Big Catch After SBF’s Overseas Market Workshop
Lessons learned from Mr Lim Jun Hua, a second-generation business leader
Big Spring Day Seafood Trading (BSDST) is a local manufacturer and supplier of fish balls and fish cakes in Singapore. Back in 2019, BSDST had plans in place to launch its products in Thailand, but the COVID-19 pandemic threw a spanner in the works. So, when SBF announced that it was bringing Singaporean entrepreneurs to participate in the ThaiFex – Anuga Asia 2022 event held at Impact Muang Thong Thani in Nonthaburi province in May 2022 as part of its Overseas Market Workshop (OMW), BSDST was all for it.
Since then, the company has made two large shipments to a Thai distributor and there are more in the pipeline, says Mr Lim Jun Hua, who is the company’s Sales Manager and a second-generation business leader. He says there are now plans to expand the business beyond Bangkok to other parts of Thailand.
“I am deeply grateful to SBF. Its staff introduced us to appropriate buyers and even shared tips on how we could network with the locals and it all worked out very well for us,” he says.
Sales begun almost immediately
BSDST made its first shipment to a new Thai customer in June 2022 – a mere one month after its participation in SBF’s OMW. This was followed by another in August 2022. Mr Lim shared that although BSDST had appointed a distributor in Bangkok before 2019, there were negligible sales and they comprised mainly of sample products. But after the firm took part in SBF’s OMW, business picked up swiftly.
“Our fish balls and surimi products are made from premium ingredients and the Thais appreciate our high standards. More importantly, linking up with the right buyers and understanding the business culture of the market made a big difference,” Mr Lim explains.
An innovative mindset
The company was established in 2008 by Mr Lim’s father, Mr Lim Khai Guan, who had acquired about 20 years of experience in the food production business.
Over the years, the business grew, and today, BSDST manufactures a wide range of fresh and handmade surimi seafood products for restaurants, food stalls and food kiosks. The products are incorporated in dishes such as soups, noodles, shabu-shabu, hot pots, steamboats and yong tau foo.
A firm commitment to continuous improvement sees the company embarking on ongoing efforts to improve its products, services, processes and to upskill its people to provide excellent and value-added services for its customers.
The pandemic forced the company to step up its innovation efforts. Mr Lim said that sales were down by 40% with the closure of food and beverage outlets. The management decided to introduce new products such as fried chicken feet and vacuum-packed, ready-to-eat noodles as the business had to generate more revenue streams. These two new products proved popular, and the company has since included them in its main product range.
Moving ahead, Mr Lim says that the company is eyeing expansion into the Philippines and Indonesia and has already done research into the food culture of these two countries.
“While the Filipinos are familiar with fish balls and noodle soups, the Indonesians are more into fried food so we have to customise our products to their requirements,” he explained.
To keep up with market trends, the company has introduced innovative products to fit its audience, while maintaining “heritage” flavours. The products are also Halal-certified and the company has obtained the necessary ISO certifications.
As a second-generation business leader, Mr Lim acknowledges that there is much to learn. He had initially pursued business management but dropped out from school because what he learned did not suit his requirements.
“I decided to learn business management in the real world as the lessons are more relevant. My father often shows me the ropes but every customer is different and every relationship is unique,” he said.
The younger Lim joined the business after completing his National Service last year and admits that the Thaifex event was a “real eye-opener” as he got to deal with foreign business entrepreneurs and learned how to strike up business deals with the Thais.
The 23-year-old says, “I believe strongly that age is not a factor in determining one’s experience and knowledge. I for one will not back down from an opportunity to increase and expand my expertise. Before taking any action, I always ask myself two questions as taught by my father. These are ‘Is it worth it?’ and ‘Do I need it?’. If no is the answer to either of these questions, then I would not go forward with it.”
In his free time, he plays business strategy video games or reads a book. In the morning before work, he also spends one to two hours catching up on local and world news.
He says, “Sports is also one thing that keeps me fit both physically and mentally. After a long day of work, a quick run would often ease my mind. During weekends, I participate in dragon boating which I consider to be my long-term hobby as it involves teamwork as well as coordination which I find is very important in work as well.”