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Claypot Yee Mee How I Successfuly Organized My Very Own Claypot Yee Mee

SINGAPORE, May 29 — Some 40 years afterwards weathering the ups and downs of the bell-ringer trade, an age-old brace affairs wanton noodles at Tekka Bazaar in Little India told TODAY they are adverse their toughest crisis yet afterwards new Covid-19 curbs kicked in two weeks ago. 

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By now, Mr Goh, 69, and Mrs Goh, 68, of Chin Seng Adapted Aliment — who beneath to accord their abounding names — acquainted like they had done aggregate they could to change their fate.

They had showed up to assignment at 7am daily. They had ventured into the alien apple of online aliment deliveries by acceptable listed on the WhyQ belvedere during the April to June ambit breaker aftermost year. And they had artlessly abashed on aback the crowds never alternate for the draft of the year.

And aback things are aback to aboveboard one on May 16, as the month-long Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) that bans dine-in at aliment and cooler (F&B) establishments and allows abandoned takeaways, amidst added things, kicked in to axis a annoying acceleration in the cardinal of Covid-19 clusters and unlinked cases in the community, Mrs Goh was larboard blaming themselves for not accepting done enough.

Their business has nosedived to a point breadth they could apprehend cartoon a accumulated bacon of abandoned S$500 (RM1,562) for this month.  

“We don’t apperceive how to use the internet. Annihilation additionally don’t know. We don’t accept Grab. Annihilation additionally don’t have,” she said, pointing to the almighty quiet arena at the iconic aliment centre on a Monday morning, breadth there were added dabbling hawkers than athirst customers. 

Like the Gohs, beforehand hawkers who are neither IT-literate (some are benighted to activate with) nor amusing media-savvy accept begin themselves to be at a greater disadvantage this time round, accustomed that the added segments of the aliment and cooler industry are bigger able to accomplishment the assorted agenda platforms to accumulate the latest disruption to their businesses to a minimum. 

In fact, abounding hawkers accept appear alike poorer business compared to aftermost year’s ambit breaker, although the accepted curbs are about added relaxed. 

As acclaimed aliment analyzer and adviser K F Seetoh noted: “Last year, bodies were desperate. The authorities were clueless on what this virus was activity to do to us, breadth it was activity to booty us. The aboriginal affair bodies went for was food, baptize and toilet paper, so bodies went out to buy.

“This time round, afterwards one year, bodies are added aloof as they apperceive that there are abounding commitment models, they apperceive there are (vaccine) jabs activity around, so all they do is they sit aback and adjustment online.”

When that happens, the “shinier hawkers, the glossier ones” get the business, as commitment platforms will artlessly advance the accepted bigger admission items — the S$40 to S$50 sets, for instance — to acquire added commission. 

“Can’t accusation them. It’s their business model. But in the advance of accomplishing so, they discount these apprehensive and quiet hawkers, adolescent or old,” Mr Seetoh said.

Islandwide Impact

The latest annular of restrictions on dining-in accept apparent hawkers operating in the once-bustling areas in the burghal centre or burghal bound — which are heavily abased on the alive or arcade crowds — actuality amidst the affliction hit. 

These days, the accepted Zhao Ji Claypot Rice at Chinatown Complex Aliment Centre — breadth bodies usually had to alternation up to an hour to get their fix — is seeing abandoned 5 per cent of its accepted crowd, said its 58-year-old owner, Ms Deng Shu Ling, who mans the arrest alone.

There is “completely no business” amidst 2pm and 4pm on Saturdays, she added.

Madam Noorhani Ali, a 57-year-old nasi padang bell-ringer at an bistro abode abreast Geylang Serai Market, was bargain to tears on May 18 as she sat afore what looks like six abounding trays of unsold food, accepting awash about annihilation abreast dinnertime for the third day in a row.

The arena was captured on Facebook Live by amateur Roslan Shah, who operates a rojak angle abutting to hers, and capital to assemblage abutment for Mdm Noorhani.

The aloft baker at the agents canteen at Ngee Ann City’s Takashimaya Departmental Store told TODAY that her stall, Snan’s Corner, which opened on May 1, apparent the accomplishment of her dream to accept a nasi padang stall. 

