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To All The Restaurants I’ve Loved Before

Food memories are powerful. They’re often associated with feelings of warmth and comfort, which is why we tend to miss the flavours we grew up with: not always because of the dishes per se, but the emotions that we associate with them. For some, it can be the memory of waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread; for others, it might be the happiness they feel over a Christmas dinner, surrounded by family and friends.

In Malaysia, where food is an inherent part of our DNA, the pandemic has changed the landscape forever. Gone are the days where we could go catch a football game at the local mamak stall, guzzling cups of teh tarik kurang manis while cheering in unison with the crowd whenever a team scored a goal. No longer can we swing by the Burger Ramly stall at 2AM for a pick-me-up after a night of clubbing. Dimsum mornings with the family — where you excitedly pick from a pushcart of towering baskets stacked with goodies — are a thing of the past. Now it’s takeaways delivered to your doorstep: and while the food might still taste the same, it feels like someone has taken all the ‘flavour’ out of it.

Things have been extremely challenging for small and medium businesses these past two years. I’m talking about the hawkers at the kopitiams and small neighbourhood restos, who rely on customers to come physically to the store, and whose meagre profits aren’t enough to cover the added cost of middlemen delivery services. Even some bigger establishments have had to shut down, and it’s honestly heartbreaking, because all of these places have created beautiful food memories for me, at different points of my life. There will be more casualties before this pandemic blows over, but in the meantime, I’d like to pay ‘tribute’ to all the wonderful memories, and delicious dishes.

MARUFUKU UDON, JAYA ONE, PJ

This was one of my favourite haunts for lunch breaks and sometimes a relaxing dinner, back when I still worked in PJ. Whenever I felt stressed out at work and needed a pick-me-up, I’d hit up their tasty and affordable udon bowls, paired with a side of ice green tea and juicy deep fried chicken karaage.

My regular order of beef udon with egg.

The server knew me so well he could anticipate my order (I almost always ordered the same thing lol, so sometimes he’d ask “usual?”) but he’d wait for me to write it down anyway because there would be occasions where I’d try something new.

YOSHINOYA/HANAMARU UDON, MID VALLEY KL

If it’s not already clear, I’m a big fan of udon, and while I don’t go to Mid Valley often (parking is a nightmare), I make a point to drop by Hanamaru Udon (they share the space with beef bowl chain Yoshinoya) whenever I’m at the mall. I even introduced it to my good friend/ex-colleague, coz we used to have events at the Mid Valley Convention Centre, and Hanamaru Udon was located just across from it. It was also one of the ‘cheaper’ options for dining. It has been a long time since I’ve been to KL at all due to travel restrictions (even though KL is only about 30 minutes from where I live!), so it’s sad that I never got to eat this one last time.

The place was no-frills, more canteen-like than high-end Japanese resto, so you could casually pop in for a quick meal. I also liked the seamless process — you ordered your udon bowl at one end of the counter, selected the fried goodies to pair with your meal, then paid at the cashier. Green tea was free flow.

I usually got the ontama bukakke (ps: bukakke means ‘to pour/splash’ so get your mind out of the gutter), which came with a slice of lemon, grated radish and spring onions, with a little dashi broth. The chicken karaage was sold by skewer, and sometimes I’d get some fried ebi (shrimp) as well.

CAPITOL SATAY

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Capitol Satay is an iconic part of the Melaka food scene, having been around for over 30 years. Check any travel itinerary and chances are the resto would be on the list, thanks to their unique version of satay celup (satay cooked in boiling peanut sauce), which you will be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. But due to the nature of the dishes they serve (like steamboat, requires on-the-spot cooking) I would imagine it has been difficult for them to sustain the business.

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I came here for the first time with the Hubs in early 2020, when we did a story on Melaka for the magazine I worked at. It’s a shame it was also our last visit.

RASA FOOD ARENA KLCC

Food in the city centre can be expensive, which is why Rasa Food Arena (along with Signatures) was the go-to place for my college-student self, whenever I wanted to hangout in KLCC but couldn’t afford pricey restos and cafes. Here you would find Malaysian hawker fare, such as chicken rice, claypot noodles, char kuey teow and the like served in a more upscale setting.

