There are a few things you’ll notice whenever the durian season comes around.
One is the undeniable scent wafting through the air. The other is social media-savvy durian sellers using Facebook or Instagram to advertise their goods.
One of these new-age sellers is Bao Jiak Durian, run by 28-year-old Alex and 29-year-old Dewei.
“Durian crazy” friends who “can eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner”, the duo became durian sellers last August.
Their inspiration came after Alex joined a Facebook group called ‘Durian and friends’ to find new stalls to satisfy his durian cravings.
As fate had it, Dewei was the admin of the group, and their online friendship was taken offline when Alex texted Dewei to “come out for some durians”.
“We ate [at a few places] a couple of times, but realised that we couldn’t find a nice place with a great ambience, affordable durians, and non-pushy, honest sellers,” said Alex.
He also recalled hearing about negative experiences that family members had with sellers that “pulled a fast one” by switching durians during a sale.
“The whole buying experience has never been a pleasant one, that’s when we decided to just do it ourselves.”
“They Kept Telling Me To Get A 9-To-5 Desk-Bound Job”
When they told their parents about their plans, however, they were met with resistance.
“My parents were quite shocked to be honest,” said Alex. “They kept telling me to get a 9-to-5 desk-bound job, which I didn’t like.”
While Dewei has a background in engineering, Alex was originally trained in optometry, but is selling insurance on the side currently.
A lot of people were very skeptical about the whole idea. Like we studied so hard to have the (academic) papers, but decided to do something like this.
In spite of this, the duo pushed through and carried on with their plans.
As for how they came up with the name ‘Bao Jiak’, Alex shared that it was something he came up with while “sipping tea one day”.
“I was trying to come out with a brand name that would resonate with the general population, a name that would be at the tip of people’s tongues. It had to be something very Singaporean, so we came up with the name ‘Bao Jiak Durian’.”
Bao Jiak Durian was in business by August last year, but it was only in November that they officially had a storefront.
Unlike running a business where owners develop their own products, F&B businesses are highly reliant on their suppliers – something the friends struggled with at the start.
“We were like shrimp in a big ocean when we started…[actually,] I think more like krill!”
“It’s tough building relations, because the suppliers would be very wary about supplying good durians to us since we didn’t have a track record.”
True to their promise, they chose to absorb the costs from inferior stock, only letting customers have the best selection.
While they’ve been steadily building up a reputation for themselves, they still face the challenge of dealing with difficult customers on a daily basis.
“[Demanding customers] have this expectation that if you’re the durian seller, you should be able to see through the husk and deliver what they ordered,” he sighed.
‘Chops’ Almost 200kg Of Durians Daily
Admitting that business was “tough” at the start because of the sheer number of durian stalls in Singapore to compete against, Alex revealed that business has been picking up, thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations.
“Many have given us a shot and we delivered, hence they spread the word around, creating a ripple effect. That’s the best advertisement,” he beamed.
Currently, they sell up to 200kg of durians daily.
“Honestly, [I still feel like] we haven’t really hit the levels that we set out to do,” Alex said.
[But] because we created this company from scratch, I believe everything we have achieved is an accomplishment.
“I’ve always looked up to the big players in any industry I’m taking on, and always wondered to myself, if they can make it that big, I don’t see why I can’t do it. So I would definitely like to see Bao Jiak scale to much greater heights.”
I’d like to thank Alex and Dewei for their time!
Durian Bao Jiak
202 Ang Mo Kio Ave 3, #01-1682