EMPRETECOS BUSINESS SURVIVAL 'GAME-ON' DURING COVID-19 AND BEYOND
Inspiring Entrepreneurship - The vision of Empretec, a flagship capacity-building programme of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) for the promotion of entrepreneurship and micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) to facilitate sustainable development and inclusive growth.
The Zoom event was focused around a lively conversation of how 4 women entrepreneurs from different sectors upped their game to survive and thrive during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.
Olivia Quah, Co-Founder of Asian Integrated Medical Sdn Bhd (AIM Healthcare) was invited to be one of the panelists to share her input.
The founder of AIM is Dr Kong Why Hong, a qualified medical doctor by profession and a licensed TCM practitioner, who has vast knowledge and experience in the field of western and holistic medicine. His ambition is to bridge the gap between conventional and complementary medicine, taking the best from the east and the west to give his patients a holistic treatment. Apart from the operations of both the GP and the TCM clinics, we also manage a social enterprise senior care centre and distribution of medical equipment to pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals. Our e-commerce platform - www.iElder.Asia focuses on the care and needs of the elderly. We assist the elderly to integrate into their retirement life by introducing innovative medical home care products and gadgets. We are also a licensed and KKM MDA approved company.
"How did I start iElder? My aged parents used to live on their own. One afternoon, my mother had a fall whilst in the toilet. This incident made me realise the importance of independent living and mobility as we retire. We sourced for good quality aged care products beneficial for elderly parents to age gracefully at home. Healthy Ageing and Ageing in Place is our mission for iElder.Asia.
We are now facing unforeseen times with the global pandemic. Some people would say that only war times rival with the tough conditions currently going on for the survival of SMEs. What is your receipt to keep your business fit during this difficult period?
Don’t be greedy is what I would say. Be moderate and calculate the risks before venturing into any type of new businesses. Never go into the business blindly.
Medical supply is being considered as a recession proof industry. We cater for clients who are discharged from hospitals and who need care products urgently. We used to supply masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers to nursing homes before the pandemic. The onset of the pandemic saw many people and companies not involved in the medical supply business venturing into this area to sell pandemic related products. For example – overnight they wanted to be importers and exporters of masks and gloves and went into being distributors blindly and ultimately incurred major losses. I will not involve myself in projects I’m unfamiliar with as I have seen many people get burned and incur losses due to price fluctuations and fluid demand & supply.
During the Covid-19 pandemic we carried out a lot of CSR programmes.
We are group volunteers consisting of Geriatrics, old folks home operators, NGO associations and private companies who are willing to give helping hand to raise funds and distribute essentials to those in need.
iElder is among one of the organizations to join the volunteering group in providing essential goods to residential aged care operators.
The sales of oxygen concentrators peaked this year, where the supply could not keep up with the demand. Many non-covid patients bought it to keep for emergency usage and many healthcare professionals bought it during that period. One of the customers who is a medical doctor introduced me to lots of customers. I asked him about his reason for purchasing it. He told me that senior population will be the last group to receive aid, priority will usually be given to younger population. This triggered me to start a CSR program to give free rental of oxygen concentrators to seniors at Senior Care Centres / Nursing homes.
Has Empretec and its competencies played a role in this regard?
Goal setting: This triggered me that Ageing in Place is important, I just did not want to supply products to customers only. I wanted to provide solutions for the ageing population and providing home modification services to make a safe place for our senior parents to live comfortably.
I always adopt this entrepreneurial competency of "Demand for efficiency and quality". This requires us to find ways to do things better, faster, and cheaper, acts to do things that meet or exceed standards of excellence. Develop and use procedures to ensure that work is completed on time and that work meets agreed upon standards and quality.
There are 10 Personal Entrepreneurial Competencies, which form the basis of the Empretec Training Workshop. These 10 competencies are:
Opportunity-seeking and initiative-Entrepreneurs seek opportunities and take the initiative to transform them into business situations.
Persistence-When most people tend to abandon an activity, successful entrepreneurs stick with it.
Commitment-Entrepreneurs keep their promises, no matter how great the personal sacrifice.
Demand for efficiency and quality-Entrepreneurs try to do something better, faster, or cheaper.
Taking calculated risks-Taking calculated risks is one of the primary concepts in entrepreneurship.
Goal setting-This is the most important competency because none of the rest will function without it. Entrepreneurs set goals and objectives which are meaningful and challenging.
Information seeking-Entrepreneurs gather information about their clients, suppliers, technology, and opportunities.
Systematic planning and monitoring-Systematic behaviour means acting in a logical way. Planning is deciding what to do. Monitoring means checking.
Persuasion and networking-Entrepreneurs influence other people to follow them or do something for them.
Independence and self-confidence-Entrepreneurs have a quiet self-assurance in their capability or potential to do something.
What opportunities would you encourage other SME owners to grab now?
To continue with online presence to showcase the products and service. People are already used to online purchasing as the online business has been flourishing during the pandemic. Once the pandemic eventually gets over, people will continue with online purchasing. We need to adopt digitising too.
What advice would you give other micro and SME owners who are still struggling during this period?
- To seek for government grants /funding
- To identify blue ocean in your own industry
- To bring your business online to have more business exposure
- To sharpen/upgrade your business skill set
- To join NAWEM for networking