CBD hawkers to get much-needed income boost through new group-buy scheme

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah speaking to a hawker at Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market and Food Centre. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Hawkers in the Central Business District will get a much-needed income boost under a new pilot scheme that aims to channel business to stalls, even as meals are donated to a good cause.

The Adopt-a-Hawker Centre programme by DBS Bank was launched at Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market and Food Centre on Saturday morning (Sept 4), where 600 meals - including nasi lemak and chicken rice - were packed for delivery to the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) campus.

They were distributed to front-line staff at SGH and Outram Community Hospital, as well as workers at an SGH construction site.

The scheme involves weekly bulk buys sponsored by DBS, and is expected to increase participating stall owners' earnings by at least 10 per cent.

It will be expanded to other hawker centres in the area in the coming weeks, as these have been hard hit by the thinning CBD office worker crowds amid the nationwide shift to remote working.

Apart from front-line workers, the food will also go to needy households, migrant workers and other charity groups.

Mr Muhammad Danial Abdul Karim, who runs Nasi Lemak Singapura, sees it as a win-win arrangement for both hawkers and customers.

"Both parties are happy. The one that is buying is charged normal price, and the one that is selling earns normal price," he said. "Delivery apps mark up the prices, so customers pay more and I earn less."

He sells about 60 to 70 packets of nasi lemak daily, although this can drop by more than half during low periods - such as during the phase two (heightened alert) period when strict safe distancing measures were in place.

Mr Chua Kim Huat, who works at Jin Fa Traditional Hainanese Chicken Rice, said: "In the afternoon, we used to get the office crowd. But now, that has dropped by half."

He hopes the new programme will widen the store's customer base.

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

"This is a heritage we're all very proud of," said DBS Singapore country head Shee Tse Koon. "So we want to leverage our huge customer base and our leadership in the digital space, in order to let these hawkers increase their discoverability online."

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah, who was also at the launch event, spoke of how the new pilot programme will fit into the broader push to channel customers to hawker centres.

The current restrictions on dining at hawker centres mean that office workers are likely to order takeaways, even after they have returned to the workplace, said Ms Indranee, who is also an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC.

"The group buy will make a lot of sense - if you're working in an office, you can buy for employees, make an order for 100 or 200 and it's delivered," she added.

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