To be candid, there wasn’t a particular dish here that I’d designate as ‘wow!’, but I still have fond memories of hanging out here with my college friends over some drinks and snacks. There were also times I’d sit here to people watch while waiting for my ex-boyfriend to finish his classes (my ex and I went to the same college but were in different courses; we’d wait for each other so we could ride the train/bus back to our city together. Ah, young love.)

COLISEUM CAFE

With over 100 years of history, Coliseum Cafe along Jalan TAR in Kuala Lumpur has seen it all — World War II, colonial rule, Malayan independence, the formation of Malaysia. Unfortunately, a pandemic was too much for it to weather, and the outlet shuttered its doors in June.

Photo: Coliseum Cafe

I remember coming here as a child with my parents — they still hired old timers back then instead of foreign workers — and I was fascinated by the restaurant’s old decor and vibe. It was like stepping into a time capsule, and you could almost imagine how the British officers would come by for Fish and Chips, Sizzling Lamb Chops and a beer or two.

There are probably more restaurants and eateries that I haven’t been back to that have shut down due to the pandemic, and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to support them one last time.

Perhaps one day, if they reopen or start up new F&B businesses, I’ll be able to taste their dishes again — and create new memories.

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Looking For Custom Cakes and Sweet Treats? The Cakery Malaysia Has Got You Covered

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Malaysian stand-up comedy producer Vinodh Menon found himself left in the lurch. There were no events to host, no shows to produce. But rather than sit around and wait for the situation to get ‘better’, Vinodh saw an opportunity for business: so he sets up an online bakery.

Since it started earlier this year, The Cakery has been gaining a steady base of followers, delivering over 200 cakes across Kuala Lumpur and Selangor in the first three months alone. Customers are spoilt for choice, as they have over 40 different types of desserts to choose from, including cakes, cupcakes, brownies and cookies.

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Founder Vinodh Menon, with a delectable spread of sweet treats from The Cakery

“The pandemic has forced us to look outside our comfort zones to create alternative sources of income. After the events industry came to a halt, I had to turn to other ventures as sources of income, and as a result, The Cakery was born. These past months have been very encouraging as we have seen our order count rise steadily, and our aim now is to keep this upward trend going,” says Vinodh.

Aside from classics like butter cakes, chocolate cakes, cheese cakes and brownies, some of The Cakery’s bestselling items include The Happy Box, which contains an assortment of delectable pastries, as well as the Pandan Gula Melaka Cake and Cupcakes, Moist Chocolate Cake, Orange Butter Cupcakes, Red Velvet Cupcakes, Belgian Mousse Cake, Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake, and more.

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The Cakery’s pool of talented and passionate bakers means that they’re able to cater to any occasion, whether it’s an intimate family tea session or a grand wedding.

Outside of its menu, The Cakery also creates custom cakes with designs that suit specific themes. Planning to surprise a family member who’s a Manchester United fan with a special cake for their birthday? The Cakery’s got you covered.

Currently, The Cakery delivers within Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. Orders must be made 12 hours in advance. Customers can opt for their cakes to be delivered right to their doorstep, or pick-up themselves from their The Cakery’s bakery at Brickfields.

Now, I’ve got a treat for my readers!

Order using the promo code TCERISGOESTO to get 10% off of all orders from now until 31st December 2020. Just use the code when ordering from any of The Cakery’s social media platforms at facebook.com/thecakerymy or instagram.com/thecakerymy, or via Whatsapp at 012 750 2810.

The promo only applies for deliveries within the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor area.

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Loka Made: A Homegrown Creative Promoting Malaysia Through Art

It’s not easy to turn your passion into a business, whilst also spreading a positive message in the process. Meet the folks from homegrown creative Loka Made, as they highlight the beauty of Malaysia and its people, one inspiring artwork at a time.

When Chong Fei Giap and Audrey Chew first thought of  publishing an artbook back in 2015, they never intended to create a brand. At the time, they ran a studio called Running Snail, which did mostly corporate illustration projects for blue chip companies like Petronas, specializing in artwork with local elements.

