Coronavirus: Wet market stalls go online to accommodate shoppers during circuit breaker

Mr Mohamed Mustafa Shahul Hamid selling meat on Facebook Live in Tekka Market on May 3, 2020.
Mr Mohamed Mustafa Shahul Hamid selling meat on Facebook Live in Tekka Market on May 3, 2020.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - People have been urged to stay home to stay safe during the Covid-19 outbreak. And very soon staying at home will be made even easier, with plans to bring even the wet market shopping experience online.

For the first time on Tuesday (May 5), six stalls from the popular Tekka Market in Serangoon will be hawking their fresh produce, meats and vegetables over a livestream on Facebook. Customers will be able to interact with the sellers and ask them more about their items, as they would in the actual wet market, in the comments section of the livestream.

The initiative, organised by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and creative agency BlkJ, aims to highlight how shop owners and customers can find new - and safer - ways of doing things during the circuit breaker period.

"Why jalan jalan (a colloquialism for going out) for your kailan?" is a slogan from the upcoming initiative. Depending on the response to the event, dubbed Tekka Online Market, the initiative could be expanded to include more stalls and other markets as well, IMDA told The Straits Times.

The initiative is part of the authority's Stay Healthy, Go Digital campaign, which aims to highlight how greater connectivity could help people continue with some activities, such as shopping or paying bills, even during the circuit breaker period.

Ms Jane Lim, IMDA assistant chief executive, said wet markets are an essential part of people's daily lives and common spaces. "Now more than ever, businesses and people have to adjust during the circuit breaker and use digital means to be safer and find new ways of doing things," she told The Straits Times.

"We are happy (to work with partners) to help stallholders learn how to sell online and reach more customers, and encourage customers to buy and pay online. This is part of our continuing efforts to help our society and businesses go digital and find new opportunities in the new normal," Ms Lim added.

People can log on here to take part in the event, which will start at noon on Tuesday. Sales will be conducted on a first-come-first-served basis.

Customers can place their orders through the comments section of the Facebook Live video, confirm their details via Facebook messenger and make payment via PayNow, an instant funds transfer service offered by various banks. Those who spend over $20 will also be eligible for free islandwide delivery and produce will be delivered to them within the day to ensure freshness.

Ms Rowena Bhagchandani, chief executive officer of creative agency BlkJ, said: "We hope to bring the wet market experience online, so with this event people will be able to interact with the sellers in real-time through the Facebook comments section to ask them more about the produce. Sellers can explain and then show them the items through the live stream video."

She said that some stall owners, who are used to running physical stores, may be apprehensive about taking their businesses online.

 
 
 

"But through this pilot, we hope to inspire sellers not just from Tekka but also other wet markets, who have been adversely affected by the tightened social distancing measures, to try taking their businesses online," she said, adding that participating stalls had received guidance on using digital platforms like Facebook and messaging platform WhatsApp.

For instance, IMDA enlisted the help of Mr Max Kee, owner of Lian Huat Seafood, to help train the stallholders.

Said the IMDA spokesman: "Mr Kee is a seasoned Facebook Live seller and is contributing his time and insights to mentor the wet market merchants at no cost. We are also supporting through marketing and communications of the initiative to drive interest from the public to try a digital wet market experience."

The experience of the participating merchants will also be posted online as a resource for others who may be keen to take it up, he added.

Mr Mohamed Mustafa Shahul Hamid, who runs a mutton stall at Tekka Market, is one of the six vendors who will be taking part in the online sales event on Tuesday.

He told The Straits Times on Sunday (May 3) that business had dropped by between 30 per cent and 40 per cent since the start of the circuit breaker period in early April, as fewer people ventured out of their homes.



Chia’s Vegetable Supply owner Victor Chia selling vegetables on Facebook Live in Tekka Market on May 3, 2020. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

"My older customers may not know how to use Facebook, but hopefully their younger family members can help them," he said.

Having run the stall for over three decades, Mr Mustafa, 62, said leveraging technology was daunting at first. But now, it was difficult not to embrace it, he said.

 
 
 

For example, his customers can pay for their meat via PayNow. This saves them the hassle of having to queue to draw money from a machine and him the trouble of having to make a separate trip to the bank to deposit the funds.

"Last time, it was my son who taught me how to use technology. Now, I am the one teaching him," he quipped, saying he was now proficient at using banking applications on his mobile phone.

Customer Cheryl Goh, who works in the oil and gas industry, said she prefers to shop for produce at wet markets for their freshness.

Said Ms Goh, 29: "I am more hesitant to shop for items that I usually buy at wet markets online because of this. But if the price is right, I don't mind trying it out, especially if they are delivered on the same day."

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