KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 — During the Movement Control Order (MCO) period, Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) is switching to the online platform in order to conduct training programmes for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs on how to sustain their business.

Deputy director general (entrepreneurship) Datuk Zulfikri Osman said the online training, which began this week, will give them adequate knowledge, especially on business strategy and effective marketing, to help alleviate their cash flow burden after being hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Within the MCO period, we are using an alternative platform through social media to reach out and continue supporting them. And it is free of charge.

“We will also reschedule and start to conduct our actual training programmes as soon as the MCO ends. For this, a small fee will be charged as a commitment to secure their seat,” he told Bernama.

Zulfikri said MARA has earmarked a budget of RM6.5 million for 300 training programmes throughout the year which it hopes will benefit at least 7,000 SMEs and entrepreneurs.

Last week, MARA announced that it will give a six-month deferment on business loan payments as well as 30 per cent discount on the lease of MARA business premises.

Zulfikri said financing, business space rental and training will be the pillars in helping SMEs and MARA will collaborate with established industry players to carve out strategic plans to help these SMEs.  

To date, there are 65,000 active MARA borrowers, 6,000 tenants of MARA premises and 22,000 entrepreneurs that have undergone MARA training, and the MCO from March 18 to April 14 has affected their sales activities and revenue in the near term.

“The services sector is the most affected, particularly in non-essential business clusters such as tourism, fashion and lifestyle where most of the SMEs are depending on foreign and local demand.

“Therefore, SMEs need to figure out how to manoeuvre their businesses, and they need to be creative and seek measures on how to turn this situation (MCO) into business opportunities,” he said.

Zulfikri estimated that on average, SMEs will be exposed to a 50 per cent downtrend in sales and a hike in the range of 20 per cent to 30 per cent in costs of materials, adding that the companies will take at least six months to stabilise following this unprecedented situation.

Commenting on consumer buying patterns, he said a downward trend is expected especially in the retail industry as people are saving more than they are spending.

“Consumer buying attitude will shift, prioritising on necessities as opposed to luxury goods,” he said.

Zulfikri promised that MARA will continuously monitor the situation and make a strong effort to further assist the SMEs and entrepreneurs.

“Unprecedented times call for a collective effort from all MARA stakeholders to ensure that MARA’s vision and mission as a socioeconomic agency is on track so that no one is left behind,” he added.


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