Local grass cutter struggles to make a mark

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Waqiuddin Rajak

NOT many people are keen to take up blue collar professions which in Brunei is mostly dominated by foreign nationals; but while most locals avoid this, Md Khairul Izzat Abdullah, or better known as Alimin sees opportunity.

Alimin is currently one of the only locals who lasted long in the grass cutting market in Brunei; with his grass cutter and a minivan, he goes around Brunei cutting grass on the roadside and plots of land, as required by his line of clients.

Two years into the business, Alimin has already developed a strong clientele who will only call him whenever they need their grass trimmed; but two years is not enough for him to make a breakthrough in the market, as he needs more locals to join in the segment and contest with the foreigners.

Pictures: Waqiuddin Rajak

Grass cutting however was not the first business idea he thought of when he lost his job at a security firm two years ago, he told The Bruneian in an interview on one of his jobs at Sekolah Rendah Pengiran Pekerma Setia Diraja Sahibul Bandar, Kg Mata-Mata.

He first thought of opening up a workshop, looking that he is capable to tinker with machines and repair; but he would need to have strong financial backing.

At that time, he only had enough to survive his wife and seven children; with him also having to take care of his loans.

“The idea came out of the blue. I stumbled upon a group of foreigners getting ready to cut grass on the roadside and thought, why don’t I do the same thing?” he said.

Alimin got his first grass cutter from Facebook, costing him a mere $90; but that trimmer went down by the end of last year, putting a temporary halt to his operations before receiving a new grass cutter, courtesy of a donor.

The donor, he said, was also the one who gave him the minivan two years ago, which has made it easier for him to go to sites, trimming grass for his clients.

The time taken to complete a job depends on the area and the length of the grass, said Alimin;

“Sometimes, if the grass is too long to cut, it will take me more than a day, if they are shorter, then it can be done within a day. But at times, I will occasionally also be bringing family members to help me; with more people, definitely the job can be done much faster and easier,” he said.

Charges for his service would depend on the length of grasses he is to cut, said Alimin.

“Grasses that are as tall as me, I charge about $60 to $70; and for those that does not even reach my knee, I will charge around $30 to $40 but this also depends on the size of the areas,” said Alimin.

Alimin claimed his grass cutting method is special compared to the foreigners who dominated the market.

“When I cut the grasses, I will cut them accordingly to its levels; if it is as tall as me, I will cut it at the mid section first then move to the bottom ones. This is to ensure that all of the grasses are cut clean, giving landowners the benefit of a clean landscape,” he said.

Through this business however, Alimin was only able to obtain an average of $400 per month, but it is still a good top up to the $455 welfare money he received from the government to support children.

Alimin has tried getting people to work with him, but not many are willing, with Alimin noting that it is a heavy job that requires one to stay long under the sun.

A lot of people, he said, may still prefer to work under employment contracts; as it ensures stable monthly income.

“But for me, having to be your own boss and to dictate your own income is good enough. Grass cutting is currently a foreign-dominated job, but I feel that we, locals, have the responsibility to takeover and grow this segment to be better,” he said.

Alimin added that he is planning to stay in the business for good, pledging to reject job offers given to him; especially when he knows that he is the only local contesting for long in the market dominated by foreigners.

“In the long run, I planned to open up my own grass cutting company, while hiring people is currently a challenge, I still believe that people will gradually open up to this segment,” he said.

“And when they do, I will be ready to share my experiences and what I have learnt; but at the moment, I am hoping to be able to make a breakthrough with this, InsyaAllah I will continue to work hard to achieve that plan,” he added.

The Bruneian