2020, the food service industry was heavily impacted resulting in a 20 percent decline in value compared to 2019. Past gains of restaurant businesses were wiped out in the span of a year. Amidst these challenging times, the Malaysia Retailer Vol 9 No 2
million-dollar question is “What can we do to drive the business forward?” The answer is to obtain valuable insights. In driving recovery, businesses have to focus more on ‘recovery forces’ to achieve more sustainable growth. Although cautious, consumers are slowly but surely returning to socialising, thus offering the restaurant business a silver lining amidst tough times. Recovery forces in action now include the amplified need for escape or to unwind, the increase in demand for small indulgences, the emphasis on self-care including healthy eating and fitness, return to socialising, accelerated switch to new channels, and loyalty to trusted brands. As consumer behaviours evolve, key trends shaping the restaurant business include discovery in-
store or online, taste, convenience and value, awareness, traditional advertising, social media, all-day ordering, and an omni-channel value chain. Flavor of Social Report 2019 stated that, “Over time, our digital and physical food and drink habits have slowly integrated and reengineered how we think about eating and drinking. We live out our food desires through social.” Deloitte’s Future of Food Report concludes that social media is increasingly driving food choices and trends. Aside from taste, consumers are drawn to food and drink for its aesthetic appeal, novelty, content capital, experiential value, or reflection of social aspirations. Between 2014 and 2017, there has been a 5,850% increase in worldwide views of
27 social media videos containing the word avocado. A total of 388 million posts on Instagram are tagged #food. Facebook is consistently the top platform for awareness and discovery of food and restaurants in Malaysia. Consumer values have experienced a paradigm shift with taste, convenience and value as core drivers. Factors for consideration include good value for money, high quality food, variety and speed of delivery. In addition to that, all day dining is now a common trend among consumers. Striking a balance between brand building and sales investment is mission critical because strong brands recover fast. It was found that strong brands recovered nine times faster following the financial crisis of 2008. According to Kantar Brand Lift Analysis, based on brand lift percentage and sales lift percentage a ratio of 60-40 to 40-60 is recommended for brand building to sales performance investment in the new normal. With consumers looking for more ways to enjoy, escape and indulge, it has been discovered that time spent watching online video streaming has increased by more than 67 percent, and time spent on social media is 73 percent higher than television. Social media and video growth in Malaysia alone is at more than 50 percent since 2015. As restrictions hinder consumers from dining out, takeaway and food delivery is here to stay with in-home cooking declining in the new normal.
CREATIVE BEST PRACTICES IN DRIVING THE RESTAURANT BUSINESS With consumers constantly turning to mobile applications and connectivity, optimising reach through devices and the internet is crucial for the survival of restaurants. Six simple steps to drive restaurant brands via mobile
devices is by showcasing the brand early and often, achieving perfect timing for messages (less than 15 seconds), capturing attention with content, building for where people are by reaching out through various channels, designing visual storytelling, and creating more content. A pilot study with 9 Creative Shop clients showed that visual identity drove impact and conversion, with audiences captivated by interesting in-stream video advertisements. According to Bea Coronel of McDonald’s Philippines, “The campaign proved that Facebook in-stream is a great solution for driving video views and reaching new audiences. After seeing the results, we have scaled up and implemented in-stream video ads across other campaigns.” The speakers pointed out that today marketers are able to reach potential buyers more rapidly and easily through their mobile phones. Key to riding on this trend is to constantly stay connected with consumers by communicating about the moment. They stressed that personalising experiences in marketing enhances relevance and consumer choices.
