We are disappointed to note the outright misrepresentation and misleading report by Yasmin Ramlan, “Sundry shop owners in debt after Tukar programme turns hope into loss” published in The Malaysian Insider (TMI) on August 24, 2015.
Right off the bat, the writer falsely accuses the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumerism (KPDNKK) of failing to respond to requests by TMI.
We have clear documentation proving otherwise.
On July 2015, KPDNKK emailed TMI a detailed eight-page document responding to all questions issued by TMI, which was further supplemented with statistics and data.
However, TMI failed to incorporate a single iota of our explanation in their report despite acknowledging receipt of the email from KPDNKK.
To claim that the ministry failed to respond for information therefore, is a blatant and outright lie.
The full response we provided to TMI on July 28, 2015 can be read here.
If TMI had practised the minimum modicum of journalistic integrity, they could have easily culled facts to the cases and referred – at the very least – to the information officially provided to them by the Ministry.
Instead, they blatantly misled readers and people of goodwill with a varnished, biased and flawed report based only on the experiences of two out of 2,082 Tukar stores nationwide.
We will itemise and respond to the key accusations made by TMI:
Factual Error 1: Storeowner was forced to accept Checkers Supermarket as their consultant and supplier
Clarification 1: Checkers Supermarket is neither on the Tukar panel of consultants nor are they on the Tukar panel of suppliers. For the case of the Mary Provision Store, Tesco Malaysia was the assigned consultant and Checkers was the supplier of goods that the storeowner had chosen for herself. It is the right of storeowners to choose whom they use as suppliers for stock.
It would meet basic journalistic requirement to – at the very least – check with the government agency in question. It is shocking how TMI as a media organisation, quotes arbitrary statements without evidence to back up their claims.
Factual Error 2: Storeowner was forced to engage the services of contractors for their store renovation
Clarification 2: Tukar participants have the right to refuse any renovations, contractors or costing recommended to them if they are not comfortable. Construction work will only be carried through once the storeowner signs off on all quotations.
Factual Error 3: Shopkeeper claims she incurred a RM60,000 debt which includes RM40,000 for refurbishment and RM20,000 for sundry goods
Clarification 3: Each Tukar participant is allocated RM80,000 maximum of loans for a store of which RM30,000 is used for stocks and RM50,000 for store renovations.
Owners of course have the right to borrow as little as they need but cannot go higher than the RM80,000 limit.
The repayment period for the loan is capped at 15 years at an interest rate of 3% per annum on a reducing balance basis.
The storekeeper had claimed in the TMI report that the RM40,000 costs for renovation was unjustified, “where they only added some lights, painted, rearranged my shop, fixed the wiring, racks and my cash machine. I don’t think the real cost would come up to that.”
If TMI had conducted the basic due diligence and checked with the ministry, they would understand that the RM40,000 also included big ticket items such as gondolas, new store signboard, rewiring of the entire store for high-energy consumption equipment and a new point-of-sales system.
Factual Error 4: Confusion of names of storeowners, stores and locations
Clarification 4: TMI kicked off their article with a series of misinformation and failed to get the basics right – in this case – the name of the store owner, store name and location.
Anamary Arokiam is the registered Tukar participant and owner of Mary Provision Store located on Lorong Kurau, Off Jalan Bangsar. She is not the owner of Prem Mini Mart as stated in the article.
Jancy is the storekeeper of Prem Mini Mart and mother-in-law of Agnel Prem D’Cruz, who is the registered Tukar participant and owner of Prem Mini Mart located on Old Klang Road.
Factual Error 5: Storeowner claims that Tukar lawyers “came to her store and threatened to drag her to court if she did not pay up…”
Clarification 5: Both stores are facing legal actions taken against them by Koperasi Suria for alleged defaults of loan payments which have since 2013, become non-performing loans (NPL).
We wish to be clear that there are no “Tukar lawyers” appointed to act in these cases.
Koperasi Suria in their role as the cooperative responsible for disbursing loans to Tukar participants, are obliged to collect monthly repayments for approved loans as agreed in the loan contract.
In the event of an NPL, Koperasi Suria is obligated to pursue legal means where necessary. This is to ensure the sustainability of the programme and the availability of funds for future Tukar participants.
Arrangements had also been made to help facilitate minimal monthly repayments, however, store owners were unable to honour the requirement.
The objective of Tukar is to modernise traditional retail stores (also known as “mom and pop” stores) in order for them to compete with the more modern supermarkets and hypermarts.
The Tukar programme does not guarantee increase in revenue but provides an opportunity for participants to upgrade their premises and become more efficient.
Onus is still on the storeowners to adopt best practices in terms of marketing, inventory and financial management as taught by their mentors. The success and failure of each store is tied to their own efforts once the store is transformed.
In the last five years since the Tukar programme has taken root and made headway into the lives of small retailers throughout the country, we have recorded the following evidences of success based on a nationwide survey conducted by TNS in 2013:
1. 77% of participants declared an increase in revenue 13 months after their transformation
2. 45% of total participants experienced revenue increase of more than 40%
3. 18% of total participants saw an increase of more than 100% in revenue
4. 25% of participants declared a revenue increase of at least 40% within the first month post transformation
5. Participants recorded a higher average monthly income level of 36% when compared to a control group
6. 84% of participants complied with at least 70% of all programme requirements. They are required to adhere to 32 checkpoints over eight categories.
The Tukar programme has successfully recorded the transformation of 41% or 2082 of 5000 stores targeted by 2020 in the last four years alone.
Proven to bring positive changes for many poor and struggling small storeowners in Malaysia, TMI has committed an injustice to these retailers who may now be discouraged from participating in what could potentially be life-transforming.
There are many retailers who, by leveraging on the Tukar platform, have within a small period of time, turned their loss into hope to fundamentally transform their business.
TMI, in their haste to cast aspersions against KPDNKK, Pemandu and the Tukar programme, has committed a grave disservice in failing to portray a full and objective story. – August 25, 2015.
* Pemandu is the Performance Management Delivery Unit under the Prime Minister’s Department.