Fei Giap had been working on a series of illustrations on the side since 2011, which were inspired by a visit to his father’s hometown in Kuala Pilah, a small town in Negeri Sembilan. The unique artwork combined a Japanese anime art style with scenes of rustic Malaysian landscapes, local architecture and fantasy elements – and it quickly caught the eye of local art enthusiasts and corporate brands. With the support of fans, the pair decided to expand on their passion project by publishing an artbook. 

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“Our initial idea was just to publish the artbook. We were young and crazy; we poured all our savings into it!” Audrey says, adding that they spent about RM40,000 on the project. Since they already had a lot of material and concepts in hand, it felt like a waste not to expand on them, so the duo decided to go the whole hog and create a few more products to sell. Their first merchandise was a series of quirky Malaysian-themed pop-up post cards. 

To launch the book and their new items, Audrey and Fei Giap had the support of Kinokuniya Bookstore. The retail giant was not only willing to put the artbook on their shelves, but also provided them with window display space and a place for them to do the book launch. The rest, as they say, is history.  

Today, Loka Made makes art books, pop-up postcards, notebooks, puzzles and other souvenirs inspired by everyday Malaysian life and culture. The designs are often whimsical and nostalgic, and feature everything from scenes of small-town sundry shops and heritage buildings, to iconic Malaysian landmarks and traditional dishes, sometimes interspersed with fantasy elements.

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The Loka Made team with Audrey (third from left) and Fei Giap (fourth from left). Photo courtesy of Loka Made.

In the brand’s early days, Audrey played a more hands-on role in helping with the illustrations, but has since moved on to a more managerial role. She oversees a team of four artists and one designer, and handles the sales and marketing side of things while Fei Giap spearheads the brand’s creative direction. Although Loka Made has a retail arm, a significant portion of their business involves creating artwork for corporate clients. 

Of course, Rome wasn’t built in a day – and despite its current success, Loka Made was no different. Audrey shares that in the early days, it was very challenging, not only because they were a small indie studio, but also because there were no other companies that had a similar concept of making Malaysian-themed artwork and products for sale. Coming from art backgrounds, the pair had to adapt and learn things quickly on the job. For example, Audrey shares that they actually went door-to-door in order to introduce their products.

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Illo courtesy of Loka Made.

 “We’d go to tourist spots in Penang and Melaka, and pass out samples of our work to shops. Although there was some interest, not many businesses called us back,” Audrey recalls. (This was before the boom of the domestic travel in recent years, which has seen a heightened appreciation for local products and art.) She adds that this was partly the reason why they started Loka Made – to promote what the country has to offer, whether it’s amazing culture, food or scenery.

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The pair’s persistence seems to have paid off. Today, you can find LokaMade products in many local independent bookstores and art stores such as Stickeriffic and Salt X Paper, as well as bigger chains like Kinokuniya and Popular. Aside from their studio-cum-physical store in USJ9 Subang, they also have a shop in Central Market Kuala Lumpur. Items are also available online at lokamade.com. 

The products are affordably priced, with postcards going for as low as RM2 per piece, while the pop-up pieces range between RM10 to RM20. “If we’re going to educate the public as part of our vision, it has to be accessible to everyone.” Audrey says.

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Illustration courtesy of Loka Made.

Just a look at any one of their pieces and it’s easy to see why their designs have captured the hearts of many. They are all painstakingly detailed; and while the fantasy elements are the products of creativity and imagination, a lot of research is also poured into creating each artwork. “We have a catalogue of photos that is this thick,” Audrey spaces her hands apart to illustrate. “They’re sorted according to different themes, time periods.. so for example, if our artist needs to draw a scene from 1960s Malaysia, they’ll have to refer to that catalogue. It helps us to accurately portray the local architecture and subjects in our artwork,” she explains. The team also works with local historians and professors by conducting interviews, like with an upcoming project involving the different Malaysian Chinese clans.