REIMAGINE YOUR SALES Speaking about driving purchases to restaurants, the speakers pointed out the benefits of messenger bots and dynamic advertisements. The way to do it is quite simple – simply connect with consumers where they naturally shop online, choose messenger bot partner to build the messenger shop, and drive the consumer to the messenger. According to Steff Yong, Digital Manager of QSR Brands (M) Holdings Sdn Bhd (KFC Malaysia), “With food delivery becoming increasingly popular in Malaysia, it’s our mission to be where consumers are and to provide them with a great, simple and instinctive
user experience when making orders. The bot for Messenger is a great avenue to achieve this, while also helping us glean more insights into consumers’ needs and demands when ordering food.” Christine Lorusso, Digital Marketing Manager of Firebirds Wood Fired Frill says, “Advertising on Facebook has had a positive impact on our business and plays a key role in our digital marketing strategy. The ability to create multiple audiences and drill down on who we are marketing to has helped us increase our overall return on investment and better connect with our guests.” Facebook’s Store Traffic feature makes it easy for shoppers to get to the merchants’ stores. “The store traffic objective is a great way to gain insights into offline conversions and store sales, which in turn allowed us to deepen our partnership with department stores. This campaign has demonstrated how digital channels can be highly effective in supporting offline partners and driving targeted sales for them,” says Benjamin Kinsong, Brand General Manager, Clinique. The global skincare brand ran a Facebook and Instagram campaign in collaboration with department stores in Thailand and used the store traffic advertising objective to drive offline sales, which brought an 8.8-times return on advertising spend. Through Facebook, Clinique managed to reach 1.3 million consumers while lowering cost per purchase by 6.9 times compared to other online campaigns. In addition to that, Dynamic Ads feature on Facebook restaurants to drive users to their stores. Using Dynamic Ads has proven to help decrease cost per incremental bookings by 42 percent. Basically, Facebook offers great potential for restaurants to leverage on its platform to penetrate and capture the market and consumers’ interest. Malaysia Retailer Vol 9 No 2
MRCA Legal Consultative Dialogue On 4 June 2021, MRCA conducted a legal consultative dialogue featuring legal experts that included Dato’ Manjit Singh, Managing Partner of Manjit Singh Sachdev, Mohammad Radzi & Partners and Datuk Ringo Low, Managing Partner of Ringo Low & Associates. The session was moderated by Dr Afendi Dahlan, Business and Legal Director of DR Group Holdings Sdn Bhd.
he session addressed important topics that are abuzz in the retail industry currently. Concerns from retailers were raised during the session in view of the COVID-19 pandemic that has been affecting the retail industry in many aspects. Both Dato’ Manjit and Datuk Ringo shared their perspectives on the questions posed from the floor. The session enlightened MRCA participants on the laws and regulations that are in force as well as the extent to which retailers are protected by the COVID-19 Act.
In view of the COVID-19 Act, what are the chances of the landlord suing the tenant for damages and evicting the tenant? How does the COVID-19 Act affect the parties for termination of tenancy before the due date? Panelists: The tenancy agreement is binding for both parties. The tenant is protected from being sued if they are within the period of the COVID-19 Act and if the landlord pursues the matter, the tenant can refer the matter to the Minister under this Act. A mediator will be appointed by the Minister in charge of Legal Affairs in the Prime Minister’s Department (the Minister), to arrive at a settlement, which is binding on both parties. The protection that this Act offers is limited to that particular period.
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With sales impacted by the pandemic and tenant unable to pay rental, is the COVID-19 Act applicable to the tenancy agreement between shopping mall and tenant? If yes, what is the impact on the rental payment? Is the landlord eligible to collect the late payment interests? Is there any other means of recovery of the outstanding if they are unable to proceed with the legal procedures under the COVID-19 Act? Panelists: The main courses a landlord can take include applying for Writ of Distress for rentals owing not exceeding 11 months. This can be obtained within a period of 3 months where the property in the premises will be seized and auctioned to fulfil unpaid rentals. Another course of action is to sue for damages for unpaid rentals which may take between 6 to 12 months. It is not as simple for a tenant to claim that they are unable to pay rental as a result of the government’s MCO
measures as the tenancy agreement is not solely resting on the MCO circumstances. At the same time, the tenant has the right to go to the Minister and state the case that the business is unable to operate and be profitable. The Minister will appoint a mediator and come to a settlement or resolution.
Are employers able to claim compensation from the state governments if staff experience serious side effects? Panelists: The Federal government has announced that they have allocated RM10million for individuals affected by side effects of this vaccination that require lengthy treatment or resulting in death. However, the state governments have not come up with any announcement on any
compensation for side effects of the vaccines. In the case of the Selangor state government stating that vaccines will have to be paid for by employers, there arises a contractual situation. Under these circumstances, employers and employees taking the vaccine have to be careful about what they sign because the Selangor state government would probably include exclusion or limitation of liability clauses. If receiving payment for the vaccines, the Selangor state government has some legal obligations to ensure that these vaccines are safe, and there may be cause of action for side effects subject to limitation of liability.