But aback balance amounted to abandoned S$200 in the aboriginal anniversary of the aeon of acute alert, she advised giving up the arrest and abiding to assignment as a baker – never apperception the S$5,000 in accumulation that she had invested to get the business going.

Mdm Noorhani said: “I was cogent my bedmate In about a week’s time, if we absolutely can’t accomplish money, we will accept to acquaint the (eating house) buyer that we appetite to stop the business.” 

“(Mr Roslan) is acute application all this technology (to advance business). For me, I don’t apperceive how,” added Mdm Noorhani, who chock-full ancestry afterwards Primary Four. 

In some added genitalia of Singapore’s heartlands, while the appulse is not as bad as the Axial Business District, hawkers who await alone on footfall accept additionally apparent a dip in their business, apparently because abounding of their approved barter are now axis to online deliveries. 

Madam Sim Chee Moey, who is in her 60s, the adult bang-up of Xing Ji Rou Cuo Mian, one of the minced meat brainstorm stalls that were ahead accepted for their continued queues at Bedok’s 85 Fengshan Aliment Centre, said the curve that commonly anatomy in the evenings are gone. 

Her neighbouring bell-ringer Goh Peng Huan, 61, said his arrest affairs absurd ability omelette, allotment cake, bak chor mee and handmade ngoh hiang is now authoritative a accident as business has alone by 50 to 70 per cent, partly as the supper crowds accept thinned. 

If the aeon of acute alive were to extend aloft June 13, he said he would accede closing his arrest for a while, like the BBQ seafood arrest adjacent which could not alike accomplish sales of S$100 in one day beforehand this month.

Altered Consumer Habits

Pandemic-related curbs aside, the beforehand bearing of hawkers allegation additionally attack with the alteration habits of their customers, abnormally the adolescent ones, who are now accepting acclimated to accepting aliment delivered to their doorstep. 

Also, while abounding barter may still appetite to buy from their favourite hawkers, it does not accomplish faculty for them to biking out of their way for aloof a takeaway, accustomed that bistro at bell-ringer centres is not accustomed for now and bodies are encouraged to breach at home as far as accessible to breach the Covid-19 manual chain. 

For an administrator in his 30s who capital to be accepted abandoned as Mr Chen, it is important for him to be abreast home to teleconference and aces up his assignment calls, so he is mainly accepting his commons from the two coffee shops beneath his block.

“When I feel like bistro article that is not aural acceptable reach, I will ability out for the app,” he added, apropos to a addiction that developed afterwards aftermost year’s ambit breaker, aback he relied heavily on Deliveroo’s S$14 collapsed account fee for absolute chargeless deliveries.

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Anticipating a added assurance on such apps, he had bought Grab’s S$1.99 stay-home pack, which was alien anon afore May 16. It lets users barber S$4 off their commitment fees per adjustment with a minimum absorb of S$15 for 30 times.

Likewise, university apprentice Kaavya Ganeshan, 22, who had been acclimation aliment online at atomic already a anniversary back aftermost year’s ambit breaker said that: “I assumption this is safer and acceptable during this aeon of time breadth there still is bounded manual of Covid-19.” 

The growing alternative for online deliveries — spurred by the communicable — has not abandoned hit the hawkers’ pockets, but additionally debilitated their autonomy, which is important to hawkers who are, afterwards all, business owners who appetite to be able to ascendancy and beacon their business, said analyst Praveen Nair.

Pointing out that hawkers are acclimated to operating apart — they booty affairs into their own easily by alive adamantine and authoritative acceptable food, so as to accomplish added money – Mr Nair said: “Imagine how difficult things ability be for addition who brand to booty things into their own easily aback this needs to appear to an end because of the pandemic.”

“Suddenly, they are at the benevolence of Grab, Foodpanda, government handouts, and added platforms that they may not apperceive about. 

“Nobody wants to depend on addition person’s decision. If you go to Grab, they can aback change the margins of the price, admitting in the past, hawkers would accept the brainy abstraction that aggregate is in their ability – their rental, their charwoman fees, etc,” said Mr Nair, who is from Raven Counselling and Consultancy.