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Tapir Man. Courtesy of Loka Made

To keep things fresh, Loka Made has their own in-house projects each year. Fans who have been following their releases might be familiar with the Tapir Man – a cute character based on the Malaysian tapir, which was conceptualised during Malaysia’s Movement Control Order back in March. There’s also the “Ride MY Wave” series which includes T-shirts, bags, notebooks and customisable Touch N Go cards. The illustration features fantasy elements. The Malayan tiger, our national animal, captains the ‘ship’ that everyone is sailing on and there are people of all races on the boat. You will also spot iconic landmarks such as the Stadthuys in Melaka, and Malaysian wildlife like the orangutan and hornbill. The theme was created in response to the current pandemic, serving as a reminder to fellow Malaysians to stay strong. 

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Cute cat-themed postcards. Courtesy of Loka Made.

“2020 has been full of ups and downs, and we’re hoping to weather this storm together. In the artwork, you will see lots of details which we think people will enjoy looking out for,” Audrey points out. 

Audrey is hopeful for the future, despite the uncertain economic outlook right now. “We had a lot of plans before the pandemic, but we’re still grateful for how the business is doing. But on the bright side, more people are travelling locally – which is what we’ve been promoting as a brand all along. Malaysia has so much to offer. It would be great if more people can see this,” she says.

Support your local business and order online from Loka Made at https://www.lokamade.com/

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My personal haul from their shop. 😛

Note: I did this story for the November issue of Fireflyz, the inflight magazine for Firefly Airlines. This article features a few tweaks and some additional info I wasn’t able to fit in to the story.

Note 2: A big thank you to Audrey for her time and patience in answering all my questions. I truly enjoyed doing the interview 🙂

Help a Girl Out ! 

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The ‘Death’ of the Physical Bookstore? – MPH to Close Multiple Outlets Across Malaysia

While the company has yet to make an official announcement, local bookstore chain MPH seems set to shutter multiple outlets this weekend (June 6, 2020). Netizens have posted photos of clearing out sales and empty shelves in several locations, including MyTOWN Cheras, JB City Square, Kinta City and MYdin MITC Melaka. More are expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.

MPH book store in Alamanda Putrajaya. Photo by Khairul hazim / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

MPH (an acronym for Methodist Publishing House – but this was later changed to ‘Malaysian’ Publishing House) has roots in Singapore, but became a wholly Malaysian-owned company in 2002. At its peak, it had over 29 stores in Malaysia and Singapore.

The current global pandemic is a difficult time for many businesses, including publishing – and we can expect the impacts to stretch into the near future. With less foot traffic and the convenience of online shopping, mome companies are going digital to stay relevant – and this seems to be what MPH is doing. In a statement provided to local news portal SAYS, the MPH group says it is upscaling to a more digital-centric model; hence the closure of non-performing retail outlets and the consolidation of resources. The pandemic may simply have accelerated this change.

For some time now, MPH, as well as some bookstore chains such as Times and Borders, have been struggling to keep afloat. In 2018, MPH closed down their OneUtama outlet, while Borders and Times shuttered their Penang and Citta Mall outlets, respectively. But you know what the surprising thing is? Malaysians are actually quite an avid book-buying bunch (according to this report by Picodi). Why then, is business bad? Is it really because more people are buying e-books, and physical stores are no longer relevant?

This is my perspective as a consumer. 

I spent a lot of time at MPH as a teenager – my mom would ‘drop’ me off for a few hours so I could read books while she went shopping, and I’ve always enjoyed their offerings. But over the years, I find myself frequenting their stores less and less – because I did not find it appealing anymore.

There are several bookstore chains in Malaysia, including MPH and the aforementioned Times and Borders. Borders did pretty well in the early to mid-2000s and expanded quickly, but it too suffered a gradual decline and is now left with only a few stores. But even so, you can’t say that there isn’t a market for books, because brands like Popular, Kinokuniya and Book XCess, are still doing pretty well. Why?

While Popular isn’t my favourite bookstore, I can see the appeal: they offer a vast selection of everything from academic books to fiction and non-fiction in all of Malaysia’s major languages (Malay, English and Chinese). Prices are fairly reasonable, and they have a presence in many malls, making Popular the go-to for the everyday Malaysian. Kinokuniya, a Japanese brand, is on the slightly higher end of the spectrum. This is where you go to if you want to look for more obscure or rarer titles and expensive volumes, or books imported from overseas.

