Malaysian startup offers free contact tracing solution for local businesses

By Xavier Kong

WHEN the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) was announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on May 1, part of the condition for businesses reopening, especially eateries, was that customers and staff would have to leave their name, IC number, phone number, and their temperature.

Of course, the first idea was to station someone at the door, with a notebook and pen for visitors and customers to leave their details. As much as this is quickly implemented, it leaves a lot of room for improvement, primarily in the recording system, as the notebook and pen would be handled by multiple persons, and serve as a vector for transmission.

Some places, such as AEON outlets, turned to their own in-house digital records system, offering a QR code that visitors can scan and input their details digitally. However, for the more data-conscious, this presents risks in terms of data security, first and foremost being the danger of having the data used for personal marketing or being attacked by the more unscrupulous elements on the internet.

Enter Mulah, a local customer relationship management startup founded in 2016, which believes there is a better way than using the notebook, or looking to free data entry systems with dubious security.

The team, over the weekend following the announcement from the prime minister, set up a Covid-19 customer walk-in registry system which they are offering to businesses in Malaysia for free. The system is contactless, meaning no concerns about a transmission vector, and complies with the requirements set in place by the government.

Samuel U, operations manager at Mulah, shared that this was Mulah’s contribution to helping the economy recover, while aiding in the fight against Covid-19, with no costs attached to the service offered.

In fact, Mulah has even contacted the Ministry of Health to offer this solution, positing that a wider database would allow the ministry to search for a person’s name, and be able to see the visit history of that person, thus easing contact tracing and making the process more efficient.

As of May 10, the registry is already in use in over 650 premises, 65% of which are in the Klang Valley, with another 20% in Penang, and the remaining 15% in Johor Bahru, with the number expected to reach 1,500 locations within two weeks. U also shared that a majority of the businesses are in the F&B sector, which comes from the strong F&B base the company had seen prior to the pandemic.

Of course, upon hearing this, FocusM inquired about data security, and U shared that the system is actually PDPA-sensitive, with each brand receiving its own dashboard that can only be accessed by itself. The Mulah team has only two people who can access that data as well.

The team has also taken steps to warn vendors that to use the information for direct marketing without the consent of the customers is to put themselves at risk of legal action. As it is, customers have the choice of opting out of receiving marketing targeted at them from the data they are sharing.

“Mulah will be under the highest scrutiny, having offered the system. We have no intentions at all to buy or sell the data collected; it is just not in our interest,” shared U.

He also said the hardest part of building the system was not even the technical side, as the registry is based on systems that Mulah has already been offering its clients, but rather not knowing what data was required.

“The National Security Council said that F&B operators need to collect their customers’ IC numbers, whereas Sin Chew, the Star and a few major news sources said that no IC number was required. I personally was quite concerned – I mean, I do not feel particularly comfortable leaving my IC number at places I dine at,” said U.

He added that the second hiccup was the “checkout” feature, as some sources said that businesses will need to record each customer’s check-out time, while others said it will not be required.

“There was a whole lot of confusion in the beginning. We went through a couple of iterations to reach the current product we have now,” said U.

The operations manager also shared that the system is easy to use, with businesses only needing to register with them, after which a personalised QR code will be sent to them, along with the access details for their dashboard, so that they can monitor their customers.

U also noted that the data collected can help businesses to determine customer profiles, that the businesses can then shift their operations to better cater to their target audiences, or to meet the expectations of their target markets.

Interested businesses can register for this service at – May 14, 2020

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