RAM and Jerry are young men holding two jobs. Ram is a logistics clerk with a freight-forwarding company while Jerry is a musician.
Ram is an Uber driver in his spare time. His day-time job doesn’t allow him to take passengers on his rounds. But he uses all his spare time to do so, thus enabling him to earn a fairly good supplementary income.
He’s on the road in his Perodua Bezza on weekends. He lives in Klang and services nearby areas.
On good days, he gets customers who want to go to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport or outstation.
Most weekends, Ram nets about RM400 after deducting petrol and other costs.
“I like doing this, Uncle,” Ram said as he took me from Bangsar to Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, last week.
“I’m still young and I have the energy to do this. I rest when I can. But, most weekends, I’m on the road. It’s good that I can do small business like this.
Who knows maybe one day I can have my own logistics company,” the 25-year-old told me.
Jerry has a slightly different story. He’s much older, maybe in his 40s. He’s a Grab driver, making his rounds about four to five hours during the day. At night, he joins his band at his regular lounge.
“Driving a Grab car is really helpful.
“I get a fairly good income. I do this most days except when my band and I have special engagements.
“Driving the Grab car helps me meet lots of people — some kind, some not so kind,” Jerry said.
You see, we have many entrepreneurs. They are willing to work hard, are fairly disciplined, quite focused and eager to venture out and try new schemes.
It would be useful if employers draw up proper guidelines to get the most from their employees.
The spirit of entrepreneurship must be nurtured well. I give a completely different scenario involving entrepreneurs.
Four days ago, I saw a group of enforcement officers from Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) tear down a big stall selling lemang just outside Bandar Tun Razak.
The entire operation lasted less than two hours.
After talking to the DBKL officers, I learned that the stall was allowed to operate on a temporary basis.
Approval was given to operate just before Hari Raya Adilfitri and stop after the month-long Raya celebrations.
Approval was then given again for the Hari Raya Aidiladha period for a short time.
All the time, permission was granted on the basis that it would be temporary. It was fine in the beginning. Recently, the stall had a different look. There were steel pillars, a reinforced concrete floor, zinc roofs, a makeshift toilet and even two chicken coops!
It certainly didn’t look like it was going to be a temporary stall any more. This must have caught the attention of the DBKL enforcement officers.
Hence, the demolition. Which probably explains why the stall owner and workers did not violently protest against the demolition.
I’m sure we are all for entrepreneurship. Free enterprise has been the mainstay of the nation’s economy, but it requires careful intervention as and when necessary. In many residential areas, especially new ones, makeshift stalls spring up overnight. They provide a service to residents — supplying mostly food and sundries.
The demand is there. This is a fine example of supply and demand meeting perfectly.
While this may seem good and productive, there is the small question of health, security and legality.
The entrepreneurial spirit of our people has been proven over and over again. Just look around. Burger stalls are everywhere. Stalls selling fried bananas and nasi lemak can be found along five-foot ways in most places.
It’s the same with young people selling sugarcane juice and coconut shake and what have you.
These stall operators give a huge headache to enforcement officers, whether they are from DBKL or local councils in other towns and districts.
I recall a statement made by Negri Sembilan Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan about a year ago. He gave a clear indication that entrepreneurship should be encouraged and not killed.
He was commenting on petty traders who sold food in the morning in residential areas.
Let them earn some money, he said, adding that these people were doing so to supplement their family income.
In fact, he chastised the local councils which speedily removed the stalls without giving due consideration to these small-time entrepreneurs.
The local councils should find ways to facilitate them and not close them down, or chase them away. Our urban planners need to really think outside the box. If there is no space for permanent food courts, surely there are other ways to encourage entrepreneurship.
Many years ago, food hawkers were allowed to sell their goods on wheeled carts. They took out their carts and were allowed to trade at specific locations and at specific times.
The hawkers then wheeled the cart back to the storage depot, only to be taken out again the next day.
Of course, this has now been overtaken in a big way. There are now food trucks — customised, cleaner and more efficient.
It would really be good to have our local councils sit down with these petty traders to find a holistic solution to the perennial problem of entrepreneurs resorting to illegal means of doing business.
Let’s look for a win-win approach. Aren’t we pursuing the Blue Ocean Strategy in nation-building?
The writer is chairman of Yayasan Salam Malaysia.