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Thursday, 30 January 2020 12:43

Tom Yum in the mamak shop: Turning threats to opportunities

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It is not uncommon nowadays to be able to order 'masakan panas' of the tom yum varieties (popular among some Malays) at the mamak shop. The result is an eclectic mix of mamak and tom yum dishes on offer for the patrons.

Nope, the cooks are not mamak. Instead, they are from southern Thailand or locals. The mamak foods are still dominant though (otherwise, it would not be a mamak shop!).


What is interesting though is the entrepreneurial spirit demonstrated by the restaurant operators. Instead of treating tom yum dishes as threats, these operators turn the dishes to opportunities and partner with the cooks, creating win-win situations thus capturing another market segment that would have otherwise gone elsewhere.


For within families or circle of friends, there are a mix of taste buds - while some prefer the mamak foods, the rest are not as fond. Marrying the two rather distinct tastes under one roof is thus a pretty brilliant idea for the business.

Apply the same concept to our diverse society today, where every potential issue can often be fanned with racial or religious sentiments. We certainly can learn a thing or two from the case of tom yum in the mamak shop.


A lesson of changing perceived threats or differences to opportunities. Despite the stark differences between the two dishes, both coexist under one roof peacefully.


On the same note, can we achieve unity in our beloved country? A tall order considering the current wave of populism with fake news abound.


A delicate balance indeed, considering the various forms of education systems we have in this country. Fluency in Bahasa Malaysia must surely be one of the key unifying factors.


Many Chinese-owned businesses are very good at turning differences to opportunities where products or services offered with the Malays being the largest segment of the customer base.


Our neighbouring Thailand is yet another prime example at it leads the way in capitalising the halal market even though majority of Thais are non-Muslims.


Scared of Islam? Why not try to understand what are the tenets and practices in Islam? Halal food is a classic example, but there are certainly other opportunities.


If you are non-Muslim Malaysians, you can't run away from dealing with Islam and the Muslims. After all, Islam is the religion of the federation.


Despite bad press about Islam, why billions of people worldwide are still holding on to the belief? What is unique with the Malaysian version of Islam - both the good and bad faces?


If we are serious about the future of this country, we must learn to embrace our differences while still maintaining mutual respect for each other. Perceived threats and differences should be turned to opportunities to promote harmony and wellbeing in our society.


Reciprocity is key where there must be proactive actions from all sides to reach out to those of different religion or ethnicity. There must not be a winner takes all or kiasu mentality if we are to progress as a nation.


And, in the turbulent world with many uncertainties, who knows Malaysia can be a model of harmonious nation for other countries to emulate?


Author, Mohammad Abdul Hamid, is a public policy consultant, founder of Behavioural Insights Consultancy & YDP IKRAM Bandar Tun Razak

Read 1711 times Last modified on Thursday, 30 January 2020 12:49


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