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Zenxin Agri-Organic Interview - Sharing insights on Food Industry over the years

Zenxin Agri-Organic

Mr Tai Seng Yee, Executive Director

Introduction

  • Tai grew up on a farm – his father started a chicken farm business about 40 years ago. He then got the idea to make use of chicken manure to make compost, using the Japanese technique of Bokashi, which they learned from a Japanese sensei.
  • Zenxin is now involved in agriculture farming, has a retail arm and an export component.
  • Regarding the company’s culture, it was pointed out that ZENXIN means sincerity and honesty in Chinese.
  • Tai officially joined the company in 2004. He shared that his father started out his farm business with only himself, and they now have about 1,500-2,000 employees across the entire organization (most of them in Malaysia and China).

Challenges at the start

Zenxin faced quite a number of challenges at the start as there was no market demand for their products then. People didn’t understand their products and so they opened the Zenxin Organic Park, which has hosted over half a million Singaporeans over the past 10 years. The company relied on strong marketing in order to educate consumers.

Tai acknowledged that they didn’t know the market well at the beginning. Farmers typically don’t follow market trends and just grow whatever they know how to grow. He opined that there is a need to balance between what farmers can grow and what consumers want.

What’s the next step for the company?

Zenxin has plans to expand into China. They will also continue to strengthen their foothold in Singapore and Malaysia. Zenxin will open two new shops and a distribution centre in Nanning, Guangxi Province in October 2020.

Zenxin aims to become the window to China in terms of organic food sourcing and importing organic food for distribution.

Product diversification is also a key strategy. The company handles many organic brands, but is constantly looking into new products, especially healing ones. For example, they will be introducing haskap berry products into the market soon.

Zenxin Singapore will open a new arm of business: Distributing regional fresh vegetables and fruits such as Flanders region of Belgium, France’s Brittany, Australia’s Tasmania, etc.

Zenxin is the leading organic food distributor to Aeon Malaysia and is one of the top 100 suppliers of Aeon Malaysia

How has COVID-19 affected the company?

Zenxin has actually experienced a spike in demand during the COVID-19 as they supply directly to homes.

Over the past few months, they spearheaded several digital efforts to improve their e-commerce side of the business.

To get themselves more future-ready, they moved their company system over to Microsoft Dynamics in 2018.

Zenxin is also planning to use a new distribution system by collaborating with a local retailer.

In addition, the company is looking at the growing halal-market. They are working with a travel agency who specializes in the Haj tours, and they will market their products through them.

What changes have you observed from the time when you first joined the industry until now?

Tai opined that consumers are getting more conscious about their health and the environment. There has also been an increase in demand for plant-based products.

Venturing overseas

Tai pointed out that every country’s market has its own set of regulations and challenges, and it is up to them on how to work their way in.

He added that this is why many companies want to come to Singapore to perform test launches, as it is relatively easy to enter the market here. Nevertheless, he stressed that it might be easy to break into the Singapore market, but it is another challenge to be successful here.

For any company who wants to expand overseas, Tai advised that it is very important for them to carefully study the local market and culture first. Even more crucial is the need to gain first-hand experience on the ground.

Collaborating with Japanese companies

Tai is always prudent when making investments, but remains open to any opportunities that present its way.

He is definitely open to the idea of collaborating with Japanese companies. He said that Japanese products are very good, but very expensive.

Tai suggested that his company can collaborate with Japanese companies in terms of technology for agriculture and food processing.

He shared the story of the founder of Wang Wang, who successfully made use of Japanese technology to build a great brand.

From that story, Tai pointed out the vast potential Japanese technology has overseas.

Message to Japanese companies

Tai encouraged Japanese companies to invest in Southeast Asia. He explained that this is a region which is politically neutral, has a growing population, and is safe from major natural disasters.

Please contact GPC if you have any questions regarding your market entry into Southeast Asia or vice versa, expand into Japan.
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