Eng Kim Loong, 65, contracted polio when he was nine years old, which left him paralyzed in both legs.
But he fought back, denying that his disability was a handicap in his ability to be self-sufficient in turning to basket weaving for a living.
Although basket pieces can be made by machine and then put together, a real basket must be made by hand. And that is the creativity and joy of Kim Loong, who has mastered the art of basket weaving over the past 30 years.
So far, rattan baskets and swings are the only items he has produced, with his business run from home and to order.
“My customers would usually call or come to my house to place their orders,” he told Bernama when he met on National Handicraft Day 2022 (HKK 2022) at the Kuala Lumpur Craft Complex, Jalan Conlay, here recently.
Unaware of his surroundings at the Kuala Lumpur Handicraft Complex, Kim Loong sat on the ground while weaving with nimble fingers thin strips of bamboo to produce intricate rattan baskets. The basket weaving artist has a natural flair for this given his rich experience in the craft.
A gifted weaver, Kim Loong, who resides in Wangsa Maju had no training in rattan weaving, as he only learned by observing other weavers, including working for others to produce the woven crafts.
He said the weaving process for a basket usually takes about two hours, while for a full rattan baby crib it takes two days, depending on the size and design requested by the customer.
On his monthly income from his craft sales, the self-employed father-of-two said his income was based on sales from customer orders.
“It’s not fixed and I used to get RM700 a month. I don’t have a shop, I only work from home and only produce when I get orders from customers who call me or come straight to my house,” he said. adding that the price for a basket started from RM95 while a complete set of rattan swings cost around RM480.
Besides teaching basket weaving on demand, Kim Loong said that her participation in workshops, exhibitions, etc. is also made possible with the help of certain parties, including HKK 2022 (February 23 to March 7).
Take advantage of the online platform
Meanwhile, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed everything from how we live our lives to how we do business. This has forced entrepreneurs to look at digital media in a new light.
In this context, the chairman of Persatuan Usahawan Internet Malaysia, Mohd Azrul Mohd Nor told Bernama in an interview that people with disabilities (OKU) should take advantage of the online platform to market their products because the demand for handicrafts does not is not limited to the internal market.
“Many initiatives are available for entrepreneurs to grow their business using social media such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. At the same time, products can be marketed through e-commerce platforms such as Lazada and Shopee.
“To date, many people with disabilities have marketed their products. However, more should be done to help them by launching campaigns to buy their handicrafts. Their products will gain visibility through increased online participation,” he said. he stated, adding that the association also conducts online courses for OKU entrepreneurs and those interested can register at http://ahli.puim.org.my
Noting that people with disabilities face various challenges and difficulties in marketing their products online, Mohd Azrul said that currently no special attention is given to the regular coordination and monitoring of the virtual involvement of OKU.
“This group faces the challenges of fully utilizing the digital platform in their business, especially in inventory management and marketing. OKU should receive training on skill building and product selling,” did he declare.
At the same time, the e-commerce platform should be strengthened for OKU who engage in craft business, as it will greatly contribute to uplifting their economy in the post-Covid-19 era.
“This platform also provides an avenue and opportunity for producers of unique and creative products to compete. creative and open to available opportunities,” he said.
Market study, in-depth research
As part of the empowerment of OKU crafts, the Department of Social Welfare (JKM) is also focusing on similar efforts, including conducting an in-depth study on online platforms before any initiative.
In this regard, Fatimah Zuraidah Salleh, Deputy Director General of JKM (Operations), said that before a project is implemented, the department must identify the strength of each craft produced.
“All products must go through numerous inspections – quality, inventory and quantity – for quality control to ensure compliance with all requirements. Given the uncertainties brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, the platform to be used must be carefully studied.
“However, handicrafts such as paints have their own fans. The response from the business sector has also been encouraging,” she noted.
OKU handicrafts also caught the attention of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob when he officially launched OKU Day (Day of Persons with Disabilities) on December 3, 2021.
JKM, she said, will continue to intensify its efforts to promote OKU’s handicrafts, including collaborating with various parties to create an online platform for the purpose.
“Fighting in the open market is not easy given the availability of many established and well-known brands, but we will continue our promotional efforts for OKU,” she said.
Regarding the involvement of OKU which is lacking in exhibitions or activities to promote Malaysian handicrafts, Fatimah Zuraidah hopes that the agencies concerned could work hand in hand by offering people with disabilities the opportunity to participate.
“Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation Development (Kraftangan Malaysia) is invited to start early discussions on OKU’s involvement in promoting its handicrafts. This will indirectly help increase OKU’s revenue,” he said. -she adds.
Various initiatives have been undertaken by JKM to market OKU handcrafted products, including the ProWell Project, a social enterprise initiative under the Department’s Productive Welfare Division that provides economic empowerment.
The project, which targets groups with special needs, incorporates the principles of social innovation, inclusive development and social entrepreneurship.
ProWell Wellness Center, located at Bangi Industrial Training and Rehabilitation Center, was established in 2016 as a research and development (R&D) center for OKU products, product collection, packaging, distribution, quality control, product gallery and training center for the department’s target groups.
So far, the ProWell project has produced more than 200 kinds of handicrafts such as Songket and Batik. However, based on current sales trends, 24 featured items have been identified as high demand and are being marketed through ProWell’s Facebook and Instagram as well as Shopee.
ProWell also promotes OKU products through other online platforms such as my@. At the end of this month, ProWell products are sold on Shopee through the prowellproject account. To start, several selected hot items will be sold through the platform.
“To date, OKU products are marketed and promoted not only through exhibitions at agency and ministry levels, but also in Dubai, Berlin, New York and Paris. Promotion is through working visits from the senior management of the ministry and department. Popular products include Songket Bag, Songket Pencil Case, Songket Phone Case, Songket Pouch, and Songket Folder.
By March last year, the ProWell project had helped 325 OKU participants to generate their income and start their own business.
Community Center Rehabilitation (PDK)
Fatimah Zuraidah also spoke about the Community Rehabilitation Center (PDK) economic empowerment program, which encourages OKU to be self-reliant, in addition to boosting the economic sector through business activities.
“The Seri Malindo PDK in Melaka and the Wakaf Tapai PDK in Terengganu are among the organizations actively promoting the economic empowerment program by setting up a tailor-made workshop for OKU’s training and empowerment activities for the autonomy,” she said.
Fatimah Zuraidah said that so far Seri Malindo PDK and Wakaf Tapai PDK are actively promoting their services and products through media, Facebook, blogs (serimalindo.blogspot.com), Shopee, Camdy, Craft E-Shopee and E-Craft Bazaar.
“Seri Malindo PDK and Wakaf Tapai PDK have also expanded their business by establishing Koperasi Usahawan PDK Berhad and Koperasi Komuniti Cakna Wakaf Tapai Marang Berhad to promote and introduce OKU products. The cooperatives also serve to train OKU in business,” she said.
Through the promotion, the two KDPs have received local and foreign visitors and won orders from various parties. – Bernama