Meet The B40 Youths’ Hustling Entrepreneurship

by
Jordan Lok
,
Supriya Sivabalan
,
April 30, 2021
Gone are the days where starting your own business seems as impossible as seeing a blue moon. You no longer need inheritance or generational wealth to become an entrepreneur these days - and it’s all thanks to the internet! Meet three B40 individuals who defy odds and successfully penetrate the modern business world, both offline and online

Projek Perumahan Rakyat or The People’s Housing Project (PPR) are low-cost apartments funded by the Malaysian Government to provide housing for communities representing B40 groups. Malaysians categorised under low-income groups severely struggle to survive with rising living costs, according to News Straits Times. The Rakyat Post reported updated classifications pertaining to the distinction of B40 household incomes, with the income range of RM3,970 - RM4,849 and below are considered to belong in the B40 category. To eradicate poverty, PPR schemes have been developed in cities and major towns to promote adequate, affordable housing. As of 2016, a whopping 66,229 PPR units were resided by individuals of the B40 group (Kementerian Perumahan dan Kerajaan Tempatan, 2016). In February 2021, Minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin announced that 4,120 housing units will be built nationwide under 11 PPR projects, now rebranded to “Rumah Malaysia” projects as reported by The Edge Markets.

PPR Lembah Subang 1 is one such product of the initiative. Built with 3,000 units in eight blocks and located in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, PPR Lembah Subang 1 is home to around 10,000 people (Noorazam, 2016). Many of PPR Lembah Subang’s residents represent a segment of the B40 community, facing an array of socio-economic challenges and limitations every day from low literacy rates, little to no education, overcrowded housing, physical & mental health issues, and lack of recreational and growth opportunities (Shahar et al., 2019). As a result of these poor conditions the responsibility is put towards PPR youths to bear the load in searching for means of income to support their welfare at an early age. The International Labour Organization reports that 14% of employed youth worldwide lived in poor households in 2018, compared to 7% of adults. This indicates a clear need for youths to shoulder heavy responsibilities in poorer households to ensure survival. Nor Haslina, Reeshan, and Logeshwari are three of many diligent  PPR youths from B40 communities exploring entrepreneurship to make a living.

PPR Lembah Subang: Mothering in Poverty

Enter Nor Haslina, a mother to three children, working multiple jobs to support her family. Haslina hails from Sungai Petani and is the only one of her siblings who took Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) in her secondary school education. She has been staying in PPR Lembah Subang since 2001.  Haslina held an assistant manager position at Surfine Hitech, a driving institute, for five years until the branch she worked at closed down in January 2020. As of today, Haslina and her husband both own a mini-mart at the PPR. She also sells kid’s toys and runs a kuih-muih store by the street. It is not easy juggling multiple roles day and night to ensure food on the table, yet Haslina smiles every step of the way despite unconventional circumstances. Haslina’s three young and healthy children also fuel her spirit to keep going forward in diligence. She is very grateful to have a motherly bond with her children. Although their mother is barely home from work, Haslina’s kids understand that she works tirelessly to provide the best for them.


Creative Use of 21st Century Skills by B40 Youth Entrepreneurs

Reeshan Nathan, 24,  lives with three  younger siblings and a single mother at home under a household income of less than RM1000. He is a diploma graduate in Network Engineering of Mastura College Rawang, after completing primary and secondary education at SMK Bukit Rahman Putra. Reeshan and his family had to relocate to PPR Lembah Subang in 2015 due to employment instability issues faced by his mother. After settling into their new household, Reeshan’s mom managed to land a part-time job.  How did he come about to live at PPR lembah subang. How long has he been here?

Being the eldest, Reeshan fully understood the hardship and circumstances of his family. Thus, he began a career in selling LED motorcycle remotes during college for additional income. A mini business like this is actually common practice for Malaysian youths alike. New Straits Times writes that 89% (close to 9 out of 10) Malaysian students have side hustles while studying, “mostly because they need the additional money”, based on the HSBC’s The Value of Education survey report. With Reeshan’s zealous spirit in his personal part-time job, he successfully saved up sufficient money to buy a 3D printer in just five months!


“My interest started with printing stickers, I wanted to make my own stickers but making them outside costs a lot and had to {be} made in huge quantities, while learning how my sticker cutter works I found that the 3D printer works in the same way.”

Reeshan started experimenting with various key-chain designs with his 3D printer, learning the fundamentals of design and  prototyping through Youtube and Google. Harnessing prior knowledge from making stickers, he was able to import the designs ready to be three-dimensionally printed. Reeshan claims to have been inspired through a Me.reka Belia programme  to start his Shopee business in 2020. Armed with the knowledge he acquired partnered with his fiery spirit, Reeshan was all set to embark on his entrepreneurial journey! Logeshwari, a fellow young adult, assists Reeshan with designing and managing customer relationships for his business. She is the youngest of four  siblings at home. Logeshwari’s mother is a housewife while her father works as a lorry driver. Logeshwari has stood by Reeshan’s side from the very start, from helping him sell motorcycle customizations to designing stickers to printing keychains,  which represents an impeccable bond of partnership.


“It's quite hard to explain, helping someone to pursue their dreams makes me happy,  especially when that someone has helped us a lot in the past” Logeshwari mentions.

The team of two work a 9-to-6 in their workshop, located in a separate residential area about 20 minutes away from the PPR, working day and night fixing accessories that appeal to his motorcycle customers. Their services include motorcycle-shaped keychains, number plates, trendy t-shirt prints, which are available on their Shopee store.


