The recently emerged White Flag movement has highlighted the struggles facing the urban poor of Malaysia to meet their basic daily needs.
Although it attracted a lot of attention from individuals and companies through the movement, it is an experience that is not isolated for MCOs, but is an ongoing problem. Rhodes Masala, a food truck that operates as a social enterprise, has been trying to address this issue since its inception in 2015.
Over the years, his team went from raising money to charity by selling affordable Asian food a employing B40 people to work in their business. Now, with the support of public and business sponsorships, they are stepping up their social activism by providing food aid and training micro-entrepreneurs to be self-sufficient.
Driven to serve the hungry
During the 2020 MCO, Masala Wheels pivoted from managing its food truck and its PJ coffee to providing food aid to medical lines, nursing homes and stranded college students.
This initiative began with the request of a local college student who asked Masala Wheels for help. They sought to bring packaged food to students trapped in campus dorm rooms during closing.
With the help of social media, Masala Wheels was able to meet this demand in a matter of minutes provided 240 meals, sponsored by the public. Driven by good gesture and adoption, the company launched a Pay It Forward initiative where people could buy pre-packaged meals (known as suspended meals) for those who needed it.
Today, the Pay It Forward initiative has distributed 31,000 meals to its beneficiaries. But co-founder Kuhan Pathy is yet to be established. Its goal is to provide 50,000 meals through Masala Wheels by September 2021.
Teach a man to fish
As the saying goes: “Give a man a fish and feed him one day; it teaches a man to fish and feeds him all his life ”.
Masala Wheels is doing more than just feed the hungry. They are looking to train microentrepreneurs within B40 communities to be self-sufficient earning a living for themselves.
When we last interviewed Kuhan in 2019, the startup had been working with KCOM Group to incorporate digitalization as part of the social enterprise.
Based on the learning, its team of 25 employees has created a training arm focused on digital training for micro-entrepreneurs from marginalized communities. These microentrepreneurs were trained in a three-month program conducted last year in collaboration with Yayasan Hasanah.
“We help them spread through social media platforms, managing customer service through basic tools (i.e. WhatsApp Business) and marketing strategies in collaboration with e-commerce sites” , shared Kuhan. Participants then appear in the Masala Wheels online marketplace mobilefood.my, which works similarly to other home food markets such as Requirements.
Dictionary time: A market start-up strategy (GTM) is an action plan that specifies how a company will reach its target customers and gain a competitive advantage.
While it can be seen as a competition, the presence of more options for the home food markets can also be argued. It provides regular home cooks with the opportunity to reach more customers, generating income to stay unemployed.
Beneficiaries of mobilefood.my also have the advantage of taking advantage of existing Masala Wheels followers. The mission of the social enterprise is the one that has resonated among many people if the number of meals provided through the Pay It Forward program is something that needs to happen.
Kuhan also reported that 40 of its beneficiaries have generated revenue of RM 100,000 in three months. One of them also reached an agreement with BMW during Hari Raya in the supply of corporate gifts.
“We are now organizing one similar program and looking for 200 participants, “Kuhan said.” We have received combined sponsorship from individuals and private organizations. Each training could [be valued] up to 3,000 RM and would be fully sponsored “.
There are no signs of slowing down
So far, Masala Wheels ’effort to help marginalized communities has caught the attention of the Prime Minister’s Department’s (JPM) Implementation Coordination Unit (ICU). It is an agency that manages the National system of poverty databases, also known as eKasih which provides information and assistance to poverty groups in Malaysia.
Kuhan shared that this collaboration with the ICU will be beneficial in verifying the credibility and responsibility of Masala Wheels in reaching its beneficiaries and sponsors.
“We can also help provide feedback to the ICU on the contribution of policies to improving livelihoods through our popular outreach and close relationship with beneficiaries during food delivery and training,” he said.
Apart from serving in the Klang Valley, Masala Wheels has extended its spread to Kedah, Penang, Negeri Sembilan through social enterprises associated with similar beneficiary groups.
While it is still seeking approval, Masala Wheels will phase out its PJ restaurant to replace it with a digitized cloud kitchen. Kuhan predicts it would help empower more beneficiaries and create an easily replicable model.
“Alone, we are probably creating an innovative path for a sustainable future for our beneficiaries. It is a journey and this would require collective action by public and private entities, “he shared.
- You can learn more about Masala wheels here.
- You can read about other Malaysian startups we’ve covered here.
Featured Image Credit: Masala Wheels