|A small seller in Bình Thạnh District checks an order before shipping to customers. The internet and social networks are helping HCM City's small businesspeople overcome difficulties at a time when markets are closed. — VNS Photo|
by Lê Thu Ngân
HCM CITY — Within a few hours of offering to sell vegetables online, Thanh Trúc sold out her stocks and had to refuse orders.
The small trader selling foodstuffs in HCM City was upset and nervous like many others when HCM City authorities announced the closure of all temporary markets, many traditional markets and some wholesale markets as the COVID-19 pandemic became serious.
By July 7 nearly 130 traditional markets out of the 234 in the city have been closed. All temporary markets and wholesale ones are also closed.
How to continue trading to earn a living while still ensuring safety is a problem small traders have been facing, and discovered the solution lay in social media and technology.
Instead of selling at traditional markets or home, many small traders in the city are now turning to technology.
They have started selling foods on Facebook and other free messaging apps, and tying up with apps like Grabmart for the purpose.
Chu Hồng Liễu, a small trader in Bình Thạnh District, told Việt Nam News the online selling has helped her greatly during the pandemic.
She has been selling on Facebook for a long time, but has now fully realised how technology and social media help her business.
“The orders have surged three-fold from normal days.
“If [small traders] can digitise the trading, they will be successful and overcome the pandemic.”
Besides selling on their Facebook pages, small traders also join many groups to look for orders.
A mere click on a group that sells their stuff would help shoppers find a retailer.
For instance, in a group called ‘Tôi là dân Quận 7’ many people sell meat, rice, water, and some certain services.
In the past it used to be a place for sharing socio-economic activities in the district. It is now also a place where small traders, after their markets have closed, can post information about products they sell to sustain their livelihoods. Buyers send them messages or call them to place orders
‘Hội thèm món Bắc chuẩn Hà Nội’ is a group for small traders selling food in the city.
Trần Mai Anh of District 7, a member of the group, said her orders on Facebook have doubled since the fourth wave of pandemic began in the city.
“I and some of my friends can [earn a living] now when COVID-19 has hit the city thanks to social networks and technology.”
People not conversant with technology choose an easier way: text messages.
A vegetable seller in Thủ Đức City said the market where she has a shop has been closed for week.
Every night she sends messages to customers to see which vegetables they need.
“Each customer has buy at least 3kg. Every day I can sell to around 10 or more.
“Sales have come down but it still helps me to overcome the pandemic.”
A seller at Tôn Thất Đạm Market in District 1 sends message to customers.
“I am ready to ship directly to their house and even help customers buy things I don’t sell,” he said.
Co-operation in tough times
Social network and technology are indispensable for small traders, but for many of them they are new.
Working long hours at traditional markets, they get used to old-fashioned business methods where the buyer comes to their shop to buy and have little time to use social networks or technology.
Many of them do not even have smartphones.
Many traders who know about technology help their less knowledgeable counterparts with using this modern method to sell their products.
Trúc said seeing farmers and small traders struggling to sell vegetables, she helped them by posting on her Facebook group and many others.
Liễu also helps other small sellers.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, she has helped many people sell ranging from flower growers in Hà Nội to other farmers and small traders in HCM City.
“I teach them how to post on Facebook and how to get orders,” Liễu said.
Mai Anh said: “I co-operate with many sellers in the community to sell stuff, not only helping them but also buyers.”
The HCM City Advertising Association and the Việt Nam E-commerce Association have called on the city Department of Industry and Trade to set up e-commerce sales channels.
The latter said it would help small businesses and traders build supplier data and list items, prices and origins, and train traders in selected pilot markets in opening a stall and introducing and listing items online.
It will also help small businesses connect, change operating methods, distribute in the digital environment, and use smartphones and technology.
Recently the Department of Industry and Trade has sent guidelines to districts how to manage the situation so that markets can reopen.
It has also worked with large distributors and markets to organise mobile sales in places where many neighbourhoods are locked down. — VNS