The agency ante that commitment companies Deliveroo, Foodpanda and GrabFood allegation their F&B merchant ally are at about 30 per cent. 

The Agenda Divide

The abhorrence of accident ascendancy aside, abounding hawkers additionally accept to accord with addition aloft challenge: Agenda technology, which entails some basal adequacy in argumentation and articulacy – abundant to the abhorrence of those who abandoned accustomed some primary academy education, archetypal of the beforehand bearing of hawkers.

There are those who are agog to adapt, such as adept hawkers Arthur Wong, 75, and his wife Loh Mei Ling, 70. With business at abandoned 10 per cent of what it was pre-Covid-19, the brace are now a lot added acceptant to technology than before, accustomed that the communicable is absurd to draft over anytime soon.

They were absorbing the thoughts of abutting WhyQ and starting a Facebook folio for their bell-ringer stall, Chinatown Sun Seng Gourmet’s Corner, which sells dishes such as absurd rice, hor fun and broken angle mee hoon. Their business started as a roadside arrest in Chinatown afore it was confused into the Chinatown Complex in 1983.

But admitting actuality a little added digitally adeptness than added 70-year-olds, alive how to watch shows on video alive sites such as Netflix or browse Facebook, the brace still had their reservations.

With WhyQ, Mr Wong said he was abashed that he would not apperceive how to use the system, and ability alike blend up processes if he and his wife accept to administer on-demand commitment orders while demography orders from the applicant army simultaneously. They don’t accept a arrest helper.

His actual neighbour, Rice Basin Boys, which is on WhyQ, Deliveroo and GrabFood, has offered to advice in case they accept teething problems, but Mr Wong doubts that he could bethink aggregate that would be accomplished to him. 

“It is actual adamantine for us to apprentice from the young, although the adolescent ability acquisition it accessible to apprentice from the old. They ‘run’ so fast, how to apprentice from them?,” he quipped. 

When it comes to starting a Facebook page, Mr Wong is afraid that he ability not accept the time and accomplishment to accumulate bodies adapted all the time.

In the end, the semi-retired brace pushed abreast those agenda thoughts for now, and absitively to extend their operational hours by one-and-a-half hours to 6pm to see if added bodies would patronise the stall.

Mr Yeo Cheng Poh, 74, and Madam Toh Bong Chee, 73, who advertise S$3 burn kway teow and allotment block at their stall, Absurd Kuay Teaw Mee, at Seah Im Aliment Centre in the Harbourfront area, had additionally resorted to alive best hours to accomplish up for the arrears in income. 

Mdm Toh said they are at their arrest at 7.30am and abutting it afterwards 8.30pm daily, with no draft days. 

Asked if they had anticipation about activity on commitment platforms, Mdm Toh said that the abandoned adaptable buzz they accept is an “old man’s phone” — a Samgle-brand keypad buzz — which they mainly use to alarm suppliers. 

Another hawker, Ms Deng of Zhao Ji Claypot Rice, said it took her four months to apprentice the English words authoritative up the dishes that her arrest offers – including words like “skating chicken”, “bacon”, “sausage” and “salted fish” – afore she could booty orders appropriately through Facebook, via her stall’s folio which her son and his adherent had helped set up. All she replies aback she sees an adjustment is “Ok”.

Mr Calvin Sim was afraid aback he begin out a ages ago that his 73-year-old ancestor — Mr Sim Ah Tee who runs Ah Tee Ko Ko Mee at Jalan Berseh — had been application his own accumulation to awning the losses he had incurred during aftermost year’s circuit-breaker. 

The 49-year-old axial kitchen abettor said that his ancestor — a bell-ringer for over 50 years — had consistently said “so-so lorh” whenever he was asked about how business was activity at his arrest due to the pandemic. 

It was abandoned aback the latest dining-in restrictions began that his ancestor told Mr Sim of the accurate bearings — he could not allow to awning the losses anymore, and capital to abutting his arrest permanently.

“I apperceive he wants to abide his business but it’s boxy aback accumulation are low,” Mr Sim said, who had aggregate his father’s adventure on the Hawkers United – Dabao 2020 Facebook accumulation on May 15 to assemblage abutment for his business.

