Deaf burger sellers in Malaysia overcome the odds to stand on their own feet

Deaf burger sellers in Malaysia overcome the odds to stand on their own feet

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Farid Zainuddin (left) and Idzham Azahar never allowed their disability to dampen their spirits. (Photo: D Kanyakumari)

BANGI, Selangor: A roadside burger stall in Bangi, a town about 30km south of Kuala Lumpur, has a simple sign stating "kami usahawan OKU (we are disabled entrepreneurs)" to indicate that communication needs to be done differently.  

A book lies open on the table for customers to write down their orders. This book gets filled to the brim so often that it gets changed once every few weeks.

The Aris Burger stall is manned by Farid Zainuddin, 31, and Idzham Azahar, 20, who are deaf and speech-disabled. 

Originally from Klang in Selangor, they were looking high and low for an opportunity to make a break when they did not have money to even buy their next meal. 

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A sign displayed in front of the stall to inform customers of their disability. (Photo: D Kanyakumari)

Their entrepreneurial journey started back in November 2019 when they came across an entrepreneurs programme run by Arisprop Holdings for participants to sell Arisprop products. 

Its operations and business development manager Najib Abdullah told CNA that the two young men had approached his team out of the blue. 

“I don’t really remember which programme they had heard of or attended, but sometime in the end of November, we received a WhatsApp message from them. 

“The text was very confusing and I later found out that they were deaf and speech-disabled. They asked us for job opportunities and so began our journey,” he said. 

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"THE MOST SINCERE AND HARDWORKING MEN"

Najib spoke fondly of the two men, sharing that they have been one of the most sincere and hardworking men he has met since his company started the programme for young entrepreneurs. 

Despite their physical challenges, Najib shared that both Farid and Idzham were very determined young men. 

“The way they had approached us - they asked us for a job, not for financial aid or something else. 

“So we thought, well why not? So we helped them set up the stall on Dec 3 and we allowed them to start and the two have never looked back since,” he said. 

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A sign displayed to inform customers that they are disabled. (Photo: D Kanyakumari)

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With no prior experience, Najib and his team knew that Farid and Idzham would struggle without help. 

“They had no money to back themselves. I know because the first day we met, they told me that they hadn't eaten in a while and were very hungry, so I bought them a meal. 

“We couldn’t leave them to just fend for themselves. So for a while in the beginning, we paid them a salary to ensure they had money to get by,” he said adding that he used to personally monitor and help them at the stall. 

He added that the two were given accommodation as well as a motorbike to get around. 

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A notebook lies open on the table next to the menu to allow customers to write their orders. (Photo: D Kanyakumari)

“They worked hard and in a matter of months business picked up. Also thanks to media exposure they have been doing well. 

“Once they were fully able to take orders on their own, we allowed them to take over as entrepreneurs,” he said. 

COMMUNICATION THE MAIN HURDLE

Although unable to speak, both Farid and Idzham were determined to communicate when met at the stall. 

With simple sign language, WhatsApp texts and written words, the two managed to convey to CNA the challenges they faced running a business. 

“Communication is always our main hurdle. Sometimes people don't understand that we cannot understand what they are saying. 

“They try to mouth their orders but we still cannot make them out. We will ask them to write it down and try to somehow communicate as it is the only way we know how to talk without sign language,” said Farid . 

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Idzham also shared that in the beginning when many people have not heard of them, some people would just come and stand there then leave. 

“We realised later that we forgot to put up the sign saying we were disabled. The customers must have been so confused,” he recounted.

FREE-RANGE CHICKEN BURGERS

Roadside burger stalls in Malaysia are often known for saucy burgers with heavily seasoned patties and hardly any vegetables.

With the duo however, their burgers were a slightly healthier option with generous portions of vegetables and limited amount of sauce and seasoning. The patties and ingredients are supplied by Arisprop Holdings.

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Their burgers are not as saucy or heavily seasoned as regular roadside burgers. (Photo: D Kanyakumari)

Farid shared that their popular items include free-range chicken burger, mutton burger, as well as regular chicken and beef burgers.

“We are the first ones to have kampung chicken in Malaysia,” he wrote on a piece of paper. 

Source: CNA/kd

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