On March 18, the People’s Association announced that all Hari Raya markets, including the popular Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar, are not making a return this year due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation. These festive markets are held to usher in the month of Ramadan, with numerous stalls selling food, clothes, and decorations in preparation of Eid al Fitr.
But there is still a way for people to keep the spirit alive and get their festive shopping done. At least three different initiatives have been spearheaded to bring the bazaar online.
One of which is local Halal food blog, The Halal Eater, which recently announced plans to organise Singapore’s very first online Ramadan bazaar. On its Instagram page, it calls for vendors that are either Halal-certified or Muslim-owned to come together digitally. The blog’s founder, Izad Razi, hopes to pool these businesses and create a large virtual marketplace.
“People can still browse and discover various shops under this online directory, just like when they are at the bazaar,” explains Izad. “It’s like a one-stop channel.”
Halalfoodhunt, another Halal-focused food website, is also setting up an e-commerce site as well as a central kitchen for businesses to operate out of.
For Stay at Home Bazaar Raya, it hopes to help those affected by the closures through its Instagram-based online marketplace. It is organised by two friends, Erra Osman and Nurshahidah Ahmad, who were inspired to bring the event online after taking a walk and noticing how quiet the streets were.
“We talked about how Ramadan and Hari Raya will be so different this year due to the virus situation,” says Erra, who works as a designer. “Most shops would have already stocked up, and since there wouldn’t be the opening of any physical stalls, they need all the online marketing they can get to sell off their Eid collection,” she adds.
Similarly, Izad found out through his conversations with affected businesses that many of them have already done the preparation and stocked up on inventory in anticipation of the annual event. With the cancelled bazaars, these items have nowhere to go.
“It’s a huge opportunity lost for many of the people,” adds Izad. “I hope this reduces the damage to the income of these businesses or at least mitigates it,” he says.
He also hopes that this platform can shed light on smaller, lesser-known businesses that might have been unable to participate in the bazaar due to logistical issues. Izad adds: “It’s a good opportunity for customers to discover hidden gems.”
On the Stay at Home Bazaar Raya’s Instagram page, each post is designed to resemble actual bazaar stalls. As one scrolls through the page, it mimics the experience of strolling through a thumb-sized market, according to Erra. “You’ll never know which small or home business you might find, and this exposure can help these shops gain new customers,” she adds.
“A virtual bazaar might not feel the same without the buzz of the real deal,” says Nurshahidah. “But we hope that it will add a little bit of fun back to this gloomy season we are having now.”