Under the case of delay in re-delivery of vacant possession of demised premises to mall management due to MCO/ RMCO where the tenant is not allowed to do reinstatement works in that period of time, the mall is charging full rental till successful handover date, despite the delay of vacant possession not caused by the tenant. Can the tenant stand firm not to pay rental for the delay in handover which was not caused by the tenant? How can we renegotiate contracts that were signed prior to the pandemic? Panelists: In this circumstance, unless there is a force majeure clause in the agreement the tenant is obligated to reinstate the
premises to its original form. The tenant should review the agreement on whether there is a force majeure clause. In the event of dispute due to COVID-19 pandemic, the tenant can approach the Minister to mediate this situation. However if taken to Court, the original terms in the agreement will be upheld. Hence the best option is to refer to the Minister. Under the present situation, a wise landlord would be willing to renegotiate and reconsider the rental based on compassion and understanding.
With MCO regulations shortening the hours of business operations, can the landlord still charge the tenant rental for a shorter or nonoperation time like this? Should the rental be prorated? How to determine market rental rates during this time? Is there a need for a termination agreement if either party would like to withdraw from an MOU? Panelists: Usually there is allowance in the agreement for change of timing in business operations hours. However, under this pandemic situation, there is an arguable case to talk to the landlord that the reduction in utility due to the inability to operate, should flow down to the tenant. This is once again based on negotiation. The tenant can once again ask the Minister to mediate. We are
very much dependent on the government’s guidance. However, as business operations is shorter just by a few hours, most landlords may not agree to a reduction in rental. A property valuer is the best option to determine the market rental rate. As for termination agreement, a properly drawn-out agreement in the form of MOU or letter of offer or any contract should rightfully cover situations for termination.
In the case of an outstanding rental of below RM500,000, the landlord has imposed that unless the tenancy is renewed for another 3 years, there will be no rebate. Can the landlord impose such a term, which appears to be duress? Can the landlord reject the force majeure in the tenancy agreement? Panelists: The landlord can impose any terms to grant the rebate, and as a tenant you can either agree or disagree, hence the tenant cannot claim to be under a situation of duress. Once again, the tenant can seek mediation from the Minister. It is highly unlikely for the landlord to agree to include a force majeure clause halfway through the tenancy agreement. If clauses are not included before the agreement is signed, the tenant will be unable to include the clauses once the agreement has been signed or in force. Malaysia Retailer Vol 9 No 2
MRCA Youth Talk: Tax Tips for Retailers, What You Should Know MRCA Youth recently hosted a session to enlighten members on tax tips featuring two leading tax experts from McMillan Woods – Dato’ Seri Raymond Liew, Founder President and Jason Boey, Tax Director. n 9 June 2021, members of MRCA came together for a virtual session on tax tips facilitated by Dato’ Seri Raymond and Jason Boey. A total of 134 members attended the session which addressed tax rates, personal tax relief, microcredit schemes, enhancement of wage subsidy, and IRB’s regulations during MCO, among others. During the session, Dato’ Seri Raymond advised members seeking tax advice to reach out to MRCA. He added that many retailers were facing uncertainty on tax relief efforts by the government, the moratorium and PEMERKASA Plus. “There is a revised tax rate for SMEs with a capital of up to RM2.5 million and an additional condition of annual sales of not more than RM50 million with, 17% for chargeable income of up to RM600,000, and 24% for the remaining chargeable income from the year of assessment 2020,” said Dato’ Seri Raymond.
