KUALA LUMPUR: Although the “Buy Muslim-made First” (BMF) campaign has been gaining traction in some circles in the country, it does not appear to have translated into better business for an information communications technology (ICT) mall set up exclusively for Bumiputera entrepreneurs.
A recent check by FMT at the Mara Digital Mall in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman found it quiet, with only a few kiosks selling laptops and mobile phones.
Many of the people there appeared to be employees of other businesses in the building who were passing through to avoid using the elevators at peak hours.
One of the traders said he felt as though his own people had been boycotting businesses there from the start.
“We have been struggling, competing with other traders here for a long time,” he told FMT.
“We’re a long way from competing with traders at Low Yat.”
Mara Digital Mall, commonly known as Low Yat 2, was established in 2015 after a highly publicised dispute at Low Yat Plaza where a youth was accused of stealing a RM800 smartphone from one of the shops there.
The trader at Mara Digital Mall who spoke to FMT said business at his outlet had not been good from the beginning, with no signs of improvement.
His alternative strategy of selling mobile phones through social media, however, is paying off as he can afford to be more flexible with his pricing there and can either post the items to his customers or deliver them himself.
He said he can sell about 20 phones a month online compared to only one or two at his shop in the mall.
Businesses at Mara Digital Mall can only get their products from a single supplier, WGN Scan Sdn Bhd (WGN). Some traders say this makes it difficult for them to lower their prices and remain competitive.
An employee at a shop selling laptops said not many customers wanted to buy goods there. The woman who asked to be called Izzah said outlets selling laptops have a harder time than those selling phone accessories.
She also said the single-supplier situation had led to stiff competition.
“It’s difficult,” she told FMT. “If we sell at this price, shop B sells at a different price and shop C sells at yet another price, there will be an issue with the supplier.”
She added that the mall was uninviting, and that many who pass through the area do not even know of its existence.
“They should carry out some promotions, put up a signboard displaying laptop and phone accessories brands and so on.
“If it just says Mara Digital Mall, people don’t know (what it is). I have relatives who think this is a place where Mara employees fix computers.”
But Izzah claimed most of the traders were hesitant to raise the issue with WGN for fear of affecting their dealings with the company.
Last October, WGN marketing and storage manager Mohd Izzat Akbar Arif Amir said the mall’s business was not good as the traders did not get enough support from the media.
He also criticised the mall’s marketing and branding which he said was weaker then when it first began operations.
The BMF campaign began on social media with the Bumiputera community urged to avoid buying products made by businesses owned by non-Bumiputeras.
PAS and Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin defended the campaign in support of products made by Muslims, saying it was aimed at strengthening the economic power of Muslims and giving them a competitive edge.