Youth Development Program Aimed To Eradicate Poverty

An article by Forbes (2021) reports that approaching communities of impoverished backgrounds with digital education and entrepreneurial empowerment promotes a feasible success rate in overcoming poverty. In the age of information, digital literacy is evolving to become a skill that is just as important as reading and writing. The decline of brick and mortar businesses worldwide, as most shift to an online medium, proves that digital education and entrepreneurial knowledge is akin to a sword in hand at the field of battle in this day and age. The risk of starting a business has significantly lowered too, given the online business model opportunities that define today’s consumer culture. Hence, educating the less fortunate on computer literacy and the spirit of entrepreneurship is the stepping stone that this generation needs for the fight against poverty. Nor Haslina’s astounding performance won the grant at Me.reka Belia after pitching Bubble Boo - a set of DIY bubble sticks ranging from different shapes and sizes, including a mixture for the bubble solution provided by Haslina. She now continues to be mentored in Digital Literacy, 21st Century Skills, and Social Entrepreneurship by the Me.reka Belia Program to improve her living standards and those in her community.

Just like Haslina, the programme seeks to support more hardworking B40 mothers to ease their efforts in providing for the family. Reeshan is self-taught in the art of designing, even knowing his way of servicing the 3D printer. Conditionally, he couldn’t just afford to pay for designers, or for someone to come and fix his 3D Printer. What it took was girding himself with the aptitude in digital literacy and harnessing his talents as a maker. In efforts to enrich his entrepreneurial model, Reeshan participated in the Me.reka Belia program to pitch his business and was granted RM 4000 to kickstart Reytech - his present motorcycle parts and accessories company.  Using the grant money, Reeshan invested in another 3D printer and is even arranging renovation works for his workshop. The Me.reka Belia program teaches Digital literacy and provides mentorship to communities in need and young entrepreneurs such as Reeshan. Monetary grants were provided by Yayasan Hasanah - an impact-based foundation engendering real and lasting positive social and environmental changes for Malaysia - to increase the quality of their living standards.  

Hustling Communities Grow With Me.reka Belia

Health concerns, security, and poor Wi-Fi are merely three of many factors plaguing the living conditions of PPR communities. Nevertheless, Nor Haslina, Reeshan, and Logeshwari persevered through the face of those conditions to start an enterprise of their own. Me.reka Belia is a social service program that provides support to the B40 community, PPR communities, and its youths by providing mentorship and guidance to tackle real world challenges. The program seeks to eradicate poverty by teaching 21st Century Skills and Digital Literacy among many more to encourage local changemakers.


References

Daing, N., Samsuddin, J., Sheila K, J., Nor Kamarudin, A., Md Khair, I. and Khor, S., n.d. PPR Lembah Subang Pilot Ethnography. [ebook] Youth Trust Foundation, pp.2-3. Available at: https://ipsas.upm.edu.my/upload/dokumen/IISS_060_nurul.pdf

Goh, Ai & Tee, Ahmad & Yahaya,. (2011). Public Low-Cost Housing in Malaysia: Case Studies on PPR Low-Cost Flats in Kuala Lumpur. Journal of Design and the Built Environment. 8.

Hadi, A., 2019. Help B40 with price control, higher wages. [online] New Straits Times. Available at: https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2019/08/515716/help-b40-price-control-higher-wages.

ILO Department of Statistics. (2019, October 16). Young people are far more likely to be in working poverty. ILOSTAT. Available at: https://ilostat.ilo.org/young-people-are-far-more-likely-to-be-in-working-poverty/

Ismail, M., 2020. Parlimen: PPR Lembah Subang 1 Diberi Perhatian. [online] Suara Merdeka. Available at: https://suaramerdeka.com.my/parlimen-ppr-lembah-subang-1-diberi-perhatian/.

Kaur, K., 2020. B40, M40 & T20 - The New Figures In 2020. [online] The Rakyat Post. Available at: https://www.therakyatpost.com/2020/07/16/b40-m40-t20-2020/.

Kementerian Perumahan dan Kerajaan Tempatan. (2016, November 18). JPN Statistik Program Perumahan Rakyat (PPR) Disewa Mengikut Negeri Tahun 2015. Available at: https://www.data.gov.my/data/ms_MY/dataset/jpn-statistik-program-perumahan-rakyat-ppr-disewa-mengikut-negeri-tahun-2015

Mari, A., 2021. Brazil’s Gerando Falcões Aims To Eradicate Poverty With Smart Slums. [ebook] Forbes. Available at: <https://www.forbes.com/sites/angelicamarideoliveira/2021/01/06/brazils-gerando-falces-aims-to-eradicate-misery-with-smart-slums/?sh=5dd56241c7b3>.

New PPR projects to be known as “Rumah Malaysia”, says Zuraida. 2021.. The Edge Markets. Available at: https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/new-ppr-projects-be-known-rumah-malaysia-says-zuraida

Noorazam, N. 2016. Federal government to take over “problematic” PPR flats. Astro Awani. Available at: https://www.astroawani.com/berita-malaysia/federal-government-take-over-problematic-ppr-flats-112781

NST Business. (2020, May 19). Local retailers under pressure to shift from traditional business models. NST Online. Available at: https://www.nst.com.my/business/2020/05/593812/local-retailers-under-pressure-shift-traditional-business-models

Sani, R. (2018, October 10). When students work. NST Online. https://www.nst.com.my/education/2018/10/419737/when-students-work

Shahar, S., Lau, H., Puteh, S.E.W. et al. Health, access and nutritional issues among low-income population in Malaysia: introductory note. BMC Public Health 19, 552 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-6852-8

Jordan Lok

An INFJ personality type and a savant of everything peculiar, Jordan often finds themself dabbling in the likes of self-advocating, creative writing and music.

Supriya Sivabalan

Supriya is an actuarial science student and a budding content writer at heart, sowing the seeds of copious alluring and magnetic narratives to tell memorable stories.