Cover Photo: Aaron Lee on Unsplash

Powered by Studio20 & The Techy Hub, The Hawkers is the first platform of its kind to direct more traffic to Malaysian hawkers, many of whom have little to zero online presence next to social media savvy cafés & restaurants. We spoke to founder & CEO Ee Soon Seng, whose forte is coming up with creative solutions

On a normal day prior to the MCO—which feels like a bygone time!—where did, you seek nourishment?

Prior to MCO, my daily morning routine would be heading to the row of coffee shops in Lucky Garden, Bangsar for my breakfast fix of hawker food: pork ball noodles with a glass of iced Chinese tea at Sun Huat Kee or Steven’s Char Kuey Teow at Nam Chuan. On the other hand, if I was craving Malay or Indian food, I would go to Restaurant Aiswaria to have my Roti Telur Bawang with Milo Ais, or buy a Nasi Lemak from the kakak by the roadside. 

If I’m eating out at night, I would return to Nam Chuan or Sin Lai Ping for their tai chow dishes.

How much do you allocate to food per day?

I allocate approximately RM20 a day; say RM6-8 in the morning and RM12 at night.

See also: Where & What To Eat: Lucky Garden, Bangsar

Since the MCO, have your eating habits changed? Are you spending more or less or around the same? I’ve personally been spending less, but that also means my favourite businesses are not getting that cash.

My eating habits have changed tremendously. My wife and I have been cooking most of our meals at home: breakfast, lunch and dinner, not to mention snacks! It’s tiring but fulfilling. I have definitely been spending less on outside food.

One day, I got tired of cooking and decided to make a trip to the coffee shops in Lucky Garden to dapao some noodles. That’s when I noticed that nearly all of the shops were devoid of customers! Most of the hawkers were just sitting around, waiting for customers to come. That really opened my eyes to just how much revenue these hawkers have lost because of the ongoing restricted movement. As an entrepreneur myself, I really empathise with their situation. It made me think about how I could help them recover a bit of their business.

Born in the midst of the Covid-19 movement control order, The Hawkers has only been online for less than a week but is quickly gaining traction. What set off that lightbulb moment?

It all started with a post on The Republic of Bangsar (TROB) Facebook group. A member brought up supporting our hawkers by purchasing food from them. He was encouraging others to list the details of Bangsar's hawkers on the comment thread, but it was a bit tedious. At the same time, I was trying to set up a listing website called SaveOurSMEs to help SMEs get their businesses online. I thought, why not just duplicate the website for the hawkers? So I did, and once it was completed, I posted the link on TROB's page. It went viral from there, as everyone kept sharing the post!

Are the listed hawkers aware of your website? Or are the listings primarily processed by their fans?

Some of the stall operators—mainly those selling my favourite foods—are aware. I made a trip to Lucky Garden's coffee shops last weekend to get better pictures and to explain my intentions. Their response was pretty positive; many were happy and asked whether this would be a long-term project. The website still needs to be populated with more information, including food pictures and contact details. We are hoping to get the system updated with daily content. There are customers who do help out by uploading their favourite hawker stalls too.

If everyone were to upload at least one hawker stall, think of the speed at which The Hawkers would grow. The anonymity of the listing process makes me think of masked heroes. But even heroes have a responsibility, which in this case, is to upload accurate and updated facts.

For now, what I do is to cross-check information on the internet to verify that the stated locations are accurate. What I initially visualized was for each hawker to have a front cover photo of their stall, along with a menu displaying their food items. But some are still unfamiliar with the system, and have simply uploaded their entire menu on the website. There’s definitely a lot that could be improved on and we’re slowly ironing out the details—it’s a work in progress!

The last time we spoke, The Hawkers had some 13 listings and had just welcomed a new entrant from Penang. Is there anything you’d like to say to our readers to get those numbers in the hundreds, and for listings to cover both West and East Malaysia?

The response has been great! We are at 21 user-generated listings now. 

With Covid-19, it’s been tough for everyone, but some of these hawkers depend on daily wages and still have expenses to pay. They’ve fed us for the longest time, now it’s time for us to help them. List them on the website if you can. If not, just support them. Take pictures of the hawkers you purchase food from as well as their signature dishes, and share the pictures across your social media channels so that word gets out. 

Moving forward, we want to build a reviews section for customers to pitch their top-rated hawker food—something akin to crowdsourcing reviews that would be called FoodAdvisor! We’re open to introducing new features to the website too, so if anyone has suggestions, feel free to drop us an email at