Virtual stores next big thing for entrepreneurs
TWENTY YEARS AGO, having a store meant having to pay rent, electric and water bills for the lot and all the maintenance that goes into renting a retail outlet.
Today, having a store will only cost you a computer and good internet connection.
Throughout 2013, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) together with .my Domain Registry, Google and iTrain introduced Get Malaysian Business Online (GMBO) to help 50,000 small and medium enterprises (SME) go online.
One of the GMBO grant receivers was Hajarinawati Othman, founder of Kedai Ummie, who was invited to share the success of her virtual story at the ‘Seminar Transformasi Usahawan Jalur Lebar’ organised by MCMC together with Persatuan Usahawan Wawasan Wanita Sarawak (Saranita) on Aug 9 at Yayasan Sarawak auditorium.
Due to a sore throat however, Hajarinawati was not able to deliver the session so standing in for her was her husband and co-founder of Kedai Ummie, Syahrul Nizam Junaini.
Kedai Ummie is the go-to online store where customers can get their hands on anything Sarawakian: Kek lapis, Sarawak roll, mi kolok, laksa paste, Bario rice and even pua kumbu are among the things that you can find at Kedai Ummie.
Their story goes back to 2009 when they first opened their virtual shop. Back then, their site was called kedaiummie.blogspot.com instead of the current www.kedaiummie.com.my after receiving a RM1,000 grant from GMBO to register their domain name.
While juggling to raise four young children, Hajarinawati, or ‘Ummie’ as the children called her, worked as a middle person between her products’ suppliers and the customers.
Most of their customers were from Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah but they also took orders from Scotland and Australia.
She did not produce any of their products advertised on the website but only took orders and delivered them to customers after receiving them from the suppliers.
It may sound easy, but Syahrul emphasised the importance of maintaining a good working relationship with all the suppliers in the business.
Another relationship he insisted for any online businesses retailers to maintain was with the delivery guy; in their case Poslaju Malaysia.
Showing the print screen of their customer’s Facebook comments, Syahrul emphasised the influence of customer testimonials and word-of-mouth in Kedai Ummie’s marketing.
“It is also important to protect your copyright by a simple step as adding watermark to your photo,” Syahrul reminded the participants, adding that there was no need to spend money on an expensive illustrating programme like Photoshop, “Just use websites such as Photovisi.com to add your watermark.”
Syahrul, a senior lecturer in Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), also advised the participants to be on the lookout for the ‘in’ thing to sell on the market and to equip themselves with the necessary skills by attending workshops and talks.
Their hard work finally paid off when Kedai Ummie was listed as one of the successful companies by SME Corporation Malaysia for the year 2013/2014.
According to Sarawak MCMC director Adiman Ajem, since launching the GMBO grant totalling RM50 million last year that lasted throughout the year 2013, MCMC received 41,582 applications. Only 34,051 entrepreneurs received grants and 475 of them were from Sarawak, mainly women entrepreneurs.