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Finally, Book XCess (above) retails new books that were printed in excess by their publishers –  which is why they’re able to offer them at a much cheaper price. While most of the titles aren’t new, an average book sold at BookXCess costs 1/3 or 1/2 cheaper than regular bookstores. Store experience is another tenet that sets Book XCess apart – they are often cool places to hang out at,  making them a lifestyle destination. (blog post about their branch at Cyberjaya hereAnd then, of course, you have the independent bookstores which cater to a very niche audience, like Tintabudi, Fixi, Silverfish and LitBooks.

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(Photo) Tintabudi at the Zhongshan Building, Kuala Lumpur. 

When you talk about MPH, Borders and Times, however (and this is my personal opinion so I understand that some might not agree), I cannot name anything particularly special. They’re not cheaper, nor do they offer a better variety, nor do they have a particularly outstanding store or customer experience. Perhaps in the early days of the 2000s, they were popular (see what I did there lol), but since then, other brands have taken over (at least in terms of the brick and mortar space) – because MPH has not thought of a way to differentiate themselves from the crowd, and still relies on an old business model that is difficult to sustain (if you’re interested to read more about how the publishing industry works in Malaysia, here’s an insightful article from Eskenstrika). 

I won’t comment too much on the digital side of things, as I rarely buy books online, and unlike with physical stores (where you can see through things like closure/ foot traffic if a business is doing well), I don’t have a gauge as to how well their online book-selling is (although they do claim to be ‘Malaysia’s No.1 online bookstore’). But then again, all of MPH’s competitors are also online, the same brands it finds hard to compete with in the brick and mortar space (Popular, BookXCess, Kino, etc.). So unless their branding and service (delivery, ease of use, customer service) are outstanding, I think the same issues will remain. Of course, if they are going full force into the digital space with innovative solutions and offerings, perhaps they will be able to establish themselves as a leader in that niche (like Bookurve, BookDepository, Amazon).

While E-commerce and digital disruption has certainly forced many businesses to adapt their models to cater to ever-changing consumer demand, this article by CNBC suggests that people are still very much into printed books, and that demand for e-books has tapered off in recent times (due to a complex list of reasons). At the end of the day, I believe physical bookstores will still be here to stay, and that they can still be profitable. Taiwanese book chain Eslite is planning a massive store in Malaysia sometime in 2021, and what company in their right mind would open in a foreign country if the market did not have potential?

 

 

 

 

 

How A Malaysian Resort Company Is Weathering The Coronavirus Pandemic

What with travel and movement restrictions worldwide by the coronavirus pandemic, the hospitality and travel industry is undoubtedly one of the most impacted. But while many hotels struggle to stay afloat and running despite empty rooms and cancelled reservations, one company in Sabah is proving that it pays to diversify.

Formed in 2007 in Kota Kinabalu, Echo Resorts – a family business which owns Gayana Marine Resort, Bunga Raya Island Resort and Borneo Eagle Resort –  is keeping busy amidst the worldwide pandemic. Founded on the principles of family and community values, it has a wide range of interests covering hospitality, environmental conservation and wellness – and while its hotel division is not operating due to global travel restrictions and the Movement Control Order in Malaysia, it’s business as usual for the other divisions.

Organic Food Supply

Its Borneo Eco Fish Farm by Bayu Aquaculture Sdn Bhd and Green-Os organic vegetable farm has seen a rise in orders from consumers and restaurants since the pandemic began. The fish farm rears an assortment of fish and prawns, including the Backcross Grouper Fish and the Echo Grouper, a hybrid produced by back-cross of a male giant grouper and a female hybrid grouper. The farm adopts environmentally friendly practices, including chemical and antibiotic-free organic feed, to ensure product quality and safety.

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Green-Os organic vegetables, locally farmed without the use of pesticides or chemicals, is popular for its variety of organic vegetables grown in healthy, fertile soil created by quality compost and organic fertilizer.

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“As a result of the Movement Control Order and a conscious desire to adopt a healthier lifestyle in the midst of this pandemic, we are seeing increasing delivery orders from the public. We are pleased that the public are recognizing the benefits of consuming natural, wholesome produce,” says Gillian Tan, Echo Resorts’ owner representative.

