Home Lifestyle A 3rd-Gen Kim Zua Owner: This S'pore Millennial Makes A Living With...

A 3rd-Gen Kim Zua Owner: This S’pore Millennial Makes A Living With Gifts For The Dead

It’s that point of the yr once more.

The Hungry Ghost Competition falls on the seventh month of the Chinese language lunar calendar, when ghosts and spirits are believed to be let loose of the Gates of Hell on the primary day of the month.

Regardless of no getai performances and dwell auctions this yr on account of COVID-19, joss sticks can nonetheless be seen lined up alongside sidewalks and lots of worshippers are nonetheless burning prayer choices.

It’s a usually busy interval for Ban Kah Hiang Buying and selling, which is understood to be considered one of Singapore’s oldest joss paper retailers.

This yr sadly, appears to be a quieter-than-usual interval for the enterprise as a result of pandemic.

A Household Enterprise Of Over 70 Years

Picture Credit score: Ban Kah Hiang Buying and selling

Ban Kah Hiang Buying and selling was established within the 1950s, and was based by the late Teo Chong Lim.

The enterprise was later handed all the way down to his son within the late 1980s, and has since been taken over by his grandson in 2016.

The present third-generation proprietor is 32-year-old Alex Teo, who can be a father of three.

In an interview with Vulcan Put up, Alex shared that his grandfather had hailed from Fujian province, China and sailed all the way down to Penang, Malaysia the place he labored in a joss stick manufacturing facility — that was the place he first learnt the commerce of constructing joss stick.

His grandfather then migrated additional down and finally settled down in Singapore, the place he continued to work at a number of joss stick factories earlier than he determined to open a manufacturing facility of his personal.

In response to Alex, it was the primary manufacturing facility in Singapore to domestically produce incense coil.

On account of growing working and manpower price nonetheless, the joss stick manufacturing facility finally closed down within the mid-1980s.

Nonetheless, their operation nonetheless continued on by the 1990s from their two retail shops in Tiong Bahru Market and Prince Philip Avenue.

Our operation nonetheless continued on by the 1990s from our two retail shops in Tiong Bahru Market and Prince Philip Avenue.

In the present day, our previous retail retailer at Tiong Bahru Market continues to be there and we’re headquartered and working from 107 Jalan Bukit Merah, which is the place I’m primarily based now.

– Alex Teo, third-generation proprietor of Ban Kah Hiang Buying and selling

At the moment, Ban Kah Hiang Buying and selling operates from two shops and three warehouses.

It’s now a provider and wholesaler for joss paper and joss sticks, which they provide to numerous temples and different joss paper shops islandwide.

They’ve clinched a number of big-name shoppers, particularly throughout the seventh month when many company corporations order from them often yearly.

These shoppers embrace massive lodges, restaurant teams, MNCs and even authorities companies.

A Millennial Operating A Conventional Enterprise

Alex took over the household enterprise full-time in 2016, when he was solely 28 years previous.

There have been fairly a lot of conventional joss paper retailers which have been round in Singapore for a few years (however they’ve) closed down as a result of there was no successor of my technology to take over the enterprise.

I wouldn’t need this to occur to my circle of relatives enterprise and determined to take over after consulting my dad and mom and partner.

– Alex Teo, third-generation proprietor of Ban Kah Hiang Buying and selling

Whereas household and buddies didn’t count on him to take over such a standard enterprise, they have been supportive of his choice.

Previous to operating the enterprise, the enterprise administration graduate from the College of Manchester labored as a medical claims assessor — for CPF Board for nearly 5 years, and Prudential Assurance for the following 1.5 years.

He had zero expertise in retail, so there was a steep studying curve for him.

“There are such a lot of issues to study on this commerce, and I’m nonetheless studying from my dad and mom at this stage. I even have a ‘child face’ and many individuals I met thought I’m nonetheless 18 or 19, although I’m already 32!” he lamented.

“A lot of my shoppers and prospects don’t actually take me severely, or doubt no matter I stated to them as a result of they don’t assume a boy at this age will be capable of perceive joss paper or Taoist custom and apply.”

ban kah hiang trading alex teo
Alex Teo and his mum / Picture Credit score: Ban Kah Hiang Buying and selling

Nonetheless, through the years, he has managed to persuade them that he “is aware of [his] stuff”. Even when he actually has no concept, he would flip to his dad and mom and seek the advice of them.

Through the years, the arrogance constructed up and he now has good relations with all his shoppers and prospects.

Moreover, when Alex first took over from his dad, he realised that there have been many issues that have been accomplished manually akin to issuing invoices and stock-taking.

“So my first process of taking on the enterprise was to computerise all the pieces. Now, all my invoices and inventory counts are computerised and uploaded within the cloud in order that I’d be capable of entry these paperwork or work wherever by my cellular or pill.”

“It has undoubtedly made my enterprise processes extra environment friendly and fewer time-consuming.”

Gross sales Have Fallen By 50%

In response to Alex, his joss paper enterprise have three foremost peak durations in a yr — Chinese language New Yr, Qing Ming Competition and Hungry Ghost Competition.

Since in addition they provide items to numerous temples and different shops all year long, enterprise is brisk at different instances of the yr too.

Furthermore, in addition they have walk-in prospects who purchase items at their retail retailer for his or her ancestor’s anniversary prayers and varied Taoist deities birthday all year long.

Whereas kim zua shouldn’t be precisely a seasonal enterprise, it may be seen as a sundown trade.

Because the society will get extra modernised and westernised, the custom of burning choices and paper effigies will “fade off additional time.”

“Nonetheless, the vast majority of our inhabitants and faith continues to be Chinese language and Taoist/Buddhist respectively, so I feel this custom and apply ought to nonetheless be capable of proceed for a number of generations”

“These practices and traditions have already been round from hundreds of years, (so) I do imagine it would nonetheless stand the check of time for a number of extra generations.”

Coupled with the specter of eroding traditions, his enterprise has additionally been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gross sales and income have been fixed all through these years aside from this yr, when our enterprise has dropped by 50 per cent on account of COVID-19. Our enterprise income has dropped by about half of final yr.

(Many) temples and columbariums have been closed throughout circuit breaker and loads of restrictions have been imposed, so (the variety of) our retail prospects have dropped fairly a (honest) bit. Temples are additionally getting lesser items from us as there are restrictions to the variety of folks within the temples.

– Alex Teo, third-generation proprietor of Ban Kah Hiang Buying and selling

Sharing his future enterprise plans, Alex stated that they plan to innovate and usher in new merchandise and designs yearly to draw returning prospects.

ban kah hiang trading joss paper
Picture Credit score: Ban Kah Hiang Buying and selling

Some distinctive paper choices embrace the most recent digital devices, quick meals meal units and even durian.

“We are going to attempt to hearken to buyer wants and necessities and check out to herald new paper effigies yearly.”

He added that they’ve been making an attempt to enhance their merchandise yearly to be extra environmentally pleasant. At the moment, they’re creating and bringing in “lesser smoke” and “smokeless” joss sticks.

“We now have additionally developed a “smokeless” joss paper (and) we hope to see it mass produced and utilized in Singapore.”

Regardless of the improvements, one factor that may stay fixed is their pricing.

My father suggested me that our items have to be fairly priced and inexpensive. We can’t cost exorbitant costs, we can’t do it only for the cash.

We’re promoting these items in a method we’re additionally accumulating good karma by serving to others to offer again to their ancestors and the deities.

– Alex Teo, third-generation proprietor of Ban Kah Hiang Buying and selling

Featured Picture Credit score: Alex Teo

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