Coronavirus pandemic

Wet market goes online to woo shoppers during circuit breaker

Tekka Market to take part in pilot as stall owners see business dive amid pandemic

People at Tekka Market yesterday afternoon. Some stalls have reported sales plummeting by up to 80 per cent amid the pandemic. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO Mr Mohamed Mustafa Shahul Hamid (at right), who runs a mutton stall at Tekka Market, and his son Nizamd
Mr Mohamed Mustafa Shahul Hamid (right), who runs a mutton stall at Tekka Market, and his son Nizamdeen, 38, doing a trial run yesterday as they prepared to sell their meat over a livestream event on Facebook tomorrow. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

A pilot to bring the wet-market shopping experience online will be rolled out at one of Singapore's most famous markets tomorrow, in a bid to reduce crowds at wet markets and to make it easier for people to stay home during the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.

For the first time, six stalls from Tekka Market in Little India will be selling their fresh produce over a livestream on Facebook.

At noon tomorrow, customers will be able to interact with the sellers and ask them more about their items in the comments section of the livestream. The groceries will be delivered.

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.

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.

An IMDA spokesman noted that there were queues at wet markets even during the circuit breaker. Last month, for example, it was announced that entry into four popular wet markets will be based on the last digit of a shopper's NRIC number or foreign identification number to limit the sizes of the crowds there.

So the latest initiative aims to raise awareness of digital tools and methods to sell, buy and pay online, so people can stay safe and yet conduct daily activities during the circuit breaker period, he added.

"Why jalan jalan (Malay for take a walk) for your kailan?" is a slogan for the upcoming initiative.

Ms Jane Lim, IMDA's assistant chief executive, said: "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."

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

People at Tekka Market yesterday afternoon. Some stalls have reported sales plummeting by up to 80 per cent amid the pandemic. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

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 the produce will be delivered to them on the same 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 livestream video."

She said some stall owners 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 stall holders.

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 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.

Shopkeepers there say the pandemic has severely affected their businesses, with some stalls reporting sales plummeting by up to 80 per cent. The hope is that the Facebook live sales event could help improve the situation, they told The Straits Times.

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 tomorrow.

He told The Straits Times yesterday that business had dropped by between 30 and 40 per cent since the start of the circuit breaker period early last month.

"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 is 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 is now proficient at using banking applications on his mobile phone.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2020, with the headline Wet market goes online to woo shoppers during circuit breaker. Subscribe