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The supplies are also delivered to Alu Alu Kitchen, the group’s restaurant located in the city, which was opened with a mission to serve fresh, organic seafood and vegetables from the farms. Its talented Head Chef Ah Keong creates nourishing menus inspired by Chinese and Malaysian influences to bring out the fresh tastiness of the produce untainted by chemical fertilizers and obtained from sustainable sources. According to Tan, home orders placed at Alu Alu Kitchen has also increased significantly since February, with some families placing orders for the whole lockdown period.

Alu Alu-Fresh Prawn & Vegetable dish

Marine Ecology Research Centre – Corals, clams and seahorses

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In the absence of visitors, the group’s environmental conservation arm, the award-winning Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC) attached to Gayana Marine Resort, is devoting more time to research and development of its reef regeneration and giant clam propagation programmes, including caring for the Baby Giant Clam nursery. MERC’s successful efforts in the propagation of seven of the world’s giant clams found in Malaysian waters were recognized by the Malaysia Book of Records. The team has also expanded their R&D to include seahorses which have been overly harvested for supposed medicinal values. The recent births from two male seahorses have provided much excitement and encouragement into the behaviour of seahorses with the hope of increasing the seahorse population in the foreseeable future.

Health and Wellness

Reflecting the increasing current global awareness for health, Klinik Gayana and Gayana Pharma from Echo Resorts’ health and wellness division, are registering a higher demand for its supplements and medical services.

Employee Welfare

To keep employees safe and productive in this difficult time, the company has taken concerted action by providing training programmes, educational courses and encouraging voluntary work.

Tan says, “We understand it may take time for travel to return to a semi-normal state and we have decided that this is the perfect time to go back to basics and reinvest in education and training. It has always been our ethos to give back to the local staff, and this is a wonderful opportunity to take them back to school.”

With the temporary closure of Gayana Marine Resort, Bunga Raya Island Resort and Borneo Eagle Resort, 50 hotel employees are deployed to render support to Green-Os (organic vegetable farm), Borneo Eco Fish Farm by Bayu Aquaculture Sdn and Alu Alu Kitchen – aimed at helping them gain a deeper insight into different areas within the group’s approach.

Besides volunteering to man the three resorts during this lockdown period which meant sacrificing time away from their families, employees are also putting their time to good use by making 800 reusable masks for all ECHO staff.

Tan adds,” Employee welfare and wellbeing remain the very core of our business. No employee has been made redundant. These may be trying times, but it has also revealed the tenacity of our people and it has been beautiful seeing everyone rally together to weather this storm.”

As part of its community outreach during this time, Echo Resorts has also contributed towards 2,000 food packs to affected families in need on Pulau Gaya.

 

 

Change or Be Changed: The Marketing Mantra in Today’s Business World

First published in EFY Magazine Vol.3 2016

Adapt, or lose out. This is the philosophy when it comes to marketing in today’s world, according to Celcom Axiata Berhad chief executive officer Dato Sri Shazalli Ramly. Speaking during the recent Asia Pacific Marketing Congress (Appies), he shared his insights on marketing in a fast-driven, rapidly changing consumer market.

By Eris C

Business today is not like it was twenty, ten, or even five years ago.

Relating how much the landscape has evolved, Shazalli recounted his days while working at Unilever, managing a ‘big change’ from bath soap to shower gel products. Back in the days, the market was 90% bar soap and only 10% gel – the opposite of what it is today. But in today’s world, thanks to rapidly evolving technology, the speed at which consumer trends change is staggering. And for companies to stay on top, they have to be faster and better than ever.

“Many apps are coming up, killing earlier apps. Now (at Celcom Axiata), we deal with app development for about 35 apps at the same time. Back then, I hardly handled the marketing of one shampoo product a month!” he chuckled. He cited some examples of how technological advances have displaced older consumer models over the years.

“Just five years ago, the day before Raya saw some 185mil SMSes sent out. This coming Raya, you’ll be lucky to get 1mil. Things change very quickly,” he elaborated. Another example was vape, which Shazalli pointed out holds 16% of the market share, a significant dent in the tobacco industry. “Back then, nobody would have imagined you can smoke a steep pipe,” he mused.