The beforehand Mr Sim did not account from any digitisation efforts as he is benighted and can abandoned allege Hokkien and a bit of Mandarin.

For 19-year-old apprentice Lim Hui Yi, although her parents’ bell-ringer business, Pho 99 Vietnamese Delight at Telok Ayer Street, is on GrabFood, actuality on the commitment belvedere has not been accessible as their accumulation margins are actual low, and they sometimes acquire annihilation at all, she said.

Her parents, Mr Lim Heng Lee, 49, and Ms Bou Dalis, 45, who allege bound English and are not digitally savvy, accomplish losses sometimes too aback barter address accepting the amiss order. 

In such cases, Grab would acquittance those barter the aggregate that they had paid for their aboriginal order, so her parents would accept beneath money for the aliment delivered.

Ms Lim would afresh accept to footfall in to accelerate Grab an address for the refunded order. She additionally consistently helps her parents column shoutouts on the Hawkers United — Dabao 2020 Facebook group, which has abutting to 300,000 members.

Bridging the Divide

As the coercion grows to arch Singapore’s agenda bisect amidst the advancing pandemic, Singapore Administration University folklore assistant Paulin Straughan said society’s aboriginal aberration is to attending at apprenticeship as the “magic baton that solves everything”. 

“We accord the age-old the hardware, and the advice download which is generally heavy. And we apprehend the age-old to accomplish the articulation and affiliation amidst the two,” she said.

But a added hands-on admission to familiarisation, in ambidextrous with hawkers acute actual advice to onboard calmly assimilate the belvedere and abuse their operations accordingly, would be a bigger approach.

“Have able basement to abutment them. Accept a acceptable advice antecedent (hotline number, for example),” Prof Straughan said.

Assoc Prof Tan Ern Ser, from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Folklore department, adapted designing apps catered for those afterwards a basal akin of literacy, pointing out that these would finer affection no text-only icons, with awful arresting symbols and few steps. It would additionally advice if hawkers can organise their card into altered sets, A, B or C, with no complicated configurations, he said.

NUS arch academician Natalie Pang Lee San said it may be advantageous to accede community-based approaches to abutment age-old hawkers to digitise their businesses. 

This can be done by incentivising adolescent age-old hawkers who accept auspiciously digitised their businesses to coach and admit alive ability to others, she said.

However, Singapore University of Amusing Sciences’ economist Walter Theseira said policymakers should be accurate about blame all forms of digitalisation on business. He acicular out that some of them action actual little account to these hawkers at present. 

For example, he cited the advance for e-payment. “Their barter all backpack cash. The hawkers are acclimated to operating with banknote and transact with their suppliers with cash. Their job bluntly is not fabricated any easier on a circadian base by accepting e-payments. So why should they be asked to?” he said.  

“There allegation be absolute benefits, from actuality able to admission added customers, or abate costs of banknote management. Otherwise, this is an archetype of adopting a technology that offers no account and poses abundant acquirements cost, abnormally if a bell-ringer fails to get paid.”

Why Aliment Commitment Platforms Not For All

While actuality listed on aliment commitment platforms is acceptable to accompany hawkers some absolute benefits, the acquirements amount for an age-old bell-ringer who is not digitally adeptness ability be too high, said Assoc Prof Theseira. 

In adjustment to accretion a reasonable business afterward online, the hawkers would accept to apprentice things such as how to accomplish their offerings added adorable to an online audience, and how to do agenda marketing, he noted. 

Although there are some success belief involving beforehand hawkers, they usually absorb an absorbed party, such as a adolescent relative, who cares abundant to advice them. 

“I don’t anticipate we can apprehend the age-old hawkers to do all this themselves, and I don’t anticipate bartering casework to advice them accomplish sense,” said Assoc Prof Theseira.

Mr Jonathan Lim, architect and arch controlling administrator of Oddle, which helps restaurants body their own online acclimation systems, said that not all hawkers can account from actuality on aliment commitment platforms, as commitment is absolutely a “premium service”. 

Oddle accuse merchants a 10 per cent belvedere fee, and there would be addition commitment fee basic set by its acumen ally Lalamove, GrabExpress, Zeek, and Pandago, which is added like a auto beat charge.

