F&B businessman Calvin Yong journeys through the cutthroat scene to rank among the market leader in Indonesia
Indonesia, as the fourth most populous country in the world, boasts a large market of consumers. With the abundance of natural resources and agricultural products, the food and beverage sector here is as diverse and competitive as it could get. Noting the steady rise of the developing country’s middle-class population and sizeable upper-level, businessman Calvin Yong looked to set up shop. Born in Malaysia and raised in Singapore, he had worked his way up through the family business in Hong Kong until coming here to raise his family and create a business legacy.
In 2003, under the banner of Anugrah Indo Mandiri (AIM) as a premium F&B importer and nationwide distributor, Yong was all ready to conquer the market. “Unfortunately, in the second year of our business, it went bankrupt because we did not have a license from the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM),” he said. “I learned the hard lesson that, to have a successful business, we have to follow the rules and regulations of the country where we operate.”
With AIM going under, Yong had to find another business opportunity when, suddenly, a friend approached him about selling coffee. The coffee brand turned out to be Old Town White Coffee, which did not yet have a presence in Indonesia back then. He decided to give it a try and flew to Malaysia to meet the owner. Despite having no brands and being inexperienced in the industry, Yong won the owner’s admiration and got the distribution agency thanks to his drive and ambition.
The same persistence also led Yong to become the sole distributor for Cheezels snack brand, which were then produced by Danone in Malaysia, by reaching out directly to the company. “Of course, the export director laughed at my idea because Danone already has a subsidiary in Indonesia; why would he give it to me?” Nevertheless, Yong had left a good impression; the director decided to give him a chance. Once again, although having next to nothing except prayers, he sent in a proposal. “Two months later, I got a call that Danone would give AIM the agency.”
It might sound like a happy ending for Yong. But, even after three months into the business, Old Town Coffee sales were poor due to its high price for premium quality, and the owners had to fly to Indonesia to restrategizing the sales plan. Yong had to change the marketing to target premium consumers before it enjoyed success. Cheezels also did not sell since it was pricy and had a short shelf due to its fresh ingredients. To encourage sales, he had to sell the product at a loss for as long as twelve months before getting traction and gaining loyal consumers in the supermarkets. Cheezels started to fly off the shelf only after two years—this time at full price.
“From all these, this is what I learn, never waste the pain. The pain has a lesson in it: grow through it, get the learnings and never wish that life was easier but wish that you are better,” Yong said. “Another life lesson is about playing your best with the cards that you have at hand.” Success indeed came to Yong with all his hard work, and he was able to create his own CY Beverages brand in 2016. Moreover, CY Double Chocolate beverage won first place at UKM Pangan Award from the Ministry of Trade in 2017, and CY Genmaicha Latte won first place again in 2019. With these prestigious awards, CY Beverages was able to export to Singapore and Hong Kong. Thanks to a steady omnichannel presence, today, all the manufactured and imported products are selling well: ranging from its own CY Matcha powder and Hot Chocolate Mix to household brands, such as Snapple and ItoEn bottled teas, and many more tasty snacks and spices.
Now, he plans to grow the AIM group through expanding distribution into second-and third-tier cities. Meanwhile, he is also simultaneously investing in thriving food start-ups. Yong also sees a big market for e-commerce business-to-business wholesaling platforms and is partnering with Southeast Asia’s largest mobile technology company to launch Borong.com in Indonesia this month. With all these plans ahead, firstly, he focuses upwards on God as a blessing in his family’s happiness and employees’ welfare at AIM. “Also, remember this priority; working smart is a strategy and working hard is a principle, always start first with working hard,” he said in a closing message.
Written by Edith Emeralda
Photography by Agus Santoso (NPM Photo)
Makeup by Arie Khayz Irawan
Concept and styling by Clairice Halim
Wardrobe by Valentino and Fendi
Watches and Jewelry by Bvlgari
Read the full story in our July edition