But were these technologies disruptive? Gel displaced soap, the same way it did with film and digital cameras. New consumer driven apps like Uber are driving some taxi companies into a corner, while crowd sourcing has helped self-made entrepreneurs remove the need for bank loans. Do they spell the death of conventional marketing as we know it?

Gone are the days of waiting for data to be keyed in and taking years for results and trends to come back to you. Today you have data scientists and analysts at hand, and a small window of opportunity as with so many choices, consumers get bored fast before they move on to the next shiny new thing.

“You can only convert them when you’re at the right place at the right time; and in most cases, consumers behave in a completely different way than what you expect them to be,” he said. To lead the charge for change, Shazaly stressed on the importance of good marketing, with the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of a company taking the helm.

Some of the traits that a CMO must have, he opined, was the ability to be dynamic. While acknowledging that tech plays a crucial role in today’s markets, he emphasised that it was equally important to go back to basics.“As a marketer, you have to really understand what your job is about and not get drowned in the latest apps. One should have clarity of vision, and know it better than you know the technology,” he quipped.

A word of advice from the man himself: don’t let ego get the best of you.

“I have 35 years of experience, but learning is synonymous to my name. When you’re agile, you embrace new living better.” He added that he did not look to hire people who claim to be experts, as those are the ‘building blocks of ego’. “I’d rather look for interesting characters who are willing to learn,” he said.

Shazalli believes that as CMOs, it’s a balancing act: being sensitive to unserved customers’ needs, plus being aware of tech trends and how it can help to serve a business. “It’s no longer enough to simply look at a customer’s needs. Marketers and businesses need to respond to things faster than ever before. New products can be replaced instantaneously because tech is made available so quickly,” he said.

Granted, there are still some which combine the best of both: such as the conventional bookstore and Amazon, or patients going to doctors for check-ups whilst monitoring their own progress with Fitbit devices. But Shazalli’s point is clear: it’s sink or swim and for folks who have missed the boat – like Nokia’s inability to provide data plans, which provided an opening for iPhone into the market – it spells bad news.

 

 

 

 

Penang Design Village – First Outlet Mall in Malaysia’s Northern Region

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Avid shoppers and bargain hunters in Penang must feel like Christmas came early to town! The much anticipated Penang Design Village is finally open, and it promises bargain prices on branded goods, all year long. As the first outlet mall in  the Northern Region, DV boasts some 150 shops over 25 acres of space, with brands such as GAP, Sacoor Brothers, Timberland, Superdry, Esprit, Guess, Levi’s and Samsonite among its list of tenants.

The mall is located in the Bandar Cassia district of Batu Kawan, about 40mins away from Penang International airport. Granted, it’s a bit far from the city centre, but since lots of developments are in the pipeline for the area, such as residential homes, condos, offices, an international college, golf course and theme park, we can expect the place to be busy very soon.

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So what makes PDV different? Instead of an enclosed, air-conditioned ‘box’, like most other malls,  DV is designed to maximize the retail experience – with wide walkways, lots of green space and an open-air concept with naturally cooling ventilation systems. In fact, the mall reminds me of the large retail spaces I’ve seen in the US and the UK, like Liverpool One in Liverpool or The Grove in LA. Greenery aside, there are also spots for relaxation, seats for resting and beautiful water features.

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Decorations are up for Christmas! 🙂

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One of the key points of PDV’s design is their eye-catching ‘jewel boxes’, built with steel struts wrapped in Italian perforated fabric. At night, they glow from within with LED lights, casting a soft light resembling precious jewels. Quite a sight to look at! 🙂

The layout is such that it loops around all the shops without some being ‘left out’, as is usually the case with normal shopping malls where shops on certain floors or at the end get less traffic.

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Padini Store had clothes going for super cheap. Some T-shirts were less than RM10! Too bad we didn’t have too much time to go shopping coz we had to attend the launching event. We did drop by BVO to use our vouchers though. Got some pretty mugs for Christmas 🙂

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As of now they don’t have too many F&B outlets yet other than Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Wendy’s, but more are slated to come soon. You know how Malaysians are – we have to have our food anywhere we go.