CAPITAL ALLOWANCE On capital allowance, Dato’ Seri Raymond shares that accelerated capital allowance will be given for qualifying capital expenditure incurred on machinery and equipment including information and communication technology (ICT). “That starts from 1 March 2020 to 31 December 2021 where the annual allowance will be increased to 40% (current rates range from 10% to 20%) with initial allowance of 20%,” he explains. Malaysia Retailer Vol 9 No 2
PERSONAL TAX RELIEF Touching on Personal Tax Relief 2021, Dato’ Seri Raymond notes that special tax relief of up to RM2,500 is given for the purchase of personal computers, smartphones or tablets, incurred from 1 June 2020 to 31 December 2021. A tax relief amounting to RM8,000 is given for the National Education Savings
Scheme (SSPN) extended from the year of assessment 2020 to year of assessment 2021. “In so far as personal tax is concerned, there is a tax deduction of 1% (from 14% to 13%) for individuals whose chargeable income range from RM50,001 to RM70,000, to help out mid-tier income earners,” states Dato’ Seri Raymond. “There is a personal tax relief of up to RM8,000 given for medical expenses incurred for the treatment of serious diseases for taxpayers, spouses and children, as well as the cost of fertility treatment, including a full medical check-up of RM1,000 and prescribed vaccination of RM1,000,” he adds. Tax relief is also extended for full medical check-up to cover COVID-19 screening. A restricted amount for Lifestyle Relief has been increased from RM2,500 to RM3,000, extended to include sports-related expenditure
31 and electronic newspaper subscriptions. An extension of four years has been given for the Private Retirement Scheme Relief (PRS) of RM3,000 from year of assessment 2022 to year of assessment 2025. An additional tax relief limit for disabled spouses has been increased from RM3,500 to RM5,000. Dato’ Raymond stresses that many are unaware that medical treatment for parents can also be claimed – this has been increased from RM5,000 to RM8,000, supported by receipts for the purchase of all medicines and treatment. With digitalisation rapidly taking root, a tax relief of RM1,000 is also given for expenses incurred for attending up-skilling courses provided by a certified body by the Department of Skills Development of the Ministry of Human Resources, for the years of assessment 2021 and 2022. A special tax relief of RM1,000 is given for individuals on domestic travel expenses incurred from 1 March 2020 to 31 December 2021.
new applicants,” advises Dato’ Seri Raymond.
HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT FUND (HRDF) LEVY EXEMPTION
to the JanaKerja Scheme to provide 500,000 new job opportunities. RM2 billion will be set aside for the PenjanaKerjaya initiative, where employers will be given additional incentives for hiring local workers, people with disabilities, those who have been unemployed longterm and workers who have been terminated,” explains Dato’ Seri Raymond. “RM250 million has been assigned for an apprenticeship hiring incentive. Employers will receive RM1,000 per month (for 3 months) if you hire fresh graduates for an apprenticeship programme,” he adds.
TARGETED LOAN REPAYMENT ASSISTANCE (TLRA)
Dato’ Seri Raymond shares that the government will speed up the implementation of microcredit schemes, which include RM390million by Bank Simpanan Nasional, RM350million by Agrobank and RM295million by TEKUN. The objective of this measure is to assist in cash flow of micro-enterprises and SMEs.
To ease the burden of loan repayment, there has been an enhancement of TLRA for SMEs with loans up to RM150,000. “Banks will provide two options to borrowers which is a moratorium on the installments for a period of 3 months; or, a reduction in the monthly repayment by 50% for a period of 6 months,” explains Dato’ Seri Raymond.
INCREASING JOB OPPORTUNITIES
WAGE SUBSIDY PROGRAMME 3.0 (WSP 3.0)
With the increase in unemployment, especially during the MCO, the government has set aside funds to create more job opportunities under Budget 2021. “RM3.5billion has been allocated
“Effective January 2021 to 30 June 2021, there is a wage subsidy declared in Budget 2021 for the tourism and retail sectors. There are three additional months for existing WSP participants and 6 months for
Under the PERMAI Assistance Package, companies unable to operate during the MCO and CMCO periods are eligible for the HRDF levy exemption. This exemption is for 6 months starting 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021, and thereafter.
SPECIAL DEDUCTION ON RENTAL RENOVATION The government has extended the special tax deduction on cost of renovation for business premises incurred for business purposes only, up to 31 December 2021, however, there are certain pre-determined criteria. Dato’ Seri Raymond advises that the eligibility period has been stipulated from 1 March 2020 to 31 December 2021. The eligibility amount is up to RM300,000, for the years of assessment 2020 and 2021. The cost has to be certified by external auditors, while the expenses not eligible for special deduction include designers’ fees, professional fees, and purchases of antiques.
