After 20 years as an industrialist and executive director of the then Tasek Corporation Berhad, Dato David Tan Sek Yin now spends his days over hot stove brewing and serving delicious bowls of Ipoh ‘kai see hor fun’. His business experience as an industrialist has landed him comfortably in a totally unrelated business. He tells Chalkboard his take on the switch.
1. How did you make this switch to a totally unrelated business – a question, you’ll probably know is on everyone’s mind?
Cooking has always been my passion. So after retirement going into the food business was a natural move. People have wondered why I would move into such a tiring business. Whenever I eat out and taste something good I would research and try cooking to develop that special taste. I would not stop until I find it. It was exactly that when I developed the broth for Ipoh kai si hor fun (chicken kway teow soup). Today, my customers say its the best in Ipoh – even better than the original one!
2. How does your experience as an industrialist help to grow this kway teow stalls into a bigger business?
In 2 years I have opened 3 stalls and a fourth is in the offing. The reason why I didn’t open restaurants or coffee shops is because I need to know the business, know the customers’ responses and to build a name before committng to a bigger investment. Now I sell about 400 to 500 bowls daily from the 3 stalls over normal 5 business hours. What helps is also my ability to do proper costing, organise a system to increase productivity and to reduce wastage in time and resources.
Organising the kitchen in terms of time, equipment and manpower is same as how a factory would organise manpower, costing and a business plan for the future. In the food industry, if you can control cost, you will be able to see profit come up.
3. In the two years of running the stalls what is your main takeaway?
My workers who work at the stalls are one of my most valuable assets. They need to have ownership of their work and for me to earn their loyalty. If you want to be an active boss you need to be able to do everything the worker does. On busy weekends I would also help to wash the bowls. When they see me doing that they seemed more willing to go the extra mile, to work harder.
4. What are your future plans for your noodle business “Little Katong”?
I have plans to expand the business overseas like in Australia and UK where there are large communities of Malaysians who would love a delicious bowl of Ipoh kai see hor fun away from home. I may even consider a franchise within Malaysia.