CEO Series

How Inside Scoop's Co-Founder "Conned" His Wife Into Helping Him Build An Ice Cream Empire

  • Inside Scoop is one of Malaysia’s most well-known ice cream chains, having opened 20 outlets nationwide since starting out in 2013.
  • Founded by Edmund Tan and Lim Shiew Li, they are known for incorporating Malaysian flavours into their ice-creams, with bestsellers including durian, salted gula melaka, and cendol.
  • Despite the presence of strong, established competitors such as Baskin-Robbins and Häagen-Dazs, Inside Scoop has managed to become a mainstay in the local dessert industry, with their presence now stretching to cities such as Johor Bahru and Ipoh.

If you’re an urban Malaysian reading this, chances are you already are familiar with the name Inside Scoop. With its cheery interior, instantly recognisable branding, and variety of distinct flavours, it’s safe to say that any lover ice-cream in Malaysia will offer a knowing nod at the mention of the brand.

The brainchild of Edmund Tan and his wife Lim Shiew Li, Inside Scoop was founded in 2013 with the big dream of trying to succeed alongside the big names in the ice-cream game.

“Edmund conned me into it,” joked Shiew Li as she recounted the early days of their business.

“When the concept was first mooted, he sold me the idea that he was going to build me this amazing ice cream empire as I was—and still am—crazy about ice cream.”

“But over time, he started involving me in the business and made me work for it.”

Escalating Quickly

If you’re unacquainted with the brand, Inside Scoop is well-known for their ice-creams that incorporate distinctly Malaysian flavours such as cempedak, durian, and teh tarik. These come in addition to their other popular offerings such as buttermilk waffles and cakes.

“All our ice-creams are made 100% in-house by us,” Edmund said. “We typically get inspiration from other desserts and put in our interpretations of it. Shiew Li is the mastermind behind most, if not all the recipes.”

Before beginning their business, the couple’s education in ice-cream making came through the exposure that they got in Singapore, as well as Shiew Li’s three-week stint in Bologna, Italy learning how to make gelato.

Eventually, the formula that they settled for came from the idea to create a dessert that would be ideal for the Malaysian climate, which has ended up becoming the base for their wildly successful flavours.

Currently, the many that frequent their business and who are fans of their offerings will not be surprised to know that Inside Scoop currently has about 20 outlets nationwide, with their branches as far as Ipoh, Melaka, and Johor Bahru a sure indicator of their robust growth over the years.

Image Credit: Inside Scoop

Suiting The Malaysian Tastebuds

As far as their product positioning goes, Inside Scoop sits itself pricewise slightly below its more premium competitors while still maintaining the quality of an artisanal product.

But the value that separates them from the rest is their insistence on creating flavours that they themselves must first enjoy, especially when it comes to their localised flavours.

Image Credit: Inside Scoop

And in the opinion of the founders, it’s this approach to the creation of their localised Malaysian flavours that has allowed them to stay relevant within the market despite the strong presence of more established competitors, namely Baskin-Robbins and Häagen-Dazs.

“Both Baskin-Robbins and Häagen-Dazs are great longstanding brands, and we stand to learn a lot from them,” said Shiew Li.

“But from our standpoint, we just aim to make yummy ice cream that we love to eat and hope the market shares the same enthusiasm!”

“Agreed!” chimed in Edmund. “But I think our ability to localise our flavours and come up with something new quickly has contributed to our growth as well.”

Throughout the years, this strategy has proven invaluable in helping Inside Scoop become one of Malaysia’s household F&B names, and staying on the topic of challenging the big players, Shiew Li advised other businesses who would like to emulate their success to just focus on what they do best.

“It’s the typical David versus Goliath situation,” she said.

“Each player will have its own advantage, so it’s important that you constantly just play to your own strength.”

Edmund agreed and added that this rule also applies to all F&B businesses regardless of time or trend.

“It’s all about selling a product that people will continue to enjoy,” he explained. “Food trends are important as they lead to innovation and variety for consumers.”

“But at the end of the day, people must enjoy what they put in their mouths.”

Enjoying The Rocky Road

On the subject of challenges, Edmund and Shiew Li are also fully aware that with growth also comes the expected humps and bumps.

Among all the obstacles, the one that the couple are currently focused on dealing with involves their staff force, more specifically, fitting the right people to the right job and creating the best environment for them to thrive in.

“The challenge is fitting in people with the company culture,” Shiew Li said. “Getting the right people for the right jobs, and then also providing them the right learning platforms is something we’re working on.”

“Right now, we’re investing a lot in our management team and we hope that they’ll be able to step beyond their comfort zones in the time to come.”

Image Credit: Inside Scoop

But all the same, the couple are learning from each challenge and are consciously adapting themselves to each situation as it comes.

“Whatever that can go wrong will always go wrong,” Edmund said. “As managers, we just need to make sure we are well equipped to deal with anything that could potentially come our way.”

Edmund (far left) and Shiew Li (second from left) at the Time Out KL Food & Drink Awards 2017 after winning Best Place For Dessert / Image Credit: Inside Scoop

And for the couple, this ethos will also be carried out in all future expansion plans. Though they declined to mention specific plans for 2018, it was made clear that their focus would be on enjoying the process more than anything else.

“We will continue to grow opportunistically,” Shiew Li said.

“But in the mean time, we will continue having a good time churning out amazing ice cream for all to enjoy!”

  • For more information about Inside Scoop and their happenings, check out their website or Facebook page.

Feature Image Credit: Inside Scoop

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