A bird of passage

DELICACY: Original bird’s nests can command a price tag of RM7,000 to over RM9,000 per kilo.

Sibu-based bird’s nest processing company Golden Lung Birdnest Centre (Golden Lung) is gearing up towards further diversifying its business into other areas of food manufacturing and processing.

Its managing director Robert Wong said apart from bird’s nest processing, the company had already been engaged in canned and packaged food businesses since last year.

“All this, I believe, was triggered by the ‘halal’ certifications received for all our food products from Jais (State Islamic Affairs Department) last year. After having been in the business for about 10 years, I believed that it was time to branch out into other food segments,” he related to thesundaypost recently.

“Nevertheless, I still focus on my bird’s nest business since it’s what I started with.”

A self-taught entrepreneur, Wong had never received any formal training or courses on processing methods of bird’s nests.

“With an initial capital of RM30,000, I started as a one-man show back in 2000 with no experience at all. It took me six month to master the extracting process, after which I began to employ staff and taught them the very same way I taught myself.

“Now, I employ seven full-time staff. Our monthly production can reach between 20 to 30 kilos (kilogrammes), depending to availability. Sometimes, demand does exceed supply, of which the company manages by shipping extra supplies from China,” he outlined.

When asked on the company’s annual turnover, Wong did not really put forth the exact amount. Rather, he described it in a very ‘you-do-the-math’ way.

“Our products follow market prices: for black bird’s nests, they can fetch between RM1,500 and RM2,000 per kilo whereas for the higher-quality original bird’s nests, they can command a price tag of RM7,000 to over RM9,000 per kilo.

“I can tell you that we don’t have monthly backlogs except for a few kilos that we reserve as our samples. Our monthly orders have always been met, so far. Relating that to market prices, I can say that we’re doing quite well,” he responded with a smile.

Moving on to his spin-off businesses, Wong branded his canned food products under the Golden Lung name, while the packaged food under the Tong Hing name.

“These products have been well-received across Kuching, Sibu. Miri and Bintulu markets. They’re available in many grocery shops and supermarkets.”

Although Golden Lung’s canned food products were meant for the local market, Wong said the manufacturing process was actually done in China through a partnership with a Fujian-based plant ZhangZhou Tan Co Ltd (ZhangZhou).

“ZhangZhou began its operations since August last year, after receiving halal accreditations from both Jakim (Malaysia Islamic Development Department) and China Islamic Association. Up until now, the plant’s production has reached over 70,000 cans of food products.

“Following halal manufacturing methods isn’t an easy task where every aspect has to be shariah-compliant. But to me, it’s vital for SMEs (small and medium enterprises) to be halal-certified, as their products would have a wider marketshare. It’s more of a long-term investment,” he explained.

On the other hand, Wong’s packaged products were locally-made.

“Tong Hing’s dumplings and ‘dim sums’ are manufactured at our Pending plant, which commenced in June last year. Initially, all products were handmade, but we just got two new units of machinery that would increase our production capacity,” he pointed out.

Currently, its packaged food business produces an average of 200 packets daily.

Wong also highlighted the role and support of the government through agencies like SME Enterprises Corporation Malaysia (SME Corp) towards the progress of small businesses like Golden Lung.

Looking ahead, Golden Lung planned to introduce a new line of food product this coming August.

“This is actually endorsed by Jais, in its support to encourage more SMEs to come up with locally-produced products slated for the local halal market. Our new product range, also under the Golden Lung brand, will include tomato and chilli sauce, white and black vinegar as well as soy sauce.

“Right now, we’re still in the course of attaining halal-certification for these products, but it’s likely to come out this August,” he said.

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