KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 23 — Think of all the times you’ve stopped by the roadside to tapau from a hawker: A packet of iced soy bean milk, some freshly steamed corn, or even some keropok that costs about RM1.50 and you’re digging through your pockets for loose change.
In future, you might be able to spare yourself and the seller precious time by using a card. While some street vendors have already started offering cashless payments since Malaysia moved into the recovery movement control order, a large number of hawkers and petty traders nationwide has yet to pivot towards digital commerce.
That could change if a new digital system for small business owners being worked on by the Hawkers and Petty Traders Association gets the government’s green light.
Its president Datuk Seri Rosli Sulaiman told Malay Mail that the new system will function as a digitised platform to spur business activities and at the same time organise financial spending for all hawkers and petty traders nationwide.
“With this system, it will help hawkers and petty traders keep up with the digitised ways of running businesses.
“Many are affected by the pandemic and have lost their jobs and businesses. We hope that this new system can help aid those who are severely affected,” he said in a recent phone interview.
Among the unique traits of the system is its collaboration with Aeon Credit Service Malaysia and other partners such as Social Security Organisation (Socso) and Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF).
“Before this, many hawkers and petty traders don’t have Socso and EPF. If this system is approved by the government, hawkers and petty traders can finally be protected by Socso and EPF,” Rosli said.
He said the current cashless payment platforms like Touch ‘n Go do not allow immediate cashout, and as such is not ideal for small-time business owners who are in dire need of cash.
“With this system, cashout is immediate. At the same time, the system that comes in a card form can store reward points when used for shopping or accumulate commission for those who use it for their businesses.
“We are also looking at making this a permanent facility for all hawkers and petty traders registered with respective local councils nationwide,” he said.
According to Rosli, the association will be meeting with the Entrepreneur Development and Cooperative Ministry to present its idea soon.
“The card will be free of charge for all hawkers and petty traders as long as they are registered with the local council in respective states.
“As for newly registered business owners, they too will automatically be presented with a card. This card is also available to the public and will also be free of charge.
“If the ministry approves, we are hoping they will launch the card as a collaborative effort,” he said.
Rosli added that the system was inspired by the economic downturn in the country after the Covid-19 outbreak happened in March which forced many hawkers and petty traders out of business.
“We hope that this new system can help them regenerate income or for some restart businesses,” he said.
Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan said City Hall is in the midst of bringing small business owners and financial institutions like Maybank together to get more people onboard with contactless payment systems as part of its infrastructure changes with the onset of Covid-19.
“There will be a meeting soon with the Hawkers and Petty Traders Association of Malaysia and banks to further discuss how to encourage more to utilise the cashless payment system,” he told Malay Mail when contacted last week.
Cashless platforms were introduced in January by the then Pakatan Harapan government as a pivot towards digital commerce, itself driven by the move towards greater efficiency and transparency as an anti-corruption machinery.
The government kickstarted the initiative with a complementary RM30 e-wallet spending money for all Malaysians to encourage more people to adopt cashfree payments.
Before the Covid-19 outbreak however, the pace had been rather slow. Some small businesses like hawkers appeared less than keen, fearing the imposition of additional fees on the merchants to obtain payment platforms.
Since the outbreak and the lockdown in March, many businesses are adapting to digitisation in a swim or sink situation.