SET-UP OF NEW BUSINESSES To spur the set-up of new businesses during these difficult times, the government is offering financial relief. For newly created SMEs between 1 July 2020 and 31 December 2021, an income tax rebate of up to RM20,000 per year is given for three years of assessment. Between 1 July 2020 and 30 June 2021, SMEs will be excluded from paying stamp duty on any instruments undertaken for mergers and acquisitions (M&As). Malaysia Retailer Vol 9 No 2
BOOSTING ONLINE BUSINESSES Dato’ Seri Raymond noted that the government will accelerate the implementation of the SME and micro SME e-Commerce Campaign and Shop Malaysia online initiative, with a total allocation of RM300 million. Micro-entrepreneurs are also set to receive business coaching and on-boarding onto e-commerce platforms while buyers will enjoy savings through online shopping. “The objective is to continue the support for entrepreneurs and businesses in generating income through online sales,” he adds.
COVID-19 SCREENING The government now allows double deduction for the costs incurred by employers to fund COVID-19 screening for their employees in year 2021.
RENTAL REDUCTION Dato’ Seri Raymond added that a special deduction will be given to property owners who provide at least 30% rental discounts to SMEs from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. It has now been announced that the special deduction will be expanded to include non-SMEs. In addition, the special deduction will also be extended for another three months, until 30 June 2021.
SPECIAL PRIHATIN GRANT/ GERAN KHAS PRIHATIN 3.0 (GKP) Payment of the GKP 3.0 is set to begin from June 2021, benefiting close to 1.2 million micro-SMEs in Malaysia. Micro-SMEs will receive a one-off GKP 3.0 assistance of RM1,000. “Those applying for GKP 3.0 must meet certain eligibility requirements,” says Dato’ Seri Raymond. The requirements include : Malaysia Retailer Vol 9 No 2
• Not receiving any previous GKP 1.0 and GKP 2.0 • Available to Malaysian citizens only • Applicants who run SMEs with total annual sales of less than RM300,000, and with not more than 4 full-time employees excluding owners must be registered with LHDN or IRB on or before 28 February 2021; or a local authority or SSM before or on 28 February 2021, • The company is actively conducting its business at the time the application is made. IRB DURING MCO 3.0 Dato’ Seri Raymond highlighted that IRB payment counters are operational between 8:00am and 12:00pm, Monday to Friday, with the same operational time for stamp duty counters albeit with prior appointments. The deadline for tax submission has been extended to 31 July 2021 for individual taxpayers with business income, CP500 and CP204 submission, and RPGT. No extension is offered for CP204 payments, tax instalments and PCB.
PEMERKASA PLUS ASSISTANCE PACKAGE (PP) Jason Boey explained to the audience the dynamics of the PP assistance package. “The government announced RM40 billion in economic aid known as Program Strategik Memperkasa Rakyat & Ekonomi Tambahan (PEMERKASA PLUS) on 31 May 2021 to assist people as well as deal with the economic consequences of the two-
week lockdown which begins on 1 June 2021,” says Jason. “The package will also provide support to the healthcare industry during the next phase of the MCO to effectively combat the COVID-19 pandemic and maintain the nation’s healthcare system,” he adds. The objectives of the PP assistance package include increasing public healthcare capacity, continuing the welfare agenda of the people, and supporting business continuity. Under this programme, the government has allocated RM450 million to increase beds and ICU capacity at all hospitals nationwide; and RM550 million to support COVID-19 related expenses by various agencies. Additionally, the services of more than 14,000 contract medical officers and nurses will be extended until 2022; while 550 healthcare personnel due to retire will be reappointed on a contractual basis. Under this initiative, the target is to provide 150,000 doses of vaccines per day across Malaysia by December 2021, and complete the vaccination exercises in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Johor and Penang. “Under the Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat Cash Aid programme, households earning below RM2,500 will receive RM500; while households earning between RM2,501 and RM5,000 will receive RM300. Single individuals earning below RM2,500 will receive RM100,” Jason explains. Jason also touched on the eligibility of moratoriums on bank loans for both individuals and companies, as well as bus and taxi operators, wage subsidies, exemption of levies under HRDF, GKP 3.0, and special assistance initiatives to spur the economy, among others.
