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A gap in the saturated sweet market led this hiker to make a sports candy

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[This is a sponsored article with HSBC.]

There are many reasons to start a business. For Mr Kenny Low, his journey into the candy industry was all about passion, continuing the family business, and fulfilling what the market lacked at that time.

Kenny has always been fond of candy growing up, but unlike other sweet-loving kids, Kenny had a closer connection to toothsome treats—his family ran a candy wholesale business. He then decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and founded his own business called Nicko Jeep Manufacture Sdn Bhd.

Fun Fact: Nicko Jeep as a name does not have any meaning behind it. Kenny said that when he created the company, little jeep toys were popular and the name stuck.

The old Nicko Jeep logo with one of their most popular brands, Big Foot / Image Credit: Big Foot

Transitioning from distributor to manufacturer

When Nicko Jeep first started, they were just a distributor, selling candies in small stores next to schools. But Kenny was not satisfied with the status quo. He had big dreams of producing his own candy, but lacked the capabilities to do so earlier on.

To realise that dream, the company invested in equipment, facilities and hired staff with the right skills and experience to create Nicko Jeep’s own line of candies. The company also had to pour money into creating attractive packaging as they needed to stand out.

They succeeded in creating quite a few iconic treats. If you’re a candy-lover, you might have encountered Big Foot Lollipop and Big Foot Plum candies.

Some of the other candies from Nicko Jeep under their Big Foot brand / Image Credit: Big Foot

Kenny noted that the candy market is really competitive and the consumers are never short of options. He wanted the company to shine not just locally, but internationally. Thus, the business started to export their candies to other countries. They also started working on a truly unique product.

Creating a new candy category

When he’s not thinking about candy, Kenny fills his free time with hiking. As someone who hikes often and sweats a lot, he needed an easier way to keep his sodium levels in check. While sodium-containing sports drinks may help, they have more water than sodium.

This was when he realised he could marry both of his passions to create a solution for his fellow hikers and athletes. Thus, the Himalaya Salt Sports Candy was born. While Kenny thought he had a good idea in mind, the company encountered issues during production.

Firstly, Kenny knew the product had to be healthy, as consumers have the preconception of candies being unhealthy and contain a lot of sugar. The end product only contained two or three grams of sugar per serving.

In addition, Nicko Jeep needed to find a sweet spot, balancing sodium and sugar. After testing different types of salt, the team found that natural rock salt was the perfect ingredient for their candy. In 2018 when Himalaya Salt Sports Candy hit shelves, it was well-received across the Asia Pacific. The candy is now consumed by millions across 10 different countries.

Looking for the right treat

On top of the 10 countries where Himalaya Salt Sports Candy is distributed, Nicko Jeep also supplies candy to a total of 16 countries. 

In the course of their international expansion, they ran into issues with customers paying using a letter of credit. This payment method could take a few days for banks to process, affecting the business’s cash flow.

This proved to be an issue until Nicko Jeep used HSBC as their bank of choice. Besides a quick processing time, Kenny recalled an instance when HSBC got back to him on the same day, prompting him to change the details on a letter of credit. If the letter had gone through, it would have taken him days to fix the potentially costly error.

Before using HSBC, Kenny and his team also used to go into the bank a few days a week to submit documents and perform transactions.

Through HSBCnet, HSBC’s online portal, Kenny no longer had to drop by or call the bank for submissions or transactions as he could perform it all on his desktop or on his phone.

He can view and control all his companies’ financials (local or international) through a single log-in too.

HSBCnet can act as a consolidated interface, providing business with a suite of flexible online financial solutions. It is designed to help businesses increase productivity and better manage their cash flow. 

Handling hedging requirements all through HSBCnet

As a business that handles international exports, Nicko Jeep has to deal with different currencies and this is where HSBC Evolve comes in. 

An example of the HSBC Evolve dashboard / Image Credit: HSBC

HSBC Evolve allows Kenny to lock in FX rates for his settlements too. For example, the current forex rate stands at RM1 = 7.55 Thai Baht. Kenny wishes to make his settlement on a later date but he likes the current rate offered. He can lock in the rate and won’t have to worry if the rates fluctuate on a later date and negatively affect his bottom line.

HSBC Evolve is designed to ensure that a user can better manage and execute their FX exposure effectively through real-time live pricing. The service can also provide SMEs with access to 460 currency pairs.

In the past, getting an updated FX rate would require Kenny to drop by or call a bank and look for a dealer to obtain special rates, which takes out a lot of his time. And if he didn’t like the rate he would then need to call the bank again to check and monitor the rates. But with HSBC Evolve, he can monitor the FX movement right in front of his computer and execute the trade within a minute, without even calling the bank.

Growing the business through digitalisation

“With the efficiency gained from these digital tools, it is easier to manage our business growth,” said Kenny, the Managing Director of Nicko Jeep.

Nicko Jeep got to where they are because they understood the importance of digitalisation to improve business processes. With 70% of the business focusing on exporting, they would be stuck in the deep end if they failed to digitalise their processes earlier on.

For companies who are still using traditional business models, Kenny said by adapting to trends and digitising processes, it can help your business keep up and stay relevant. With access to 16 countries and counting, he still has plans to develop new products and extend his reach further.

  • Check out Nicko Jeep’s line of products here.
  • For more info on HSBC solutions such as HSBCnet and HSBC Evolve, click here.
  • Read up on what we’ve written about HSBC in the past here.

Featured Image Credit: HSBC

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