Pepper Labs to empower, sustain B40 communities 


PEPPER Labs is helping the bottom 40% (B40) community recover and rehabilitate after the floods and the pandemic via its skill training and development programme (STDP). 

The social enterprise has trained over 500 B40 individuals through the STDP since 2015.

Pepper Labs co-founder Kuhan Pathy said a number of social initiatives like food and beverage, where capacity-building initiatives are very physical-oriented, will adopt digital technology.

He added that the organisation’s goal is to help develop the B40 community and to provide them with opportunities to improve their livelihoods.

“We place a high value on grassroots efforts all the way to regional leadership in terms of social entrepreneurship development.

“We are also currently holding the highest accreditation for social enterprise in Malaysia, as well as a tax exemption for both the contributions received and for income that has been generated within the social enterprise,” he said. 

“During Covid-19, we did see social enterprises struggling and many had to close shop because they could not sustain themselves,” Kuhan said.

With the physical nature of its programmes, Pepper Labs also had a hard time sustaining itself during the lockdown.

However, Kuhan said it is still present because social enterprises’ connection and engagement with communities are continuous, unlike corporates’ social responsibility initiatives which are mostly one-off.

“So, in the event of natural disasters or health crises, we practically know what kind of support communities need in order to survive and thrive. 

“A very good example is that during the recent floods, many social enterprises stepped right into the waters to access their beneficiaries.

“This is where social enterprises have an added advantage, because we already have a relationship with our beneficiaries,” he said.

Stressing the importance of policymakers’ understanding of the B40’s needs, he said Pepper Labs had taken over the chairmanship of Catalysts 2030, an advocacy body founded by the World Economic Forum.

“So now, we want to say that Malaysia is a leading Asean nation which is promoting social entrepreneurship development by promoting social enterprises outside of Malaysia.

“When we started policymaking in 2018, we realised that social enterprises were disenfranchised; they were very siloed. 

“Back then, the allocation for the ecosystem was RM10 million but through our consistent engagement and advocacy, the allocation in Budget 2022 went up to RM40 million,” he added. 

Partnering with Yayasan Hasanah and SME Corp, among others, Pepper Labs is set to increase the awareness of social enterprise development for underserved communities.

“As we move forward, it is really important for us to work towards ensuring that we have a very strong and vibrant ecosystem which could withstand any kind of crisis or disaster.

“The B40 community is still very much underprivileged and vulnerable so we are focusing on creating more opportunities for them to be empowered and to sustain themselves,” he concluded.