Cash-strapped Indonesians turn to online Sunday market

JAKARTA: Rani Nurwitawati never thought she would lose her job at an Indonesian market research company where she worked for 17 years.

The reality hit months after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The impact is quite big for me,” the 41-year-old said. “My brother lost his job, my sister got a 25 per cent pay cut. And finally, I also lost my job.”

Armed with the knowledge from her former employer that the food and beverage business will survive during the economic downturn, Nurwitawati decided to start selling food from her own kitchen.

She found an ally in Omah Wulangreh, an art and cultural community in South Jakarta that began an online version of the Pahingan Sunday market in August, only days after Nurwitawati lost her job.

Rani Nurwitawati shows baked spaghetti prepared for her online customers at her residence in Bekasi on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, Nov 26, 2020. (Photo: AP/Achmad Ibrahim)

The community used to host the Sunday market at its location, but it only accommodated limited tenants. As the pandemic tore through Indonesia, leaving many without income, the artists moved the market online, providing space for sellers to register online while buyers are required to pre-order.

Sellers must follow some rules, including offering local artisan products and use minimum plastic packaging.

Aside from providing income for her daily living, Nurwitawati said that the Sunday market is giving her more experience in operating a new business.

“I have learned about networking, got new knowledge, and more people know my products,” she said. “When I joined for the first time, I was really sad because there was only one buyer, after that it increased to more than 10. It was not bad, from less than 100,000 rupiah (US$7) to hundreds of thousands (of) rupiah.”

She prepares baked spaghetti and mango sticky rice.

Parahita Satiti, 37, also joined the Sunday market. She has always dreamed of running a business related to traditional fashion products. She hopes to get extra income after her office cut her monthly allowance by half during the pandemic.

She sells traditional Javanese kebaya – women’s upper long-sleeved clothes – and camisoles made of Javanese batik cloth.

Parahita Satiti arranges traditional Javanese women’s clothings she made in Jakarta, Indonesia, Nov 26, 2020. (Photo: AP/Achmad Ibrahim)

“This is a new business, but seeing the enthusiasm and orders from the Pahingan Sunday market, I think it will be a promising business for me,” Satiti said.

Reny Ajeng, one of the organisers of the Sunday market, said it is held once every 35 days, following the five-day Javanese calendar.

Strict social restrictions imposed in Indonesia during the pandemic have stopped the physical market as well as other cultural and art activities at Omah Wulangreh. The online version came to life when Reny and her six friends decided to launch it in early August.

There were 46 tenants who joined the third online event last month. Buyers had one week to pre-order items, such as traditional snacks, batik clothes or coffee. During one week, there were almost 500 items sold, worth about 25 million rupiah (US$1,770).

“To be honest, we are really happy,” Reny said. “Our first mission was to make an online Sunday market since we can do nothing offline during the pandemic. But it turns out, enthusiasm is high, so many sellers are having high hopes.”

Source: AP/dv/CNA

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