Helping small businesses survive challenging times

Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam

With the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Sultanate, few could have anticipated the crippling effects that the virus would have on businesses and livelihoods. Frontliners became national heroes as they care for COVID-19 patients while the rest of the country stayed at home to flatten the curve. It was under these challenging situations that the idea for ‘Community for Brunei’ was born.

Inspired by local entrepreneurs, The Collective and Think Axis, with the support of Community for Brunei web designer Alicia Newn, Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam’s (BIBD) latest Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative aims to provide a virtual marketplace, highlighting different social and charitable causes and enabling members of the public to support it by purchasing from micro and small businesses.

BIBD’s Chief Marketing Officer Hajah Nurul Akmar binti Haji Mohd Jaafar said, “Giving back to the community and helping small businesses grow is at the heart of BIBD’s CSR pillars. The bank is proud to be part of an initiative that will enable individuals to come together for collective action, extending assistance to those in need while protecting the livelihoods of our local micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).”

“The Community for Brunei platform also speaks of BIBD’s commitment to digital transformation; this virtual marketplace leverages technology to bring the community together, providing an online ecosystem with an integrated digital payment gateway as part of our efforts to encourage a digitalised society powered by a cashless economy.

“We hope Community for Brunei will become the premiere destination for local businesses, enabling them to scale and grow while, at the same time, allowing a place for the public to give back to the community,” she added.

Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam Chief Marketing Officer Hajah Nurul Akmar binti Haji Mohd Jaafar in a group photo. PHOTO: BIBD

Announced on April 17 by Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah who is also the Chairman of BIBD, the Community for Brunei platform has already launched two community projects – Community for COVID-19 and Community for Ramadhan.

Community for COVID-19, which was launched on April 17, was created as a way for small businesses in Brunei to expand their ability to earn, and also help support frontliners through an accessible online market platform. Customers are able to purchase food and beverages, care packages and services from the platform that will be delivered directly to frontliners at various hospitals across the country.

The exact needs of frontliners at medical centres and hospitals throughout the country are informed to the general public through an online tally. The public is able to select care packages and donations that can be purchased directly from the website and delivered to the frontliners. This ‘supply and demand’ approach is hoped to ensure a more effective distribution of contributions as well as reduce wastage.

As the Ministry of Health announced precautionary measures to flatten the curve, many micro and small businesses were left wondering how they would retain their customer base considering the closure of restaurants and the cancellation of Ramadhan bazaar. In response to this, the second project under the Community for Brunei banner was launched – Community for Ramadhan.

Kicked off on April 23, 2020, Community for Ramadhan is a virtual Ramadhan bazaar, enabling members of the public to purchase food and drinks from micro and small businesses, including vendors who typically participate in the yearly Ramadhan stalls organised by several government agencies.

With nearly 60 vendors onboard, and even more in the pipeline, members of the public can order their meals for their breaking of fast by 6pm, for next day delivery. This cut-off time will give vendors adequate time for preparations and enable the delivery team from Go Mamam to dispatch the items efficiently. However, Community for Ramadhan will soon be transitioning to same-day delivery from May 4 to enable the public to satisfy their sungkai cravings. Sahur deliveries will also be starting within the same week.

Taking part in the Community for Ramadhan project are various BIBD SEED entrepreneurs, consisting of underprivileged mothers who have been able to build their own thriving businesses under the BIBD SEED programme. Also on board are muallafpreneurs – micro businesses owned by muallaf entrepreneurs under the Islamic Da’wah Centre and supported by BIBD. As the platform is intended as a means to support micro and small businesses, 100 per cent of the earnings from the virtual marketplace will go directly back to the vendors.

Vendors who wish to be on board must first obtain their 16/17 registration from the Registry of Companies and Business Names, open an MSME account and register for QuickPay. Registration can be done directly through the Community for Brunei website.