Posted: 08 May 2012 12:44 AM PDT
By Melissa Pang, The Straits Times, 7 May 2012
ONE of Singapore's best kept food secrets now has an online presence.
Bukit Merah View Hawker Centre is the first food centre in Singapore to have its own website.
The website - www.bmvmakan.sg - was launched by grassroots adviser Indranee Rajah, an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, yesterday at the official opening of the newly upgraded Bukit Merah View Hawker Centre and Market.
It contains information on the history of the hawker centre, descriptions of food stalls and their operating hours, and a gallery of pictures.
The idea for such a website arose because of concern over the impact of the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers) in the area, said Ms Indranee.
In 2007 and 2009, three blocks in Henderson Road and five blocks in Bukit Merah View were selected for Sers.
With so many residents moving out, there was worry over an adverse impact on the hawkers' livelihood. 'Many Singaporeans are foodies, and they like exploring and trying out new food places. The idea behind this website is to provide the hawkers with online visibility and give their business a boost,' she said.
Pilates instructor Cheong Seok Wah, who lives in Redhill, said the website was a novel idea.
'Everything is going online these days, so why not hawker centres? It's a good way of reaching out to those who don't frequent this area,' said the 41-year-old.
For Ms Michelle Woo, who lives near the food centre, the website is not just a useful resource for looking up information on operating hours.
'I can also learn about the history of the different stalls, and about the new stalls that have opened,' said the 34-year-old finance manager.
Posted: 08 May 2012 12:30 AM PDT
In our current internet era, almost every business startup today will know about creating a website to promote their business online. It has become a norm, or somehow 'compulsory' for a business today.
But what about traditional businesses who have been making a living selling food along the streets for the past 30 years? Do they need web presence too? Maybe yes, but not a real need for their businesses too. But it doesn't hurt getting one for them too!
I'm glad to be part of a community project to create Singapore's First Hawker Centre with its very own website. And that is for Bukit Merah View Hawker Centre. From my understanding, Bukit Merah View Hawker Centre has undergone renovation works for the past 1 year or so, and stalls are relocated elsewhere to continue the business.
And since the renovation works have completed and the new hawker centre is up and running again, why not have a website to promote all the stalls and draw back all its usual customers, and give their businesses a boost?
So the website is up and running now at http://www.BMVMakan.sg (click to new window!)
Behind the scenes
This idea was first initiated by Eric Chua, who was also my team leader for China-ASEAN Youth Camp 2011 last year. He's a super activist in areas of community work and service. As we remained closely contacted after the trip, he roped me in for this project, along with my other friends from the China-ASEAN Youth Camp, and some of this friends from People's Association.
And of course, not forgetting the most important group of people who made this hawker centre website project possible, is the Enterprise Branch of Muscular Dystrophy Association of Singapore – Bizpower. They are the web designers for the website!
Muscular Dystrophy Association Singapore is a self-help organization who is committed to uplift the lives of people with muscular dystrophy, a muscle disease characterized by the development of muscle weakness, wasting and contractures.
Due to the severity of their disability, they might restricted in some areas of this project, but that did not stop them giving their massive contributing , by creating a really beautiful website. I might have created many websites in the past, but I can say none has matched the quality they produced. I have to take my hat off to them.
So with the website creation part settled, what's next is to gather the content of the website! And that's left to us guys to collect as much information from 84 stall owners of Bukit Merah View Hawker Centre. Initially, I thought that will be really easy – like asking the stall owners a few questions, taking a few photographs, then paste onto the website. But it's far from that.
1. Persuading stall owners
Business owners these days would love their businesses to be seen almost everywhere. The more visibility the better, be it online or offline. But that doesn't seem to be the case with some stall owners. I was quite surprised when some owners tell us not to put their stall name online. They don't want to be found online (which I don't know why…)
But not until we persuade them that this is a community project to help stalls of Bukit Merah View Hawker Centre promote their business online, and get more customers to them. And after that, they willingly open up and share with us about their stalls!
2. Getting details of all 84 stalls
The new Bukit Merah View hawker centre opened its operations in mid-March, but not all the stalls have started their businesses. Hence, we have difficulty getting the details of every stall. That case, every one of us take turns to make several trips down to the market, on different timings of the day (as some stalls opened at night only!) to gather as much details as we can.
There's not much of a language barrier, as we are a multi-racial team, who can speak all sorts of languages and dialects. This made our conversations with the stall owners easy.
3. Putting everything altogether
The content and details we had is just not enough. We have to write them in a way that's enticing and appealing to readers online, not discounting any essential details. It's similar to copywriting on a food magazine or food blog. But fortunately we have a youth ST writer, Joe En, in our team. He did most of the writing for the stalls and other pages of the website as well. Awesome job!
Launching of the website
I know the site was up, but I was not told about the website address by Eric and others. But he invited me to the event on 6th May at Bukit Merah View Hawker Center, to celebrate the re-opening of the hawker centre, and launching of the website.
The launch day began with a slew of acrobatic performances by a lion dance group, with many of the nearby residents coming down to enjoy their performances. Then is followed by the arrival of Tanjong Pagar MP Ms Indranee. Eric was the emcee that day. As he announced the website address, I accessed it immediately with my iPhone, and phew! I'm literally blown away by the layout and design of the site! An impressive job by BizPower!
This event was also featured in the news the next day. [Channelnewsasia]
I'm really grateful to be part of this first-of-its-kind community project, and let me see what a team of committed individuals can do in spite of limited resources. We don't have a budget of hundreds of thousands of dollars for digital marketing, or to hire professional copywriters or web designers, unlike the big companies out there.
With an idea, and just make do with whatever we have… poof! Singapore's first hawker centre website!
Bukit Merah View Hawker Centre may be the first hawker centre with its own website. But I believe after today, there would be initiatives by other hawker centres to help create a website to promote their stall owners online!
I would also like to give a big shootout to BizPower of MDAS (Muscular Dystrophy Association Singapore) and that if you need to create a professional website for your business, do engage them. Your support is not just about giving them business, but to provide them with employment opportunities and help them to achieve financial independence, to be able to integrate into the mainstream society.
Till then, take care everyone!
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