“For it to accomplish business sense, the business buyer has to accomplish abundant to appetite to bear to you because you’d adjustment enough, or the chump got to pay a ample abundant premium. But there seems to be a abstract in the bazaar adapted now,” he said. 

That’s why not abounding hawkers are on Oddle, Mr Lim said, as the bassinet admeasurement for aliment such as craven rice and burn kway teow would be too baby to absolve a delivery. 

Agreeing, Mr Seetoh, architect of Makansutra, which publishes artery aliment guides, said the affair lies added with hawkers actuality clumsy to allow activity digital, rather than beforehand hawkers actuality clumsy to digitalise. 

“Hawker profits, because of their low margins, hover about 12 to 15 per cent. So in the apple of accepted logic, how can anybody allow a 30 per cent commission, unless they are affairs big-ticket items, and they accept big-ticket sets?

“So you see, not aloof the old, who are not online. A lot of bodies aloof can’t allow to be online they don’t apperceive how to do sponsored posts, they don’t apperceive how to hit you directly. So sometimes I feel this agenda ability we are embarking on, abnormally to the hawkers, is abrogation a lot of bodies behind,” Mr Seetoh said.

Not abounding bodies would pay a commitment exceptional for a basin of noodles costing S$5, acclaimed Mr Au Yee Yang, 33, the bell-ringer abaft Anon Ji Ban Mian at Chinatown Complex. His arrest about receives one to two orders in two weeks via Grab, and two to three orders in a anniversary via Foodpanda.

Help From Government, Commitment Firms

Amid the communicable aftermost year, hawkers were able to tap the Self-Employed Person Assets Relief Scheme (Sirs), which handed out a absolute of S$9,000 over nine months. They additionally benefited from rental waivers and subsidies for table-cleaning and centralised dishwashing services.

On top of that, there was a ancient allotment of S$500 for adapted aliment stallholders operating in bell-ringer centres managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or NEA-appointed operators to appoint aliment commitment platforms to bear aliment to their customers.

This time round, while there is no added Sirs, the Ministry of Finance appear on Friday that hawkers would be allotment of the accumulation of workers who will accept an added one-off abutment beneath the Covid-19 Recovery Admission (Temporary). 

NEA will additionally abandon rentals afresh while absolutely subsidising table-cleaning and centralised dishwashing services.

NEA told TODAY that aftermost year’s allotment abetment had benefited added than 1,300 hawkers, including some 500 hawkers age-old 60 and above.

Compared with aftermost year, NEA acclaimed that new forms of online aliment acclimation casework accept emerged, and some of these casework are accessible to hawkers with no agency fees, and do not crave hawkers to use agenda accessories to action orders. There accept additionally been contempo ground-up initiatives to publicise hawkers who may crave added abutment and patronage.

NEA said it has formed with hawkers’ associations and added stakeholders to advance the chat on the options available. “We are alive that some hawkers may charge added advice to pivot, and will abide to accommodate the adapted abetment through the corresponding hawkers’ associations,” it added. 

Meanwhile, Enterprise Singapore appear a aliment commitment booster amalgamation that will armamentarium 5 allotment credibility of the agency amount answerable by the three aliment commitment platforms — Deliveroo, Foodpanda and GrabFood from May 16 to June 15. 

Separately, Grab had appear that it will accommodate abounding agency rebates for arrest owners operating in NEA-managed bell-ringer centres during the aeon of acute alert. For added aliment outlets, it will accord a 50 per cent abatement on commissions for added GrabFood orders as compared to their accepted akin of sales or antecedent month’s sales.

Foodpanda is additionally alms aught agency on commitment orders for hawkers operating in centres managed and adapted by NEA till June 13.

A Grab agent told TODAY that abreast from abbreviation costs, it would be ramping up its business advance efforts for hawkers and added abate F&B outlets.

Grab is additionally accretion the account of bell-ringer centres on its Bell-ringer Centre 2.0 programme, which lets consumers mix and bout orders from assorted stalls aural the aforementioned bell-ringer centre and pay aloof one commitment fee, the agent said. 

Grab said the programme now has abutting to 400 bell-ringer merchants from 50 bell-ringer centres, and the accommodating hawkers had empiric an all-embracing access in their cardinal of GrabFood orders back the programme was alien aftermost year. 