onations begin at home. Even a small amount goes a long way for charity, especially now with the pandemic that has caused a lot of grievances to many people and organisations. Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA) is doing its bit to help the needy during these trying times. A fundraising project by sparing your coins for charity is initiated by MRCA to help organisations which are being negatively impacted by COVID-19. Whilst many people save higher value change for a rainy day, the smaller coins are often stored in a pot, drawer or car and then rarely taken back out to be spent. Now you can help to put them to greater use by giving to charity. The donations collected till August amounted to RM11,020 and will be donated to The Salvation Army, Yayasan Latihan Insan Istimewa, Pertubuhan Kebajikan Anak Yatim Mary KL and Persatuan Kebajikan Warga Tua Manjung Perak. MRCA declared the contributions received by having an independent audit firm to check the total collection before donating the sum to their listed charities.
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MRCA Spare Your Coins Charity Project
MRCA Donates PPE And Medical Supplies To Sungai Buloh Hospital RCA together with the MRCA Branding Education Charity Foundation, recently raised RM400,000 through its “Sungai Buloh Hospital Relief Fund” donation drive to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and medical supplies for Sungai Buloh Hospital, Selangor. As part of its corporate social responsibility initiative in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, the campaign was aimed at providing PPE and medical supplies for hospital frontliners and working staff who could be facing shortages of such items with a surge of COVID-19 patients at the hospital. MRCA Branding Education Charity Foundation chairman Datuk Lee Hwa Cheng handed over the donation at the Sungai Buloh Hospital to hospital director Dr Kuldip Kaur. Also
present were MRCA President Shirley Tay, Past Honorary Presidents, Exco members and representatives from donor companies. MRCA said the campaign was a tremendous success where the Foundation and Honorary Past Presidents donated RM100,000
worth of PPE, while members of MRCA such as Top Glove, Healthy World Lifestyle (brand Ogawa), Visionary Solutions (brand Blueair) donated RM 300,000 worth of PPE, massage chairs, air purifiers, sanitisers and other medical supplies.
Dr Kuldip Kaur, Director of Sungai Buloh Hospital (front row, third from left) presented a certificate of appreciation to Datuk Lee Hwa Cheng, Chairman of MRCA Branding Education Charity Foundation (front row, second from left) in the presence of MRCA President Shirley Tay, Past Honorary Presidents and Exco members.
The Sungai Buloh Hospital Donation Drive handover session was witnessed by Dr Kuldip Kaur, Director of Sungai Buloh Hospital (front row, fourth from left) along with other official representatives in the presence of MRCA President Shirley Tay, Past Honorary Presidents and Foundation Chairman, Exco members and representatives from donor companies – Top Glove, Healthy World Lifestyle (Brand Ogawa Malaysia) and Visionary Solutions (Brand Blueair).
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n conjunction with the Hari Raya Aidilfitri festive season, MRCA and MRCA Branding Education Charity Foundation spread Raya cheer to the underpriviledged groups amidst the pandemic challenges. In compliance with the current SOP, these charity programmes were carried out without physical visitation. The MRCA Branding Education Charity Foundation donated a total of RM10,000 in cash, groceries, electrical appliances and Raya ang pows to the Baitul Ulfah Centre, a non-governmental organisation located at Seri Kembangan. With the continuous efforts and initiatives to provide financial assistance and relief to the under priviledged groups by the Foundation led by its Chairman Datuk Lee Hwa Cheng, MRCA has also embarked on several new charity projects including “A Good Deed A Week” charity campaign initiated by President Shirley Tay. Since the inception of the campaign in early February, MRCA members have been distributing food and drinks to deserving frontliners. Individuals also chipped in by contributing rice and fresh vegetables, among others, to orphanages and senior citizen homes. The campaign has achieved great results thus far based on the amount of donation collected and disbursed. In extension of the “A Good Deed A Week”, MRCA Charity Head, Jordan Ng, teamed up for the second time with The Malaysia Business Group to deliver a total of 195 boxes of Kotak
Ustaz Uzet bin Omar, Principal of Baitul Ulfah Centre (right) received RM10,000 in cash, groceries, electrical appliances and Raya ang pows on behalf of the Centre. Prabu Nagamuthu, Community Development Officer of WOW (4th from left) distributed a total of 195 KK boxes amounting to RM19,795 to beneficiaries.
