A Brief Chat With Miguel – Founder, Heritage Bay
We had a brief chat with Miguel Bay, founder of Heritage Bay – a Singapore-based retail brand selling traditional products made in South-East Asia. – who is also an Entreseller. He shared with us his background and his mission to promote local South-East Asian tradition.
What sparked your interest in batik or preserving local tradition in general?
My first spark behind starting Heritage Bay occurred from a trip to Cameron Highlands with my family in 2017. We saw Orang Asli’s who were native Malaysian people, sell wooden chopping boards at the side of the road. They were made of extremely good and thick jungle wood sold for just RM20, which was about SGD$7. It really heartened me because I knew these were people who relied on this humble source of income for their livelihood. I was confident people with higher purchasing power in countries such as Singapore would pay up to SGD$50 for these good-quality handmade goods which would greatly aid the livelihood of the local craftsmen. The idea of being a linking bridge between these two parties stayed with me till my graduation from Polytechnic in 2020, and I officially launched Heritage Bay on Labour Day, 1 May 2021.
What is your biggest motivation for starting and pursing this business?
My biggest motivation of pursuing Heritage Bay is a hope to assist local artisans and craftsmen in the long run. Many of these locals are currently suffering from poverty on a large scale due to pre-existing and current factors. For example, in addition to economic and political hardships, the COVID-19 pandemic has eliminated sales extensively due to a halt in global tourism. Selling local cultural products has become unsustainable in supporting a livelihood for many of these local businesses. As a result, they have turned to importing factory-made, mass-produced items which detrimentally dilute cultural preservation.
I believe when pivoted correctly, culture and vocations of craftsmanship can still be competitively preserved through the aid of technology and a modernised twist.
Why is cultural preservation important? Tell us more about its place in society (Singaporean or Indonesian or both)
Every country has an identity which makes its unique. A big part of this national identity is culture, a manifestation of intellectual achievements that is the vibrancy of unique ideas, customs, and social behaviour. In Singapore, a big part of the culture I embrace is the multi-racial community and the wide horizon of delicious food. Similarly, behind every cultural product embody a rich history and story of collective art compiled over centuries. Without efforts of preserving these cultural products, a crucial component of a nation’s identity is being eroded with fast-paced globalisation.
What are some examples of some cultural preservation and how is it interesting? (I would introduce Batik here)
With a long-term goal of advocating for all South-east Asian products, Heritage Bay is currently focusing on Indonesia as a start with Batik products. The word “Batik” originates from the combination of two words Javanese words, “amba” and “titik” which translates to dotted writing. The craft of beautiful dots and patterns symbolising philosophical symbols and meanings date back to ancient China as early as BC 221. Three main techniques are used in producing batik: hand-written (batik tulis), stamped (batik cap), and printed (batik printing) each having unique tools and techniques to produce the finalised product.
What is a typical workday like for you?
As a full-time student my typical workday consists of juggling schoolwork, business processes, and my personal commitments. I would attend classes during the day and head back to my hall (AKA Heritage Bay’s warehouse) during the evening if there are no extra-curricular activities. Running a small business, some would say “Pau Ka Liau” which would describe multitasking several tasks such as packing parcels, dropping them off, replying to customers, creating marketing collaterals, and liaising with suppliers. In the doing, I am continually learning the art of prioritising my various commitments, one day at a time.