In almost a year of writing about the local start-up ecosystem, it is common to see business associations formed among the closest and most confident people in the entrepreneur’s life, such as spouses, family and friends.
This group of friends experiencing their quarter-crisis at the same time was no exception.
“We have known each other for a long time, some even in primary school. And we have always dreamed of starting a business together. So one day I proposed a business idea to the other founders, which moved them and they decided to get on board with me, ”said Vincent, one of the founders of Laboratory dining room, shared with Vulcan Post.
Starting a business out of a shared nostalgia
As the 4 founders stepped back, they wanted to bring to market something that would also be of sentimental value to them, such as food or drink.
And since Vincent himself had been in the snack industry for over 6 years, he felt it made sense to venture into something similar, as he already knew its advantages and had connections.
Bringing something new and tasty to market was not their only intention, as all four wanted to have something affordable, just like what they would get from school canteens back then.
Convinced by Vincent’s snack idea, the group kicked off and invested about RM150K together to start the business in July 2019.
Entering a red ocean
Kantin Lab currently has two products: French fries cut into a salted egg yolk nasi lemak and a simpler taste of salted egg yolk. Theirs nasi lemak the chips come with real peanuts, pandan leaves and anchovies to replicate the nasi lemak experience. Both flavors can be sold at the price of 14.90 RM (100 g) and can be Found in convenience stores and even on e-commerce platforms.
Ever since they first exploded on the scene, salty egg yolk snacks they have become ubiquitous in Malaysia. But this saturated market doesn’t baffle the Kantin Lab team, and they think of it as a healthier competition to face.
However, they clarified that they also see themselves as a brand of salty egg yolk snacks and that this flavor is a springboard for them to roll the ball as a snack brand focused on local flavors.
Between 1,000 and 1,500 bags of chips are produced per day
At its current facility, Kantin Lab can produce between 100 and 150 kg of shavings per day. Because a bag of chips weighs about 100 g, it means they produce between 1,000 and 1,500 bags of chips a day.
Vincent is the only one who runs the business full time and has partners and a production team to support the business as well.
On average, Kantin Lab sells about 10,000 bags of tokens a month, but Vincent shared with Vulcan Post that they expected the numbers to change soon, as they have secured some collaborations and are also launching new projects.
His first collaboration is with Tealive, selling a 50 g variation nasi lemak flavored chips in their establishments with the brand of bubble milk tea brand added to the packaging.
Vincent shared that they got into this without specific expectations, as it was their first collaboration, but noted that they can leverage Tealive’s strengths to increase its reach, brand awareness and sales. He added that discussions continue with more marks, but that there is still additional information.
Although he declined to share current monthly revenue, he said they are on track to reach their first million by the end of the year and are already profitable by a small margin.
Excessive R&D expenses
“I believe that cash flow management will always be the biggest challenge of any business, especially for a new company like us. In the early days, we spent most of our initial capital on trial and error, which was not within our initial projection, ”shared Vincent.
This put them in a situation where they did not have enough funds to buy the machinery needed for production, and what made it more difficult was that they also could not apply for SME-related loans at that time.
“Fortunately, we managed to resolve the crisis by convincing the supplier to accept our payment in installments, which we believe was not possible, as it was not a common practice at the time.”
For now, the team believes it should focus on product innovation and first expand its distribution channels. If the plan is successful, they believe it will keep their customers excited and help them reach a wider consumer base.
“In addition to domestic sales, we are also in talks with various stakeholders outside Malaysia about selling Kantin Lab products overseas,” Vincent said.
A good starting point
But in terms of affordability, they are certainly not the only ones selling on the market at a cheaper price than Irvin’s salted egg (a 105g chip that costs 45 euros without discount). There are more brands that do the same Shopee.
However, it could be said that the madness of the salted egg yolk has been reduced a bit and that there are many brands in a list of our sister brand compiled in 2017 they no longer sell their salted egg yolk fries. Barriers to entry into this business seem low, and if brands can’t keep up, they’ll come in and take on new ones.
Kantin Lab’s plan to use it as a starting point makes sense, as the market has already shown that it is receptive to taste. Now, the launch can only apply more local flavors, in addition, continue to validate the market and try to gradually move away from the sale of salted egg yolk fries. After nasi lemak, wonders what other flavors would arise. Curry, maybe?
- You can find more information about Kantin Lab here.
- You can read about more F&B brands from Malaysia that we have discussed here.
Featured Image Credit: Vincent Low, one of the founders of Kantin Lab