MyKuali

Special thanks to Sky Thomas Food Industries for extending this product review invitation.

MyKuali brand of instant noodle should be familiar to most Malaysians by now. The manufacturer, Sky Thomas Food Industries Sdn. Bhd. under Sky Resources Group, is headquartered in Bukit Minyak. I had the privilege of visiting its factory to learn more about its products.
Background

The driving force behind MyKuali brand is its co-founder Mr. Thomas Tang, who is still very involved in steering the company's direction today. The business started as a home-based instant paste manufacturer, but it faced difficulty in penetrating the red ocean market. In response, Thomas introduced his first instant noodle, Penang White Curry Noodle, as a gateway to reach out to mainstream consumers. Ironically, what started as a promotional vehicle turned out to be the company's bestselling product.
According to Thomas, the journey was a rough ride. Thomas and his sister Annie experimented with 700 different recipes just to perfect the now-popular Penang White Curry Noodle. Another hurdle to overcome is to extend the shelf life of hawker-grade perishable curry paste.

Despite painstaking effort, business was still slow. However, MyKuali received unexpected attention among Malaysian students who were studying abroad. Yearning for local Malaysian delicacies, homesick students informed their families to send fresh supplies from home. This created awareness back home through word-of-mouth. By July 2013, MyKuali saw a sudden surge in demand (20 times its throughput back then). From there on, the rest is history.

Present State

Following the success of Penang White Curry, MyKuali has introduced several more flavors to meet popular demand. In addition, increased acceptance of the brand allows MyKuali to promote its range of instant paste. Bowl rice vermicelli is coming out soon too.
To cope with increasing order, the company relocated to its corporate office to its new headquarters in Bukit Minyak; the manufacturing operation will follow soon. The new production facility covers 40,000 square feet of floor space. Most parts of the manufacturing require clean room environment, but there are window glass panels along the aisle for visitors to "tour" the manufacturing section without actually entering.

Machinery employed by MyKuali is state of the art. Many steps in the production flow are heavily mechanized. In terms of work force, MyKuali hires around 110 employees including factory operators. This new factory allows MyKuali to produce 10,000 cartons of instant noodle daily.

Product quality is MyKuali's foremost bible in business excellence. According to Thomas, only the finest grade ingredients are used. From spices to noodle, suppliers are thoroughly scrutinized to ensure that the raw materials have consistent, uncompromising quality. The yardstick of quality control is the employees themselves. If employees are willing to feed their families with MyKuali products, this reflects their level of confidence in their own nutritional and hygienic standards.

Products

MyKuali produces its own chili paste and seasoning powder. The exact compositions of the ingredients are trade secrets, but there are certain aspects that MyKuali is willing to share publicly. For example, the chili paste is made from 3 different cultivars of chili pepper: one for spiciness, one for aroma, one for coloring.
There are currently three flavors of instant noodle on the market.
- Penang White Curry Noodle (槟城白咖哩面)
- Penang Hokkien Prawn Noodle (槟城福建虾面)
- Penang Red Tom Yum Goong Noodle (槟城红酸辣汤面)

To focus on its core competency, MyKuali's noodle is outsourced from Vit's (唯一面), whom MyKuali has enjoyed a fruitful partnership since its inception. As a household brand that all Malaysians can enjoy, MyKuali products are certified halal by JAKIM.
I am fortunate to be one of the first person outside the company to sample MyKuali's latest product: Spicy Fried Noodle (香辣干捞面). This "fried" noodle is actually boiled then drained. Next, fried shallots and seasoning (included) are mixed and tossed with the noodle. In less than 5 minutes, a scrumptious meal is ready to serve!
Spicy Fried Noodle will be launched in less than a month from now. Stay tuned for latest updates from MyKuali.

To cater for office workers who do not have a stove in the office pantry, MyKuali is venturing into bowl rice vermicelli (mihun) too. Penang Hokkien Prawn Soup Rice Vermicelli (槟城福建虾汤米粉) was just launched recently. More flavors like white curry, red tom yum goong and asam laksa will be introduced later.

