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Young hawkers talk: Cost pressures from food, rental and manpower

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Two young hawkers chat about the profession in this era of high inflation - how to maintain profitability while still serving that affordable meal. 

Synopsis: Every second and fourth Monday of the month, The Straits Times takes a hard look at social issues of the day with guests.

The cost of living has gotten more expensive in the last two years. Inflation measured by a basket of consumer goods was 4.8 per cent higher in 2023 than 2022, more than in 2021 when the price increase was at 2.3 per cent.

For young hawkers who also have their families to care for, maintaining a profit margin while resisting raising prices, can be challenging. 

Cost differences between running a stall in private coffee shops vis a vis hawker centres managed by NEA, could make a stark difference in profitability, according to two hawkers.

In this episode,ST podcast assistant editor Lynda Hong speaks with Jeevan Ananthan, 32, who sells Li Na noodles - bak chor mee - in three stalls in coffee shops with a central kitchen.

Also in the studio is Cornelius Tan, 38, vice-chairman of the Chinatown Complex Hawker association. He is also a second-generation hawker of Chai Wee Cuttlefish stall in a hawker centre managed by the NEA.  

They also talk about how the government subsidy waives the 0.5 per cent transaction fee that stallholders will have to pay for each digital transaction – those made via QR code payments under the Singapore Quick Response Code (SGQR) platform.

The new subsidy window, under the Hawkers Go Digital initiative to spur more merchants to digitalise, continues until Dec 31, 2024 – the second time it has been extended. It was initially extended to the end of 2023 to support stallholders during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Highlights (click/tap above):

7:34 “Let hawkers increase prices without guilt”? How rentals in hawker centres managed by NEA are charged differently from private coffee shops and food courts

13:20 Juggling manpower costs: Hiring Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs)

15:19 Is there "greed" when it comes to rent in private coffee shops and food courts? 

16:13 Why the SGQR unified payment code method has helped many hawkers survive lately

17:30 Jeevan's and Cornelius' journey from the corporate world to the hawker profession; did their university degrees help in current hawker profession?

24:32 Overseas ventures: How will the Lina Noodles empire strike out next?

26:01 Advice for young and aspiring hawkers or “hawkerpreneurs”

Produced by: Lynda Hong (lyndahong@sph.com.sg), Ernest Luis and Hadyu Rahim

Edited by: Hadyu Rahim

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