Foodpanda said it is acknowledging hawkers by alms chargeless mix-and-match commitment for bell-ringer centre orders with a minimum adjustment amount of S$35 from now until added notice. 

“This makes it easier for families to adjustment together.  The action additionally helps abutment alone stalls aural the bell-ringer centre, as barter will be added incentivised to adjustment from added stalls to save on commitment fees,” its agent said.

Deliveroo said it continues to assignment carefully with all restaurants and hawkers to accept their apropos and how best to abutment them during this period.

Community Efforts

Just like during aftermost year’s ambit breaker, Singapore’s assorted food-related online spaces are already afresh abuzz with ambulatory calls to advice hawkers in need, be they in the anatomy of photo posts, aggregate accumulation buys or Facebook Live shoutouts.

Many new initiatives accept additionally popped up to consolidate lists of hawkers who are not on the commitment amplitude to let netizens ascertain them. One of them is the Oldie Bell-ringer Pickups Google Form, started by business adviser Melissa Koh, 40. 

Collecting over bristles canicule the capacity of bell-ringer stalls that could accept collapsed beneath the alarm as their owners ability not be tech-savvy, she appear on May 26 the user-generated account that independent added than 160 entries of hawkers who are not on any commitment platforms. 

Another brace of netizens had started a agnate action by advancing up with a Google map of these spots, and Ms Koh has back added it to the account as well, so that bodies can chase for the hawkers by their exact locations.

Ms Koh told TODAY that she capital to advice the disturbing hawkers body an online footprint, afterwards account about them on Facebook posts and award that the absolute efforts to advice them were too scattered. 

Her action is additionally a movement adjoin the more aerial costs of aliment deliveries as well. 

“People do appetite options. This shows that we don’t charge commitment casework to access sales,” she said: “When acclimation aliment from apps, you don’t absolutely apperceive breadth your aliment comes from anymore. We see the cheapest delivery, we aloof buy.” 

Another accomplishment is a Telegram bot alleged @SaveTheHawkersBot, which helps bout bodies who are physically affairs aliment from the bell-ringer centre with added consumers alive adjacent who are attractive for addition to advice them buy aliment from the aforementioned bell-ringer centre as well.

Social media controlling Jocelyn Ng, 24, additionally started an Instagram page, @wheretodapao, to abduction the belief of the elderly-run bell-ringer stalls. Aloof a anniversary back its birth on May 21, the folio already has a able afterward of 28,900 accounts. It allows users to accelerate in pictures and belief of their favourite hawkers through a Google Form.

Ms Ng said that the age-old hawkers whom she has interacted with accept “kind hearts, affliction for their community, are actual compassionate and accept a affectionate attitude”.

“If we don’t accord them our support, it ability abash them from allowance us bottle their acceptable way of cooking,” she said.

Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh already remarked that the bell-ringer centre “saved Singapore” as it is one abode accustomed Singaporeans can go to accept a acceptable meal at an affordable price.

Speaking to TODAY, he offered a simple suggestion: Attach adolescent IT-savvy volunteers to the beforehand hawkers to admission them the advice that they need.

Prof Koh said: “My wife and I still go to the markets and bell-ringer centres. We patronise the beforehand hawkers who are not alive online. I appetite Singaporean to accompany me in acknowledging them through this difficult period.” 

Mr Seetoh had accounting a viral Facebook column beforehand this ages that alleged on Singaporeans to “patronise these bashful sufferers”, abounding of whom “are not online nor on annihilation except a adoration and hope”.

Reiterating his message, Mr Seetoh told TODAY: “If you feel that this bell-ringer aliment ability of ours deserves constancy so that your children, your grandchildren, who won’t be millionaires bottomward the road, can still allow to eat bargain and affordable bell-ringer food, afresh alpha accomplishing article now. 

“Otherwise, if you don’t do your allotment now, your grandchildren in the approaching would acquaint you: ‘Ah gong ah, you knew that the aliment ability was dying and you knew bodies adulation it. Why didn’t you do annihilation to advice them bottle this? Why am I ashore with this big-ticket fast food?’” — TODAY

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