The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted businesses all around the world, particularly among micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), with Brunei Darussalam being no exception. Several local startups have shared insights into the pandemic’s impacts and their business recovery initiatives.
The business started to sell in cube stores in 2014, serving spicy food with homemade signature hot sauces using locally-grown chillies. Within the next few years, Eat’s Hot opened its first branch in Jerudong and second branch at Kontena Park before moving to Serusop as a delivery and takeaway spot. In 2021, the Serusop branch was closed to allow for renovation works to convert it into a dine-in restaurant.
Like many other businesses, Eat’s Hot faces various challenges during the pandemic, such as increased price of ingredients and low supply due to difficulty in sourcing certain products, such as chicken wings and local chillies.
In terms of progress from the first COVID-19 wave to the second, they said that ingredient prices had risen but not as much as the first wave, and they were still able to maintain product prices. Sourcing ingredients became slightly difficult but they had built a portfolio of suppliers for each ingredient since the first wave. This enabled Eat’s Hot to manage their sourcing without having to temporarily remove items from its menu. Although sales were more affected during the second wave when Operasi Pulih started, there was an uptick in delivery orders.
Brunei’s first and only gamified-learning platform Mindtrex is powered by big data technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to provide accessible and high-quality education.
During the pandemic, the number of Mindtrex subscribers increased by 178 per cent, generating over 6,000 users within eight months since its release.
Having partnered with Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) and the Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI), it supported over 200 underprivileged students to use Mindtrex Academy, as well as a partnership with Progresif Sdn Bhd and marketing the academy to the public.
Mindtrex mitigated all risks in the early stages through stakeholders’ endorsement and multiple partnerships before going commercial, which helped them to increase revenue and expand to different domains, including financial literacy, Islamic education and K12 market segment.
Located at a humble residence in Mumong, Belait District, small wedding boutique Izan’s Collection was established in 2019 by Pengiran Hajah Norizan binti Pengiran Rosli. While working from home, the bridal boutique slowly grew and expanded its products, encompassing a wide selection of dresses and accessories to accommodate diverse tastes and traditions.
Despite growing trends for modern wedding attire, Pengiran Hajah Norizan noted that there is still a sizeable market for traditional styled weddings that uphold the culture and tradition of a classic Malay wedding.
While the business was affected by the pandemic due to the restrictive measures, Pengiran Hajah Norizan said they will maintain their collection of wedding attires and accessories as they look towards to a brighter future.
Software company Think Axis Solutions offers a range of solutions in emerging technologies that include data analytics and AI among other services. It was primarily set up to solve challenging problems in Brunei’s startup ecosystem which eventually led them to providing software solutions to top businesses in Brunei, including financial institutions, automobile industry, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), educational institutions and government departments.
The pandemic has opened up plenty of local and regional opportunities for technology providers. Companies of all sizes are strongly considering digital adoption not only as a means to sail through recent difficult times but also as a long term solution. Market-wide trends that are expected to undergo a paradigm shift in coming years are: Process Automation, Edge Computing and Web3. Think Axis Solutions is actively seeking and developing local talents to cater to technological needs of the future.
From a 16-foot container in the house backyard, Top Folk gradually saw an increase in sales over time and acquired a food truck to operate in a commercial area. Top Folk made a name from selling only one type of burger – cheeseburger – when it first started. New items were introduced over time, in particular their signature Beribi Burger which was named as Top 10 Burger in Brunei during the Brunei Food Awards 2020.
Top Folk now offers dine-in, takeaway and delivery services while also actively participating in public events across Brunei. In 2021, Top Folk established a Central Kitchen outlet based in the Beribi Industrial Complex for delivery and takeaways.
Adapting operations to safely navigate through the changing business environment was among the challenges during the COVID-19 outbreak, in addition to limited availability of ingredients, managing human resources, changes in how food was procured and an increase in awareness of contactless payment services, takeaway and delivery services.
Software development agency Nextacloud helps companies identify, build and launch digital products. The company has over six years of experience in the field of IT, with software and mobile app development as its main expertise.
Nextacloud has clients in various industry segments including automotive, corporate, oil and gas, energy, government, retail and e-commerce, healthcare, insurance and education. Given the company’s focus on digital services, Nextacloud resumed operations during the pandemic with a business continuity plan, ensuring a work-from-home and work-from-office rotation among its employees.
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