Kebahagiaan (KK) food aid boxes worth RM19,795 to the NGO Women of Will (WOW) in Kuala Lumpur. The KK food aid boxes were prepared and packed by The Malaysia Business Group’s team at Linaco Group at its warehouse. The food products were beverages, biscuits, cookies, candies, snacks and cooking condiments. Twenty five Malaysian food companies came together for Kotak Kebahagiaan 2.0 this year. The 25 participating Malaysian companies were Asia Food & Beverage Sdn Bhd, Bionutricia Manufacturing Sdn Bhd, Bon Food Sdn Bhd, Coconut Water (COWA)
Sdn Bhd, Deluxe Rich Sdn Bhd, Ever Fragrance Food Sdn Bhd, Foodvisa Sdn Bhd, Ganda Kota Sdn Bhd, GFB Food Sdn Bhd, Hexa Food Sdn Bhd, Karta International Sdn Bhd, KHH Double Lion Fruit Juice Manufacturing Sdn Bhd, Koon Brother Sdn Bhd, Lifestyle Ventures Sdn Bhd, Linaco Food Industries Sdn Bhd, Nanotronic (M) Sdn Bhd, Nicko Jeep Manufacture Sdn Bhd, Porrima (M) Sdn Bhd, QL Foods Sdn Bhd, Rasaku Marketing Sdn Bhd, SCS Food Manufacturing Sdn Bhd, SKS Food Industries (M) Sdn Bhd, Spices & Seasonings Specialities Sdn Bhd, Vermi Industries Sdn Bhd and Yuen Chun Industries Sdn Bhd. Malaysia Retailer Vol 9 No 2
Spreading Raya Cheer to Two NGOs
Effects Of Pandemic Stress On Mental Health And Coping Strategies MRCA hosts an open clinic discussion on thriving beyond survival. he Malaysian Retail Chain Association’s (MRCA) Women’s chapter brought together experts in the field of mental health to share their thoughts on managing and coping with stress caused by the pandemic and the challenges surrounding it. The session, moderated by Dato’ Grace Lee of Milestone Healthcare, featured an interesting line-up of speakers comprising Paul K. Jambunathan, Consultant Clinical Psychologist of Regen Rehab Hospital, Carole Chung, Senior Counsellor, and Dr Wan Izwin, Consultant Psychiatrist of ParkCity Medical Centre. In her opening remarks, Shirley Tay, President of MRCA said, “We are stepping into the 17th month of the Movement Control Order. The reason for organising this session is because we know that there are many problems out there, where you need to engage and share the issues you may have. We also truly care about what is happening out there, and we have seen so many cases being reported in the media of the effects of the prolonged lockdown.” She added that there are individuals out there who face difficulties coping with stress such as losing businesses and jobs, uncertainties, fears and frustrations; while many have found this pandemic to be a learning phase and a realisation of the importance of even small things. Amidst this situation, MRCA has
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had the opportunity to reach out to those severely affected by the pandemic and to the needy with cash donations, food aid, medical supplies and other necessities. While thanking members for their contributions towards this noble cause, Shirley also calls for members to continue to support MRCA’s charitable initiatives.
DR WAN IZWIN Dr Wan shared that there are several causes of stress during the pandemic which include persistent fear and anxiety of catching the bug, fear of quarantine centres, fear of causing inconvenience to those around us, public stigma, losing income or employment, as well as losing friends and family – all of which have an impact on mental health. She added that the situation also influenced many changes in routine such as working from home, home schooling, social isolation, missing friends and family, missing a ‘normal life’, fear of being fined for breaking rules, change of directives, and worry over loved ones. In a pandemic situation, people become paranoid and fearful. “Some people take paranoia to the extreme – such as isolating themselves at home, excessive washing of hands and cleaning, and missing hospital appointments. They develop obsessive compulsive disorder because of the fear of contamination,” explains Dr Wan. Other behavioural changes include reducing social contacts,
preoccupation with the media, panic buying, and purchasing vitamins and ‘cures’. “This can cause more fear and becomes unhealthy,” she cautions. Dr Wan explains that the main concern among people is what can happen to their mental health. She shares that most people will get on just fine, while others may be overwhelmed and develop anxiety disorders. “They can develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and insomnia,” she highlights. Dr Wan pointed out that some of the signs of budding mental health issues include recurring panic attacks, persistent and severe depressive moods, sleep difficulties, loss of appetite or weight loss, loss of interest in activities and surroundings, having suicidal or self-harm thoughts, and feeling tired all the time. Other symptoms also include losing temper easily or becoming abusive, lacking motivation, losing concentration or struggling with memory, and experiencing hallucinations. Coping strategies that Dr Wan recommends include acknowledging stress, using de-stressing strategies that have worked well for you in the past, and realising that you have no control over many things. She also added that people need to learn to say no to demands that can’t be met, reduce the use of social media, group chats and news, as well as being aware that this situation will soon pass. Dr Wan’s tips to making
37 the pandemic more tolerable include being kind to yourself and others, being thankful, deepening connections with friends and family, exercising, eating healthy, getting enough sleep and contributing towards the welfare of others by checking on neighbours and helping the needy.
