This S’pore Millennial Took Over Her Late Father’s Prawning Biz

If you are a shrimp fan, you have certainly heard of Hai Bin which is one of the most popular places in Singapore.

For those who are not familiar with this activity, shrimp is a lot like fishing – except you catch shrimp instead of fish.

It’s also much easier to catch a catch, as the shrimp are confined to a pond instead of the open sea – and you also have staff “ filling ” the shrimp every few hours or so.

According to Hai Bin, the shrimp is both a solo or group activity and has attracted many fans since its introduction in Singapore over 20 years ago.

Has grown to four outlets in 13 years

On Hai Bin’s website, he said the business “started with a man who was passionate about fishing and dreamed of reviving the ‘kampung’ spirit and lifestyle among Singaporeans.”

This man in question is the late founder of Hai Bin, Alex Phay, who decided it would make it his dream to create a ‘space for rest and relaxation that could rekindle the passion for fishing amid our hectic city life. “.

hai bin prawning singapore
Image Credit: Hai Bin

He then built a shrimp fishing pond on Sin Ming Avenue in Bishan in 2007.

In the span of 13 years, Hai Bin expanded to four outlets in Singapore when it opened in Jurong, Punggol and Sembawang.

Today, the business is now run by his 24-year-old daughter Chloe Phay.

“My father has always been an avid fisherman and (he) really felt a connection with the Kampung spirit of his youth. He wanted to create a space for that spirit to live in modern Singapore, ”said Chloe.

“Prawning was (his) solution to the space constraint in Singapore, but also offered a bit of the respite he hoped would resonate with other Singaporeans.

Chloe described Hai Bin as a “modern kampung,” adding that it is a place where people can “come home,” which is why they have made an effort to keep their doors open, rain or shine. it is sunny for 24 hours a day.

Take over the family business at age 24

hai bin prawning singapore
Image Credit: Hai Bin

When her father passed away suddenly late last year from cancer, Chloe had to take over and take over the business.

She had no previous professional experience, but that’s fine with her because she “learned the most on the job”.

Although she admitted to having faced doubt and criticism, she is also very grateful that the people around her have lent her a hand in running the business.

She needs all the help she can get because after all, “everyone is in the same ocean trying to find their way to their destination.”

“You never know who might save you when you find yourself in a shipwreck.”

Running a 24-hour business is particularly difficult, especially when it comes to managing the workforce.

However, she is lucky that most of the preparatory work and business processes had already been put in place by her late father before he arrived.

“It’s easy to fall into despair if you focus on the negative, so I prefer to take a positive mindset about ‘problems’ as challenges or opportunities.”

COVID-19 lost the company $ 500K

COVID-19, in particular, was a huge business challenge. Moreover, it happened shortly after she took over the business – “about less than three months” since taking over, she recalls.

Due to the pandemic, Hai Bin was forced to shut down even beyond the breaker period as it was considered a non-essential business.

“It was easily at least half a million (dollars) in lost revenue for the three months and the closure of our outlet in Sembawang, as well as the security measures we had to put in place, which reduced our crowd.

hai bin prawning singapore
Image Credit: Vulcan Post

However, he’s lucky that in addition to shrimp, Hai Bin can count on his F&B branch – Banyan Beer Garden, which is an outdoor-style bar and cafe – to supplement his income.

Hai Bin only reopened at the start of the second reopening phase in mid-June.

“The plan right now is to make sure we maintain a sanitary and safe environment for our customers,” Chloe said.

hai bin prawning singapore
Image Credit: Hai Bin

Currently, the additional safety measures implemented at Hai Bin are that customers cannot share a rod, and no cooking of shrimp is allowed to prevent joint cooking.

She added that sales have more or less “stabilized” now, and it is unfortunate that they are only one outlet in Punggol now.

The biggest shrimp place in S’pore

hai bin prawning singapore
Image Credit: Hai Bin

Despite the closure of its three other outlets, Hai Bin is still the largest shrimp facility in Singapore, according to Chloe.

When asked why she closed the other outlets, Chloe simply said that Hai Bin had “an unfortunate history of renting space which subsequently had to be returned to the government.”

This was also the case for its Sembawang outlet, which closed in March 2020.

For its first outlet in Bishan, Hai Bin had to close it in 2013 after six years of operation due to a “sharp increase in rents.”

He was faced with a “staggering 300%” rent increase, which made it “impossible” for them to continue. According to The New Paper, the monthly rent has dropped from S $ 26,000 to S $ 65,000.

Despite these closings, Chloe remains optimistic for the future.

“Shrimp as a hobby has definitely seen a revival (now) that other new shrimp companies have sprung up.”

“Our staff has (also) increased eightfold since we started in Bishan with three workers,” she added.

Although she declined to comment on future business plans, Chloe shared her hopes the business “picks up” once the global COVID-19 and travel situation improves.

Featured Image Credit: Vulcan Post / Hai Bin

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Jothi Venkat

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