Suthan Mookaiah had to close his tech office and retrench close to 10 staffs during the initial Movement Control Order last March when Covid-19 hit Malaysian shores. It did not stop there, he had to again execute a similar move for his personal project, where 10 staffs who worked in his restaurant were terminated.
“I always felt responsible for that, knowing that there were not many vacancies in the market at the time. I wanted to rehire them back in sound employment,” he told BusinessToday.
And so, he started BeliGas, a registered social enterprise with the SDG to get Malaysians back in the workforce. To date, BeliGas has hired over 40 people, mostly from the B40 segment who went jobless during the lockdown.
“The journey has been a roller coaster. We basically jumped into this industry with little knowledge and we had to learn or risk going down. We tested, we failed, and we pivoted aggressively. We had to initiate the best practices from tech industries in order to digitize the business,” he said.
With more than 60 percent of its current workforce made of B40 candidates, the social enterprise provides them with a safe working space and sound employment. BeliGas is also working with the Kajang Prison to hire exemplary and recommended ex-prisoners to work in their warehouse hubs.
Very much like many SEs out there, Suthan faces the challenge to prove that BeliGas can be profit driven and is self-sustainable.
“A lot of people believe that social enterprises are not able to generate profit if it wishes to keep up to its SDG. We tackle that by bringing in a lot of corporate governance and structure by being lean, calculating costs and increasing efficiency using data and technology,” he shares with BusinessToday.
Their biggest issue so far? The licensing aspect that is usually delayed to local council office closures due to the Covid-19 lockdowns. A process that takes a month, now takes between three to six months hence licenses are not being issued for the SE to initiate launch in more areas.
BeliGas is currently engaging with relevant authorities and government bodies to tackle the issue through regular meetings and cooperations to look into new area licenses.
On how Malaysians can help the SE, Suthan is urging the public to buy their next gas with BeliGas.
“Download our BELIGAS app in the app store or order from our website. Our customers, be it at home or business will derive instant savings from buying with us. You will be surprised how cheap we are compared to the traditional players,” he says.
“You will also help put Malaysians back in the workforce as the profit we make are put back to hire more Malaysians in our organisations.”
BeliGas is also running a CSR programme that is appreciative of frontliners through a special rebate scheme that helps frontliners to buy cooking gas. The SE is also providing rebates for staffs and wardens at the Kajang Prison as well as hospital staffs.
The social enterprise is also in the midst of expanding to different states, with hopes to enter Penang and Johor after the lockdown eases. Suthan is also looking to work alongside with other oil companies on more firm partnerships across Peninsular.
On a long-term basis, Suthan and his team are looking to deploy a sustainability-driven project idea that aims to make sure BeliGas is able to make positive impact on the green sector as well.
“We hope that BeliGas grows to be a model of socially innovative business, that showcases that a company can be socially and positively impactful, while still generating profit margin for its stakeholders. We hope this can be a relay for more social entrepreneurs to step up the game in Malaysia,” he concludes.