A World of 3 Zeroes

“If we follow the path of our predecessors, it will lead to the path that is determined by them. But if we want to reach a goal that is bright and sustainable for our future generation, we have to change course.” This is what I have learnt from a two hour lecture by Noble Laurette Professor Muhammad Yunus last Friday. The path that we are heading towards points at a bleak future: global warming and climate change, rising inequality and concentration of power to a very select few, unemployment that could make a large section of the world completely redundant because of technology. It is an alarming reality that we must have courage to face and honestly reflect within ourselves, for, as cautioned by Professor Yunus, we will reach a point of no return and that will be the end of humanity.

I was excited to meet Professor Yunus having read about his efforts in lifting 300 million people out of poverty and being the pioneer of microcredit financing. His latest bold ambition is to realise the 3 zeroes – Zero Unemployment, Zero Poverty, Zero Net Carbon Emissions. Having read his book, I am more than convinced that businesses should be run differently than the status quo or merely enriching shareholders and CEO’s, but to make happen a more sustainable world.

It has been a contemplation exercise for me to re-think the kind of business that we want to build with Maideasy. Would it be a business that benefits only the investors of the company or would it provide a net benefit towards the people who use Maideasy and the Malaysian society as a whole?

In finding the ‘soul’ of the company, we have identified a few key areas which we want to address, namely: paying a liveable wage to our cleaning crew, improving the safety when they provide the services to the customer and improving the overall quality of life of our cleaning crew and the team that works for Maideasy.

The first two objectives of Maideasy has more or less been mostly achieved, and we are constantly improving especially the aspect of safety to our cleaning crew. We make sure that the customers adhere to drawn up general safety standards and provide the relevant tools for the crew to work efficiently. Maideasy has consistently paid the cleaning crew that uses the platform a liveable wage that is enough for them to have more predictable and stable lives. Maideasy provides a stream of jobs they can do daily so that they wouldn’t have to find them on their own, and remit their payment weekly so that they can plan their budget more orderly.

The third objective we want to achieve is a little harder. Better quality of life for the cleaning crew to us, encompasses a living wage, available time for them to do the important things and fulfil their responsibility as a family and also have assess to help for problems like care and assistance for disadvantaged children, parents or spouse.

In studying the over 3000 cleaning crew that we have trained so far, most of them according to the survey they have to fill up, chose to work with Maideasy because of the flexibility to manage their time. For many in the bottom 40% of the society, reliable care for disadvantaged members of the family aren’t properly provided, so they have to attend these matters on their own. Issues could be driving a diabetic spouse to a dialysis centre or going to a counselor or a medical professional to get their child properly diagnosed, etc. A full time employment doesn’t provide the flexibility for them to attend to these crucial matters, and one of the major motivation for them to join Maideasy is because they own the time they have.

Of course, it is also common knowledge that parent’s quality time with their children will improve their well being, hence we have limited the amount of jobs they can take in a day, so that they have proper rest and use the time with their kids.

There have been fruitful collaboration with other institutions in delving into more depth in providing a better life for our crew. For the past year, we had collaborations with SOLS247 and meetings with Permodalan Nasional Berhad in providing financial literacy education to our cleaning crew. These collaboration and meetings have enrichen our understanding of our crew from experts and specialists such as trained clinical psychologists and advocates for financial literacy to the lower income group.

My personal belief is that in anything we do as a profession, the least we can provide is a living wage. Maideasy has consistently provided a living wage to the cleaning crew, enabling them to earn between RM2000 – RM4000 a month as a single crew taking jobs at Maideasy as their main source of income, over RM5000 for paired crew and RM6000 – RM8000 a month for teams that do specialised cleaning like spring cleaning and move in/out cleaning.

There is still a long road ahead, for sure. Learning about new business models like the one proposed by Professor Yunus certainly gives us the necessary insights in tackling the present problems that is accelerating and to address them swiftly. By engaging and involving a large section of the society in participating in economic activity while paying them a liveable wage, we have solved one of the biggest hurdles of the 3 Zeroes aspiration lined up by Muhammad Yunus.