Malaysia being a melting pot of races and religion is known for its rich cultural legacy that have been passed down from generation to generation. Our heritage widely ranges from architectural elegance through our buildings and monuments to arts and crafts, performing arts and festive events, as well as language and traditions. With the pandemic severely impacting the entire nation’s economy, Malaysia’s cultural economy has also seen a drastic decline. Malaysia’s culture and arts industry saw a significant loss amounting up to RM85 million over the past year, according to a recent report.
What’s certain is, the crisis has underlined the importance of digital access for cultural heritage institutions as well as the role and power of cultural heritage in society. Faced with the immediate impacts of the pandemic, many heritage institutions and organisations in Malaysia, as well as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) in the sector have rose to the challenge, responding by shifting their physical services to digital and staying connected to their audiences through digital channels.
Tradition Meets Technology
An example of a local MSME that has started on its digital journey through eCommerce is Batek-Lah Collection, an authentic traditional Malaysian batik brand on Lazada.
Penang-based Batek-Lah Collection was established in 2012 by James Lim, 36, who decided to embark on a new journey and venture in entrepreneurship by taking on the family business, Lim Trading. Lim Trading initially started off as a wholesale batik supplier in 1980, until James launched the Batek-lah Collection retail brand catering to end consumers. As a former mechanical engineer, James had no knowledge prior to starting his new business and had to learn the ropes on his own when he first started at 27 years old.
As his passion in the art of batik grew, so did his business, especially among foreign tourists who appreciate traditional handmade crafts. “Prior to the pandemic, Batek-Lah Collection’s sales was greatly attributed to Penang being one of the most popular tourist attractions in Malaysia. Foreign tourists were posting online reviews mentioning the Batek-Lah Collection brand on tourist rating sites which attracted many others to our shop,” said James Lim.
However, when the pandemic hit in 2020 and travel bans were imposed, James’ business and the livelihoods of him and his team were severely impacted, which spurred him to take the digital leap. “I had previously set up my Lazada store a few years ago but only started actively focusing on it last year due to the pandemic. Batek-Lah Collection had to undergo a thorough digital business transformation to stay afloat and remain relevant during this period of uncertainty since we are unable to open our physical shop,” he commented.
Making Batik Fashionable Again Among Locals
As foreign tourists make up a large percentage of its customers, Batek-Lah Collection’s sales dropped to almost 0% when the international travel ban was first implemented. Instead of viewing this as a setback, James is now on a mission to reach out and encourage more Malaysian consumers to appreciate the beauty found in batik designs and make it fashionable again through innovation and technology.
“From what I see, traditional culture and arts are slowly dying out as younger generations are adapting to a more globalised and modern world. Even prior to the pandemic, the interest in traditional and cultural arts like batik have been fading among Malaysians. They are more interested in buying and wearing branded goods. Today, not many people own even a single piece of batik clothing because it is perceived as old-fashioned and untrendy. However, through marketing on online channels, I want to change that perception and make batik trendy again, especially among the youths.
“I am not very tech-savvy but in addition to participating in Seller Campaigns, I have been experimenting with the digital tools Lazada provided on its platform such as Seller Picks, Flexi Combo, Free Shipping and Sponsored Discovery to increase Batek-Lah Collection’s store visibility among online shoppers and attract more customers. Since using these tools, I have achieved up to 30% growth in reaching new customers,” James added.
James also hopes that Malaysians will one day recognise the hard work and passion put in to produce each piece as it is a very delicate and time-consuming process to ensure its quality. Keeping up with the current trends and to target the Malaysian market, Batek-Lah Collection recently launched its own line of unique batik face masks, men’s short-sleeved shirts, women strapped tops and zipped dresses.<>
Supporting the local MSME community on their digitalisation journey<>
To help boost their recovery and sustainability, Lazada has been encouraging all types of businesses such as batik, wau, traditional clothing and games sellers to digitise their business so that they can tap into the exponential growth of online consumers in today’s new digital culture.
“The ongoing pandemic and lockdown have certainly impacted the livelihoods of those in the culture and arts industry including the business owners and craftspeople. We hope to be able to provide more businesses, especially MSMEs in this sector a platform to showcase their art, help them build their online presence, reach new audiences, build their network and become more exposed.” said Darren Rajaratnam, Chief Operating Officer, Lazada Malaysia.
In its continuous efforts to advance the digital economy and spur Malaysia’s economic recovery, Lazada is partnering with the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) to support local businesses and small and medium enterprises through the ‘Go-eCommerce’ initiative which will run from now until 31st December on Lazada.
The ‘Go-eCommerce’ initiative, jointly funded by Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) aims to help nearly 40,000 local MSMEs start their digital journey and increase their exposure and sales through the program’s curated incentives. New sellers on Lazada will be entitled to an enhanced Pintar Niaga stimulus package with benefits worth up to RM2,000, along with 0% commission and listing fees, free RM300 sponsored Discovery Credits and Free Shipping vouchers for 30 days.
Since last year, Lazada has seen more than a 300% increase in new MSMEs onboarding its eCommerce platform, while their overall daily average transactions have grown by more than 250%.
To support your local businesses and embrace our Malaysian roots, visit Batek-Lah Collection on Lazada at https://www.lazada.com.my/