PAUL K. JAMBUNATHAN In addressing the topic, Paul first set the tone with fundamental knowledge in understanding your own behaviour first. He explains that people’s behaviour are influenced by different kinds of stimulus. “It can be an insult, a traffic jam, or pandemic crises. We have all kinds of stimuli around us all the time,” adds Paul. Then there is behavioural reactions towards these stimuli. Paul highlights that scientists have identified cognition which includes appraisal, expectations, belief systems and values. These thought processes are set into motion before people react with emotional reactions, often even resulting in physiological reactions such as a stroke, panic attacks, or the increase in blood pressure – all of these responses and reactions are dynamic and happening all the time. He explains that once you understand the way these things work, you will be able to prioritise and address matters better. He points out that people can often activate stimuli in themselves such as the memory of the loss of a loved one or the loss of personal belongings or pets. Paul reminds that between birth and death, life happens within a primary environment which is ourselves and our family. The secondary environment is extended family, neighbours, colleagues and others – and the circle becomes bigger. He explains that memory and past experiences play a major role in how you handle life. Paul explains that currently the equilibrium of life has been disrupted
by the COVID-19 crisis, and the answer to coping with it is to look inside oneself. “Inside out – start with yourself and your inner processes and slowly grip on to things you can do, and manipulate these factors to work the situation out,” he adds. Speaking about resilience, Paul says that many people are afraid to change and employ new tools and skills – resistance to change. He explains that resilience is a process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress such as family, relationship problems, workplace issues and financial stresses. “It means bouncing back from everything. Resilience is about how you pick yourself up and move forward,” he explains. Paul offers 10 ways to build resilience such as making connections, avoid viewing crises as insurmountable problems, accept change as part of life, move towards goals, take decisive actions, selfdiscover, be positive about yourself, have a hopeful outlook and take care of yourself.
CAROLE CHUNG In responding to the increase in suicides during the pandemic, Carole explains that the pandemic has changed the way of life for many. “Short of a world war, this is the worst that has happened to us,” she says. Carole adds that it is absolutely normal to feel the stress of the situation. “We need to understand
that we are all struggling under very difficult circumstances, so why are we so hard on ourselves?” she asks. The point she is making is that these are unusual and distressing times, and disappointments and being unable to meet our own expectations bring the state of mental health lower. “At this point of time, it is important to be compassionate to ourselves and to understand that things are difficult, and that it is okay to be struggling,” advises Carole. Her tips are to find activities that are healthy, reach out to friends, and exercise to keep afloat. Carole shared some indicators of suicidal intentions or thoughts such as irrational behaviour, expressions of hopelessness, shame or guilt, showing no interest in the future, written or spoken notice of the intention to commit suicide, and giving away possessions. Other signs include previous attempts or plans to do so, sudden changes in mood, and having those they know who have recently killed themselves. She advises that if someone seems suicidal, ask about their intentions directly, don’t leave the person alone, connect the person with a mental health professional for help, and never promise to keep their suicidal intentions secret. Carole highlighted some important numbers to be provided to a suicidal individual such as Befrienders Hotline (03-7627 2929), general emergency at 999, or the nearest police station or hospital. Malaysia Retailer Vol 9 No 2