PichaEats, a social enterprise based in Kuala Lumpur, grew out of a desire to empower and provide a sustainable living to refugees and asylum seekers living in Malaysia. The organization identifies families who can cook, provides training, designs menus and packaging, runs marketing campaigns, and arranges logistics to deliver food cooked by Picha Chefs to their clients. Their goals are to provide dignified livelihoods for refugee families and enable their children to receive an education. Since January 2016, PichaEats has partnered with 25 chefs originally from Syria, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, and Pakistan, served over 160,000 meals, and given back MYR 2 million (over $450,000 — including cost of ingredients and cost of living) to refugee families. With the COVID-19 response in Malaysia, CEO and co-founder Kim Lim knew she had to pivot the business to survive.
“When we knew that the partial lockdown was about to happen two days after the announcement, we immediately got our team together the next day. The point of the meeting was to address three things. The first was to assure everyone that there won’t be a pay cut and that we’re focused on their safety, which gave everyone relief. The second was to have everyone abandon our old business model as we expect zero catering orders throughout the crisis. The last thing was to help everyone prepare their mindset for constant changes, at least for the first 2–3 weeks.
As a result, in a span of less than a month, the team managed to reactivate The Zaza Movement — an initiative named in honor of our late chef — to have people contribute money that enables refugees to cook from home and deliver meals to front-liners and people who have lost their jobs. So far, we have distributed nearly 15,000 meals in almost 20 communities. Next, we worked on small family packages and brought our prices down to break-even, enabling more people to order food from us during this lockdown. Finally, half of the team that consists of creatives put together a new business named Zucchini & Co. to help brands or companies shape their storytelling and marketing materials in the future. We’ve even acquired our first customer during this period. By assessing our strengths, we incubated a new business in less than three weeks. The team is really moving fast.”
By Kim Lim, CEO and Co-Founder, PichaEats