Author’s draft: As a lover of fish and all seafood, I’m sure I know nothing about buying them myself. Normally, I would default to everything in the frozen section at the grocery store, as I don’t know how to choose from the fresh catches that are where the fishmonger’s is located.
If you are like me, Mr. Chen Ling Choy may be the right person to call. He and his wife, Ms. Chen (Regina) have been involved in the local fishing industry for at least 18 years.
A fish-based livelihood
Beginning as a fisherman at the age of 19 in Seremban, Mr. Chen was born into a family long devoted to the industry. As a teenager, he used to catch and supply his fish to the wet markets before launch CLC fishing with Regina in 2003.
“After noticing a demand for fresh seafood supply, we started the business by initially supplying seafood to wet markets, followed by restaurants and hotels. We have now expanded to supply seafood overseas as well, from neighboring countries like Singapore to Hong Kong and Macau, ”he told Vulcan Post.
Over the years, the pair would continue to supply their catches to the B2B segment, even opening their own 43,560-square-foot fish farm in 2012 to cater for larger-volume orders. Throughout, one of the great challenges Mr. Chen faced while running this factory was to work in an uncontrollable climate.
“Our supply depends on the weather. We need good weather for the fish to survive well. On rainy days, water quality will deteriorate and can affect fish as not enough oxygen can be supplied, so fish can die, ”Chen told Vulcan Post.
That’s why a regular day for Mr. Chen starts at 6.30am, where he would check his oxygen levels in the water. In case of frequent rains, an RM40K backup generator will be activated to maintain oxygen levels, helping them to maintain supplies for the next 8 years or so.
Increase in customers
For 14 years, the supply to corporate customers was sufficient for Mr. and Mrs. Chen. Until COVID-19 happened, that is.
The pandemic severely impacted F&B companies that would decrease their seafood orders when they encountered fewer customers to serve during the MCO. Therefore, sales of CLC Fishery subsequently decreased.
However, home cooking became predominant among Malaysians trapped at home. “It led us to rethink strategies and change our online business model to meet the growing demands of our B2C customers,” Chen shared.
Although its customer base doubled with the launch of its online business, Mr. Chen, who is used to supplying large volumes to restaurants, noticed a big difference. “The volume per order was small as it came from individual families. It was no different from what we used to get from corporate companies before the MCO, ”he told Vulcan Post.
To increase its online sales, CLC Fishery provided free delivery, good customer service and made an active effort to grow its reach on social media on Facebook.
Late last year, CLC Fishery was offered another opportunity to expand its business in the retail segment. After approaching Producers market in Rivercity, Jalan Ipoh, the duo has opened their first flagship store where customers can stop by and buy seafood in person.
This store features a more infrequent seafood shopping experience, as customers here can browse not only frozen seafood but also live fish, taking advantage of Mr. Chen and Regina’s shared experience in their raising to get it out.
There is always a demand for fish
Even with all the changes CLC Fishery has undergone, Mr. Chen shared with indifference that he does not consider any of these moves out of the ordinary.
“The products are the same, so it wasn’t too drastic. The challenge of each change is to invest time and money, “said the 37-year-old.” We believe that where there is an opportunity, there will also be new challenges, but we faced them head on. “
Considering themselves lucky that there is always a demand for fish, they are constantly looking for ways to innovate and expand, or even change their business model again if the situation requires it.
However, when asked about his future plans, Mr. Chen only shared that he hopes to continue to focus on the export market for his products.
Bottom line: I’m sure employers have heard it before, that when companies face a problem, they have to adapt or die. I think Mr. Chen and Regina have really embodied the saying, as they have proven to embrace change to expand their business and survive when things don’t go their way.
- You can find more information about CLC Fishery here.
- You can read more articles about Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Mr. Chen Ling Choy, Founder and CEO, and Ms. Chen, Executive Director of CLC Fishery