7 hawker centres to be added to DBS group-buy scheme to boost income of pandemic-hit hawkers

Staff from DBS moving boxes of group-buy meals, to be delivered to front-liners at Changi General Hospital, at The Marketplace@58 on Dec 14, 2021. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
DPM Heng Swee Keat visiting stallholders at The Marketplace@58, on Dec 14, 2021. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Seven more hawker centres around the island will be added to a programme to help boost the income of pandemic-hit hawkers and build their online presence, DBS announced on Tuesday (Dec 14).

This is up from the three existing hawker centres under the bank's Adopt-a-Hawker Centre programme, which kicked off with Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market and Food Centre on Sept 4.

This was followed by Chinatown Complex in October, and The Marketplace @ 58 along New Upper Changi Road earlier this month. The programme involves frequent bulk buys made by the bank.

The scaling up of the programme was announced in tandem with a community event at The Marketplace @ 58 on Tuesday, where 500 meals were bought in bulk from eight hawker stalls and then packed to be distributed to front-line workers at the nearby Changi General Hospital.

The event was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is an MP and grassroots adviser of East Coast GRC. He was joined by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment; Mr Tan Kiat How, Minister of State for Communications and Information and National Development; as well as Mr Shee Tse Koon, DBS Singapore country head. They helped to pack some of the boxes that would be delivered on Tuesday.

Stall holders in the first three hawker centres under the programme have already seen earnings improve by 15 to 30 per cent, said DBS.

This was bolstered by group buys by the bank, including more than $115,000 raised by bank employees to purchase 15,000 hawker meals over a three-month period. The meals went to beneficiaries such as front-line workers in hospitals, migrant workers and families in need.

Only two weeks into the programme, Madam Julina Ahmad, who is the owner of Juliecious' kitchen at The Marketplace @ 58, has already seen business improve. The stall sells food items like lontong, mee siam and mee rebus.

Madam Julina, who is in her late 40s, said: "Business has already gone up 10 to 15 per cent. Before that, business was very bad because only two people were allowed (to dine at a time), we had to do mostly takeaways and customers didn't want to come in because of the additional SafeEntry requirements."

As part of the scheme, DBS will also help stall owners grow their business presence on social media and other online platforms. This is in line with efforts by the Alliance for Action on Online Ordering for Hawkers to help such businesses go digital.

Mr Chua Kim Huat, who owns Jin Fa Traditional Chicken Rice at Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market and Food Centre, found the switch to digital payments "more convenient and efficient".

DBS PayLah!-enabled QR code payments now make up about 25 per cent of his daily sales, up from 5 per cent before the pandemic.

"I don't have to collect, count and return dollar notes or coins (to customers). I also carry less cash and no longer have to go to the bank as frequently to deposit daily collections."

DBS' Mr Shee noted that despite a trend of increased adoption of online platforms, many hawkers still rely significantly on sales from walk-in customers.

"By scaling (up) our Adopt-a-Hawker Centre initiative, we seek to help more hawkers grow their business through digitalisation and commercial group buys," he said.

"It is our hope that by preparing them for life beyond the pandemic, we can enhance the vibrancy of the hawker culture which is an integral part of our way of life in Singapore."

DPM Heng Swee Keat, Dr Amy Khor (in floral dress) and Mr Tan Kiat How (in white shirt), packing meal packs in boxes, to be delivered to front-liners at Changi General Hospital. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

DPM Heng said it was heartening to see such ground-up efforts to help hawkers gain traction.

 

He said: "The strong collaboration between the various stakeholders will help our hawkers overcome the challenges faced and emerge stronger from the pandemic. I hope this spirit of partnership will inspire more people towards more positive action and impact."

The event also saw the launch of a virtual mobile game within the DBS PayLah! app called Ultimate Hawker, where players can participate from anywhere in Singapore and try their hand at being a hawker to serve up meals such as Hokkien mee, prata and chicken rice.

The game, which is available till Jan 5, has prizes and cash rewards totalling $50,000.

ST PHOTOS: KEVIN LIM

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