David Tan Teh Jie was very certain of his decision when he started Ming Feng Marketing (M) Sdn Bhd, one of the largest edible bird’s nest distributor in Malaysia. Established in 2016, David leads the company with his extensive experience in different segments of the bird’s nest industry value chain.
Describing himself as an ‘old soul trapped in a young body’, David is not new to this industry. In fact, his passion for bird’s nest started when he was only 10 years old. His father, who was also a successful businessman, introduced David to the lucrative bird’s nest business that he started in his own home. While it was not the kind of business that his peers would be interested in, David developed the avid interest in the bird’s nest after seeing how it was done and learning the process from his father.
Collecting valuable experiences
He first ventured into the business in 2013 when he joined Zheng Feng Equity Sdn. Bhd as a partner. It was his first-hand experience in managing a business that dealt with raw materials to finished goods. Although he had to travel weekly, from Tangkak, Johor to Semenyih, Selangor, he enjoyed it as he was doing what he was passionate in.
“Being part of Zheng Feng Equity Sdn Bhd has been one of the main highlights in my career. It gave me the first-hand experience in understanding the business and building a strong network of customers,” says David.
Growing up with a supportive family and friends
He took another significant step in 2015 when he sold off his equity shares at Zheng Feng Equity Sdn Bhd and started his current business, Ming Feng Marketing (M) Sdn Bhd. He was on 20 years old then. He was fortunate that he had had the support from his family and friends. They were very encouraging. They were among the very first investors who provided the financial support that he needed to start the business.
“I am grateful that my family and friends have been very supportive. It wasn’t easy to start a business, especially in an industry that not many people are familiar with. I had to look into a lot of things, and it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had the support and encouragement from them,” says David.
It has been more than 3 years since David founded Ming Feng Marketing (M) Sdn Bhd that headquartered in Semenyih. Occupying two shop lots, it is also the operation facility for David and his team where they process the bird’s nest from raw material to finished good.
The pioneer in the bird’s nest industry
From 2015 to 2017, Malaysia’s trade volume in the bird’s nest industry has surged roughly 30 times, and bird’s nests sold on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform in 2017 fetched more than 1.48 billion yuan ($218 million), according to the latest big data report from the Edible Bird’s Nest Market Committee of China Agricultural Wholesale Markets Association.
Ming Feng Marketing (M) Sdn Bhd is one of the leading bird’s nest distributors in Malaysia that has contributed significantly to the industry growth. All of the edible bird’s nest produced are distributed locally and internationally in mass amount.
Showcasing Malaysian bird’s nest products to the world
Besides the local market, Ming Feng Marketing (M) Sdn Bhd also exports its products to countries like China and Middle East. Ming Feng Marketing (M) Sdn Bhd exports 1/3 of the total bird’s nest produced in Malaysia annually and China is one of its leading markets. Although it is a competitive market, Ming Feng Marketing (M) Sdn Bhd has successfully penetrated China, especially since China lifted the ban on bird’s nest products from Malaysia. It secured its first international contract in 2016, where it was awarded the contract to export edible bird’s nest to Hong Kong in April 2016.
Besides China, Ming Feng Marketing (M) Sdn Bhd has also successfully crafted its path into the Middle East. Having obtained the Halal certification makes its bird’s nest products more appealing to the Muslim communities in Malaysia and the Middle East.
Contributing to the local SMEs and ecosystem
David believes that there is abundance of opportunities for local SMEs in the bird’s nest to go far. However, the opportunities are under explored or ignored by some SMEs. The self-made entrepreneur applauded the support that he received from SME Corp, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) when he first started off. The agencies had given him strong support, in terms of securing funding and business opportunity, to expand his business.
“It is not easy to start a business, especially when you are a SME in a competitive market. We are very grateful that agencies like SME Corp, MITI and MATRADE have always been very supportive whenever we reach out to them for help. It is their support that has contributed to part of Ming Feng Marketing (M) Sdn Bhd success.
Filling the gap with creative ideas
Seeing there is a gap in the industry, David and his team are exploring the option to collaborate with the local SMEs to produce different kinds of bird’s nest products that cater to different consumers’ needs.
“We are aware that not everyone drinks bird’s nest for health. Some consume the product for aesthetic, and some consume for other purpose. This is the reason we need to carry out our own research and development to diversify the use of bird’s nest in different products,” says David.
Besides R&D, David and his team had also conducted market research vigorously to unveil customers’ preference on the type of bird’s nest products. They found out that consumers also have different preference when it comes to bird’s nest consumption in their recent finding. Some people like to consume the liquid form and some like it solid. Hence, David and his team are exploring opportunities to collaborate with different parties to develop their downstream products.
Encouraging new blood to join the industry
He foresees the need to train and develop new talents for Ming Feng Marketing (M) Sdn Bhd to grow further. However, he has been facing the challenge in recruiting young people. While they are extremely supportive in encouraging young people to join the industry, they constantly face the challenge of getting them to join. Young people are either unaware of the industry or not keen to join.
“It is an industry that we rarely heard of and not many young people are keen to be in it as they assume that it involves a lot of hard labour and lack of prospect. However, time has changed. Many of our processes are machine-operated now. For example, the heat treatment. It is done by machine. Also, it is important to highlight the great prospect to be in this industry which is expanding fast,” says David.
He hopes that by being more involved and opening more opportunities for them, he will be able to encourage young talents to be part of this industry and bring new ideas to it. “I hope we can successfully expand the bird’s nest business in the near future. We also would like to diversify our business by venturing into other businesses,” he ends.