It's an understatement to say that Covid-19 has affected everyone from all walks of life. Minority communities, such as the Orang Asli who are already in vulnerable conditions, are even more at risk as their limited means of livelihood are in jeopardy. The Asli Co. understands the issues that plague the Orang Asli community and seeks to empower indigenous mothers to earn a sustainable living through making modern handicrafts & products from home.
What started this love for giving back to the Orang Asli community?
It goes back to 2010 and 2014 when our founders, Jason and Xin started their journey as volunteers building homes for the Orang Asli community with Epic Homes. They both got hooked on the experience as it directly impacted the lives of the Orang Asli and their children. Together they built 30 homes in 6 Orang Asli villages.
Through building houses, they heard many stories from the community, with one of them being children not being able to attend school because their parents didn’t have enough money for school related expenses (which was around RM100-RM150 per month per child). Jason and Xin were aghast because this amount is what us city folk easily spend on a few dinners. So they hatched an idea to help them by bringing work to Orang Asli in the villages, first by producing our handmade cement succulent pots, and slowly moving on to more products such as handmade kuih soaps, sanitizers, and now fabric face masks.
How can our society become more educated and informed about the struggles of our Orang Asli community?
The best way is to visit their village and interact with them to get to know them better. We have created a lunch experience with the Orang Asli families in their home where you get to cook and enjoy their food while having conversations and learning about their culture. This experience is currently on hold and will resume after the virus is under control.
How do you decide what products to teach Orang Asli women to make?
We explore the current trends and quickly go to the market with prototypes and pre-orders to test for demand. Then we work on training programs and materials to teach the ladies to make the products.
What do you hope to achieve with your brand?
We hope that by improving the livelihoods of Orang Asli mothers, we'll be able to ensure that all their children complete school and break the cycle of poverty. We believe in the saying "teach a (wo)man to fish and you'll feed them for a lifetime" so our work is centered around upskilling the ladies to be independent artisans who can produce quality products.
We hope that by improving the livelihoods of Orang Asli mothers, we'll be able to ensure that all their children complete school and break the cycle of poverty.
What was the biggest challenge you faced as a brand and how did you overcome it?
In January and February 2020 the sales of our existing products (succulent pots and kuih soaps) took a big dive possibly due to the covid-19 virus and political instability. Therefore, we had to quickly make a new product which were hand sanitizers. We got lots of pre-orders and managed to begin production 1 week before the MCO took place. These sales got us through the next few months. During MCO, our sanitizers were also included in many aid giving campaigns to the needy, which sustained us further.