What started as a volunteering trip to an Orang Asli kampung soon turned into a mission to empower lives. Native Discovery, the social enterprise brainchild of Daniel Teoh came out of that trip and is en route to do more for the Orang Asli in Selangor.
“The narrative that I had about them growing up was completely different to what I had experienced firsthand during my trip. It did not fit the narrative I was fed throughout the years, and I was keen to change that through Native,” says founder, Daniel Teoh.
Native is a social enterprise that works with Orang Asli kampungs to co-create business opportunities and boost their livelihoods for added income and at the same time, help them to discover the range of economic opportunities that are out there.
Along with a friend he made during his first trip, both Daniel and Faizul started trips to these settlements at a low rate, charging per person RM50. The trips immediately caught the attention of both international tourists and locals as well, and soon became a monthly routine.
Pilot trips began in 2018 and the official trips took off in 2019.
The trips led by Daniel and Faizul soon grew to add family members and friends from the kampungs who would occasionally help them out to lead these trips.
“We soon had this pool of people to do this with us and I realised it was an opportunity that can benefit the whole community and not so much just one individual,” Daniel tells BusinessToday.
The subsequent trips consisted of 50 percent of international tourists that was made up of groups of school tours and individuals.
“We believe that this community-based tourism will not only change perspectives and tackle stereotypes at hand but also help them to lead a dignified life. Native’s vision is to empower ordinary citizens to be ambassadors of Malaysian hospitality,” he says.
Tackling The Woes Brought on By the Pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic had put a halt to all tourism activities in order to control the spread of the viruses. The hospitality sector was among many that took the brunt of it, and this extended to Native as well.
“Last year, we did more virtual experiences by sending products to houses with a pre-recorded video instructing them on the weaving process. But we found that to be quite challenging especially during the first MCO.
“While we managed to make a few sales, we started exploring other options and so we started to offer virtual learning experiences to schools and Universities with the involvement of Orang Asli as well,” Daniel says.
Native has also introduced cooking classes that teaches on how to make authentic indigenous recipes and will soon be launching a virtual Orang Asli museum tour.
The big opportunity soon came when the durian season arrived. Native is currently working together with the Orang Asli to sell durians to the cities. This year, Native will be partnering with the Orang Asli communities to sell durians through their subsidiary brand, Biji Bumi Durian that will soon be launched.
Recognition and Inclusion
“Malaysians have to understand that its not just about sending aid to these kampungs but it’s about realising they aspire too like everyone else. They enjoy the latest technology, and they want to be able to earn and participate in the general society as well,” Daniel says.
He also highlights that a lot of it has to do with recognition and inclusions. While aid is beneficial for many, Daniel also urges corporates and the government to rethink on the best ways to invest in a community.
Native has also worked alongside Epic Homes to set up homestay programmes and is currently exploring opportunities in the handicraft market. Daniel is also keen to working alongside other social enterprises should the opportunities rise.
“We did not have much room to explore these ideas last year, but we are definitely keen to do so this year,” he tells BusinessToday.