An apple a day keeps the doctor away. In the year 2000, a man from Sabah sees the future of fresh fruits and vegetables. Find out more in this interview about his fresh produce ideology.
What is your name and what is your role in this business?
My name is John Chong. I am the director of Pick N Pay and also Pick N Pay Express chain stores.
Tell us more about yourself. How did it all started?
I was born in Kudat and moved to Kota Kinabalu during my teenage years. Since young, I am an independent and determined person. I like to think carefully when it comes to things I do, be realistic about the potentials and then go all the way until it is done. After secondary school, I worked in the bank for almost 10 years. Though I had great leaders and was given a lot of chances to work at improving quality and effectiveness at different departments, I was not contended with life as a banker. I always wanted to do more in my life. I did part time studies after work to improve myself. Through my observations, I realized that people had to make tedious trips to Kota Kinabalu city center just to get fresh fruits and vegetables because community grocery stores didn’t sell quality produce. At the same time, I saw the building up trend of eating fresh and healthy food everyday. Instead of complaining about how slow Sabah picks up a trend, I was thinking why not we do it. After careful planning, I took the opportunity in year 2000. We started as a small shop at Kepayan Ridge with only 500 square feet selling fresh fruits and vegetables. Being a convenient place, we received great responses from nearby community. Customers kept coming back after visiting Pick N Pay. As household income improves, people start to get more and more aware of eating fresh and healthy.
How do you get the name Pick N Pay? What is so special about Pick N Pay?
The name Pick N Pay comes from the idea of a convenient lifestyle where people can simply walk in, pick and pay their daily fresh items. We sell quality fresh produce. Fulfilling customer expectations and shopping convenience are among our aims. We are different from traditional grocery store, supermarket, hypermarket and convenience store. In a convenience store you don’t find as many food. In a hypermarket, you get nice deals on stockable items but not quality fresh fruits and vegetables. In Pick N Pay you can happily buy food for your loved ones and family. We are always on a close watch on global and local healthy fresh produce trends. Besides great customer experience, the Pick N Pay working culture is both demanding and rewarding. Most of our staffs who have been working here for at least 2 years are in high demand in the market. They are well trained and disciplined about the importance of product and service quality. I am always thankful to my staffs for the achievement we have at Pick N Pay today. Nowadays we even have shoplot owners contacting us to expand to their area to bring more crowd. Recently we are expanding into convenience stores to offer quality fresh food and shopping experience for shift workers and tourists who need 24-hour convenience.
What do you think about the grocery and supermarket business scene in Sabah?
Many people think that if they have capital they can run a successful business. I think the real challenge comes when your are operating the business, communicating your vision to your employees and improving their skills. Maintaining good relationships with friends, customers, suppliers and employees are important. No matter what business or job you are doing, always have a clear vision, focus on it, keep learning and improving on the tricks by doing it. Most of the time, we have to think out of the box, be innovative and strive to be the market leader. Do your job well and good opportunities will come to you naturally.
What do you love about Sabah?
I love the tourism aspect of Sabah. I love the food and the places here. A lot more can be done to improve tourism industry in Sabah. We need to put in more efforts in marketing Sabah tourism to the world. More hotels and facilities need to be built quickly. More traditional food and products can be re-branded to fulfill tourists shopping needs. I have high hopes in Sabah young generations in this aspect.