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Some other facilities visitors can enjoy: 

  • -Shuttle bus from KOMTAR and Gurney Drive to PDV daily
  • -‘Jungle’ playground facilities for the little ones
  • -over 2,500 parking bays, electric charging stations

Brands to look out for: 

  • Guess, Esprit, Banana Republic
  • Cotton On, Bonia, Sembonia
  • Carlo Rino, Brands Outlet, Beryl’s
  • Hush Puppies, Akemiuchi
  • Beauty Scents, The Cosmetics Company
  • Hush Puppy, Obermain, Bratpack

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Got some goodies to take home! 🙂 A lovely soft scarf, a coin purse, and a small bottle of Bvlgari perfume (which smells awesome btw!)

So if you’re looking for good deals on branded or alternative brands, PDV is the place to hunt for them. There will also be loads of activities and performances throughout the month of December and New Year’s. Merry Christmas, and Happy Shopping! 🙂

Upcoming Event: Cafe Malaysia 2016

*first published on efy.com.my on January 6 2016 

Jan 14 – 16 | 10am – 6pm | Matrade Exhibition and Convention Center |

Did you know that Southeast Asia is expected to consume up to 28mil to 30mil bags of coffee by the year 2020? Now that’s a LOT of coffee!

This is due to increasing urbanisation in countries such as Malaysia, which has nurtured a growing ‘café culture’ and a demand for specialty drinks.

Now, coffee lovers are in for a treat next month as Café Malaysia, the country’s first international café equipment, supplies and technology exhibition, will be returning to Kuala Lumpur from Jan 14 to 16 2016.

Held for the second year running by Conference and Exhibitions Management Services (CEMS), the event at Matrade Exhibition and Convention Center, will feature 150 exhibitors from 15 countries and is set to attract some 12,000 visitors.

“We decided to bring Café Malaysia to KL following overwhelming support for our Café Asia show for the past three years in Singapore,” said CEMS group managing director Edward Liu.

“Singapore is a relatively small market, so we’ve always organised shows there in order to cater not only to the Singaporean market, but also for the bigger market of Asean countries,” he added.

“We came to realise that many café owners who came from Malaysia were very interested in establishing an association for specialty coffee suppliers. Hence, the birth of the Malaysian Specialty Coffee Association and subsequently, Café Malaysia,” Liu (left) explained.

Some of Café Malaysia 2016’s highlights include more exhibitors bringing in specialty coffees from different countries, such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Jamaica and South America.

“Vietnam also produces fairly good coffee and Indonesia has its own Luwak coffee. We hope to showcase a wider variety of specialty coffees at our event,” Liu went on.

In addition, there will be a section called Sweets & Bakes Malaysia, to introduce bakers, equipment suppliers and technology in the field of baking and confectionery.

The event will also see the search for Malaysia’s top coffee makers through three championships; namely the Malaysian Barista Championship, Malaysia Latte Art Championship and Malaysia Brewer Cup. The contests are sanctioned by World Coffee Events and the winners will represent Malaysia on the world stage.

“We hope that this will put Malaysia on the world map of the coffee and tea industry, and promote it within the country,” Liu enthused.

Café Malaysia 2015 proved to be a success, with over 8,000 visitors from 27 countries visiting. Liu promises a bigger and better show this year.

“We’re expecting 4,000 trade visitors – people from the café industry, suppliers and café owners, and some 8,000 members of the public,” Liu predicted.

On the coffee industry in Malaysia, Liu said that the outlook was very positive. “The per capita consumption of coffee is very high now in South East Asia, led by countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Cafes are mushrooming. It is a lifestyle,” Liu enthused.

He estimated RM9.4mil in sales to take place. “Exhibitions like this generates business and are big facilitators of the economy. Business is generated not only through sales but through exhibitors and visitors coming in from abroad. They will spend on airfare, hotel accommodation, transport, food and entertainment,” he said.

Consequently, Liu hoped that the event will help to drive the local F&B industry by opening up more job opportunities and avenues for employment.

Café Malaysia 2016 will be running from Jan 14 – 15 from 10am to 6pm (trade visitors only) and Jan 16 from 10am to 5pm (open to the public). Admission is free.

For details, visit http://www.cafe-malaysia.com