As for instant paste, MyKuali has 7 types in its current product line-up.
- Instant Satay Chicken/Meat Paste
- Instant Kapitan Curry Chicken/Meat Paste
- Instant Sambal Tumis Seafood Paste (Sambal Udang)
- Instant Thai Curry Chicken/Meat Paste
- Instant Thai Curry Fish/Seafood Paste
- Instant Hainan Sour & Spicy Steam Fish Paste
- Instant Hainanese Chicken Rice Paste
Marketing

Since its inception, MyKuali relies on word-of-mouth marketing instead of media advertisement. The most cost-effective tool to instill consumer confidence is by providing free samples. This approach allows MyKuali to expand its market presence at relatively low cost, while new customers can try its products before making a purchase. According to Thomas, it is all about striking a win-win situation with customers.

Since July 2013, MyKuali has become a Malaysian household name in a short span of 2 years. Internationally, MyKuali has market presence is other countries such as Singapore, Brunei, Hong Kong, Macau, China, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, United Kingdom, United States and Canada. To maintain the brand's identity, MyKuali's recipe is identical worldwide.
A successful business is often followed by competitors. According to Thomas, competition is inevitable. Given a head start, MyKuali's strategy is to move ahead faster than its competitors can keep up. Product quality and customer satisfaction are the brand's main assets in maintaining market leadership.

MyKuali is a firm believer in corporate social responsibility. Every customer is appreciated for contributing to the company's success, no matter how small the contribution may be. Putting principles into action, the company allocates a substantial portion of its budget for charitable causes. For example during the recent 2014-2015 east coast flooding, MyKuali sent free cartons of MyKuali instant noodle to affected refugees.
Awards

For a young company, MyKuali has won several prestigious awards.
- Best Brands in F&B - Instant Noodles (2013) by The Brandlaureate
- Young/Emerging Business Excellence Award (2014) by Sin Chew Business Excellence Awards
- Rising Star Award Grand Winner (2014) by The Star Business Awards
- Product of the Year - Instant Noodles (2014/2015) by Product of The Year Malaysia
- featured in the list of Top 10 Instant Noodles (2014) by The Ramen Rater
Future Outlook

In the next 5 years, MyKuali aims to increase its market presence by venturing into adjacent niche markets. For example, the company is exploring ways to reach out to prospective customers who have neither a stove nor hot water at their disposal.

As Penang's traditional street food recipes gradually phase out in the wake of modernization, MyKuali aims to be the preserver of Penang's culinary legacy. More products will be introduced to immortalize the nostalgic Penang dishes before they are lost permanently in the passage of time.

Advice To New Entrepreneurs

Thomas does not see himself as a successful entrepreneur yet. According to him, there are still lots of room for improvement in his company. However, Thomas has graciously shared several words of wisdom to new entrepreneurs who wish to follow his footsteps.

Do not be complacent with the status quo. Be willing to move out of your comfort zone. As long as there is still room for improvement, never stop improving. Business development is always an uphill battle, so keep fighting or be prepared to be eliminated.

Think outside the box. Innovate and constantly improve your product no matter how small the change may be. Sometimes, a major breakthrough is made by tweaking a minor aspect of the recipe, packaging or delivery method.

Learn from the success stories of others. It is also crucial to draw experience from failed cases too. Do not be held up by mistakes of the past. Focus on the present situation and chart a realistic path towards the future. There are no shortcuts to success.

Name: Sky Thomas Food Industries (MyKuali)
Address: 1066, Jalan Perindustrian Bukit Minyak 2, Kawasan Perindustrian Bukit Minyak, 14000 Bukit Mertajam, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-502-2529
Business hours: By appointment only
Website: http://www.skythomasfood.com.my
Coordinates: 5.30708 N, 100.45954 E
Directions: Sky Thomas Food Industries is located at the industrial zone of Bukit Minyak. It is located at the end of the same road as Flextronics.

8 comments:

  1. I really would like to try out Spicy Fried Noodle (香辣干捞面)! Can't wait!

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    Replies
    1. Stay tuned to the announcement from MyKuali! It will reach the market in less than 1 month! :-)

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  2. Vit's noodles....wise partnership!! IMO, the best in mouth feel and taste among other similar instant noodles.

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    Replies
    1. I agree, Linda! So which is your favorite MyKuali flavor? :-)

      Thanks for visiting my blog! :-)

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  3. i got mine and it's absolutely delicious! yummy! www.mykuali.net

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  4. Is your Instant Hainan Sour & Spicy Steam Fish Paste available in Singapore? Where can I buy them?

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    Replies
    1. I am just interviewing MyKuali, but I do not represent them. I think it is better that you ask MyKuali directly. Their phone number and website are provided. :-)

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