fruit for thought
Who would have imagined that the successful fruit chain MBG Fruits came from humble beginnings?
The successful fruit chain MBG Fruits came from humble beginnings.
DO you know what MBG stands for?” I hear a deep voice ask as I stand by the colourful spread at the MBG Fruits kiosk on the ground floor of Tropicana City Mall in KL waiting for the owner to arrive for an interview. It is him, Adnan Lee.
“It stands for money back guarantee,” he says.
MBG’s fruit business has flourished since its early days in the 1970s. Now with 16 outlets in the Klang Valley and one in Malacca, it caters to a wide clientele which includes customers who purchase directly, order online and even employees who receive fruits from their company as a form of staff benefit.
You may have seen these MBG booths which are typically located on the ground floor of a shopping mall or commercial building. Branding has certainly done this family business justice.
“We believe in providing quality fruits. In fact, we’re so committed to that standard that we’re happy to provide unsatisfied customers with refunds,” Adnan says.
The booths have two main sections: one for fresh fruit, and another for juicing. To keep the juices healthy, no sugar is added.
The business really began in the 1960s when a family of mainland Chinese immigrants were starting afresh in Kuala Lumpur. Family head Lee Foo, who was struggling to make ends meet as a labourer, decided to sell fruits from a stall in the streets of KL. It was a timely decision. Lee’s business prospered as local residents responded to his friendly demeanour, and the better income helped him and his wife raise their eight children in a squatter settlement in Jalan Bukit Bintang.
Eventually, one of his sons – Adnan’s father – took over the business. He would bring the children to help out at the stall during weekends and school holidays. “My kids could use a lesson on hard work and determination,” he’d decided. Unbeknownst to him at that time, his eldest child Adnan dreamed of expanding the business.
“I’ve always liked the arts such as interior design and advertising. Branding this business has been a good avenue for me to channel my penchant and it’s also a fulfilling challenge,” says Adnan, who was just 25 when the vision came to him.
“All we had was a small peddling business; not an empire for me to take over,” he adds.
Adnan, now 35, talks about hard work and farsightedness, a trait he feels is lacking in many individuals.
“SRP (now PMR) was the highest level of formal education I received but I compensated by being focused even as a boy. To this day, that focus is translated into my business. I decided that this will strictly be a retail business and so far, we have managed to keep things systematic and under control because of that focus.
“Things have been happening fast in the agriculture industry in the past decade. The (then) prime minister was promoting the agriculture industry and supporting it by introducing high technology farming techniques. Fruit seedlings that previously could not survive our climate now could. Thanks to that, our local fruit base has broadened; we can now successfully plant our own dragon fruit, rock melon, passion fruit and cherry tomato,” Adnan says.
However, customers pay a premium price for MBG Fruits. Adnan explains that it is because of the quality of taste and appearance, and the assurance of a full refund – not too much to ask of customers who have little time to spare. All they need to do is simply place an order at the MBG website at a minimum purchase of RM50. Delivery is on the same day or early the next at a charge of RM2.
“We keep the delivery charge low because we want to encourage people to consume more fruits even when they have limited time for grocery shopping. The RM2 is just to cover petrol costs,” says Adnan. A fruit basket delivery service is available too.
MBG Fruits is not just about the food. “We are supportive of young people being a part of the fruit industry. And we’d like to see our local fruit industry grow: it’s beneficial for everyone,” says Adnan.
MBG Fruits human resources manager Hasnie Sidek attests to this.
“I joined the company as an accounting clerk but in just a matter of months, I was promoted. Adnan enjoys educating people and takes the time to do so,” she explains.
It was the same with 26-year-old Wan Ahmad. He started out as a stall worker but diligence and good work ethics caught Adnan’s attention, and he worked his way up to the position of marketing executive. The company considers personal development of its employees as a sign of success.
And now it is venturing abroad. Last month, MBG Fruits opened its first overseas outlet in Xiamen, China.
“We’ve been preparing for this the past six to seven years. The same concept and system will be used. More than merely exporting our products, we want to brand our system,” Adnan says.
He takes his cue from another chain – Nelson’s. “Many people didn’t think that you could possibly capitalise on corn but it’s evident how well Nelson’s is doing. It’s big in Malaysia and has even gone into 14 other countries. Similarly, MBG Fruits has come a long way and going international is just the beginning,” Adnan concludes.
Quality: Local fruits are the main produce sold at the kiosk, but you can also find imported fruit like avacados and plums.
‘We’d like to see our local fruit industry grow: it’s beneficial for everyone,’ says Adnan Lee of MBG Fruits.