Author’s presentation text: As a lover of fish and all things seafood, I certainly don’t know how to buy them myself. I usually default to what is in the frozen section of the grocery store, as I don’t know how to choose from the fresh catches laid out where the fishmonger is.
If you are like me, Mr. Chen Ling Choy might be the right person to call. He and his wife, Ms. Chen (Regina), have been involved in the local fishing industry for at least 18 years.
A livelihood based on fish
Having started as a fisherman at 19 in Seremban, Mr. Chen was born into a family that has long been involved in the industry. As a teenager, he single-handedly caught and supplied his fish in wet markets before starting CLC Fishery with Regina in 2003.
“Having noticed a demand for fresh seafood supplies, we started our business by initially supplying seafood to wet markets, followed by restaurants and hotels. We have now expanded to supply seafood overseas as well, from neighboring countries such as Singapore to Hong Kong and Macau, ”he told Vulcan Post.
Over the years, the couple would continue to supply their catch to the B2B segment, even opening their own 43,560 square foot fish farm in 2012 to fill larger volume orders. All along, a major challenge that Mr. Chen faced while running this factory was working in uncontrollable weather conditions.
“Our supply depends on the weather. It takes good weather for the fish to survive well. On rainy days, the water quality will deteriorate and can affect the fish because there is not enough oxygen that can be supplied, so the fish can die, ”Chen told Vulcan Post.
This is why an ordinary day for Mr. Chen begins at 6:30 a.m., where he checks the oxygen levels in the water. In the event of frequent rain, an RM40K back-up generator will be activated to maintain oxygen levels, helping them maintain their supplies for the next 8 years or so.
For 14 years, supplying client companies was enough for Mr. and Mrs. Chen. Until COVID-19 occurs, ie.
The pandemic has hit restaurant businesses badly, who are said to cut back on their seafood orders when faced with fewer customers to serve during the AGC. Consequently, sales of CLC Fishery subsequently declined.
However, home cooking has become common among Malays at home. “This has prompted us to review our strategy and change our online business model to meet the growing demands of our B2C customers,” said Mr. Chen.
Although their customer base has doubled with the launch of their online business, Mr. Chen – who is used to delivering large volumes to restaurants – has noticed a big difference. “The volume per order was small as they came from individual families. It was different from what we used to get from companies before MCO, ”he told Vulcan Post.
To increase its online sales, CLC Fishery provided free shipping, good customer service, and made an active effort to increase its social media reach on Facebook.
At the end of last year, CLC Fishery was given another opportunity to grow its business in the retail segment. After being approached by Growers Market in Rivercity Jalan Ipoh, the duo opened their first flagship store where customers can drop by and buy seafood in person.
This store presents a more unusual seafood shopping experience, as customers can find not only frozen seafood but also live fish there, taking advantage of the shared experience of Mr. Chen and Regina to raise them.
There is always a demand for fish
Even with all the changes CLC Fishery went through, Mr. Chen casually shared that he did not consider any of these measures out of the ordinary.
“The products are the same, so it wasn’t something too drastic. The challenge with every change is to invest time and money in it, ”said the 37-year-old. “We believe that where there is an opportunity there will also be new challenges, but we have faced them.”
Considering themselves lucky that there is still a demand for fish, they are constantly looking for ways to innovate and grow, or even change their business model again if the situation calls for it.
Even so, when asked about their future plans, Mr. Chen only shared that he hoped to continue to focus on the export market for his products.
At the end of the line: I’m sure entrepreneurs have heard this before, that when businesses face a problem, they have to adapt or die. I think Mr. Chen and Regina really embodied the saying as they have proven to embrace change to grow their business and survive when things don’t go as planned.
- You can learn more about CLC Fishery here.
- You can read more articles about Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Mr. Chen Ling Choy, Founder and Managing Director and Ms. Chen, Managing Director of CLC Fishery
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