His mission is to ensure that Malaysians from all walks of life have access to clean and healthy water at an affordable price. In 2014, Malaysia had many non-established brands in the water and home appliance industries. The visionary CEO of CUCKOO International (MAL) Sdn Bhd, KC Hoe, saw it fit to bring an established brand, CUCKOO, to Malaysia. KC Hoe shares with Top 10 of Asia about CUCKOO’s journey and the reasons that enable his brand to stand out in a competitive marketplace.
WITH A HIGH average annual rainfall, Malaysia is blessed with abundant water resources. A high majority of its population has access to water and the country’s water tariffs are among the lowest in the world. Although water is readily available in the country by just a turn of the tap, is it safe and clean for consumption?
KC Hoe feels that drinking water has to be safe and clean. He has a mission, and his goal is to ensure that all Malaysians enjoy drinking clean and healthy water – at an affordable price.
Hoe is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CUCKOO International (MAL) Sdn Bhd, a leading home appliance brand of water purifiers, plasma ioniser air purifiers, pressure multi-cookers and other appliances including an outdoor filter and hybrid induction cooking hobs. Hoe established CUCKOO in Malaysia in 2014, and since its inception, the company has grown and expanded into a Southeast Asian hub for CUCKOO.
“I first ventured into the home appliances business in 2007. In 2014, I quit my job to start my own home appliances business. I wanted to offer another brand option for Malaysians to choose when buying home appliances because I wanted Malaysians to have better choices and to enjoy a better quality of life at a comfortable price. I researched 100 home appliances brands and I chose to work with CUCKOO,” says Hoe.
CUCKOO was first established in Korea in 1978. Its first overseas joint venture was with CUCKOO International (MAL) Sdn Bhd which is helmed by Hoe. “I chose to work with CUCKOO because of its strong R&D background and good product quality. For example, the CUCKOO water purifier introduces a healthy water technology concept in which chemicals, heavy metals and toxins are eliminated from the water producing safe drinking alkaline water that meets the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO).”
When Hoe first launched CUCKOO water purifiers a couple of years ago, there were not many companies offering similar healthy water technology in the marketplace, thus consumers did not know much about alkaline water technology and its benefits which resulted in Hoe and his team undertaking a huge task in providing consumer awareness and education about healthy drinking water and the technology that enables it.
Today, there are several water purifier and home appliances brands in Malaysia. But what sets CUCKOO products apart from others?
Hoe explains, “We offer a localised rental payment scheme called the GOOOD Plan which is based on the customer’s affordability. The GOOOD Plan consists of a variety of rent-to-own payment packages that let our customers choose the amount that they can afford to pay per month and the duration of the scheme that they can commit to – it’s a flexi cost-savings plan. They can also opt to purchase the product outright if they want to.”
“Another thing that makes us stand strong is that we provide a comprehensive after-sales maintenance service every four months. The maintenance service for our water purifiers includes changing filters and steam sterilisation, all of which are part of our 15-point check to ensure each part of the product is functioning well and clean.”
CUCKOO Malaysia’s Natural Care Service (NCS) specialists remind their customers of the month when maintenance service is due, and the home appliances company is the first in the market to introduce servicing appointments booked via their mobile app, CUCKOO+. Maintenance service is also conducted on a periodical basis for their air purifiers, outdoor filter and induction cooking hobs.
“The effectiveness of our after-sales service is measurable through the standard Natural Care Service point check which helps to educate our customers about the product and which part of the product is being fixed or serviced,” says the young CEO.
CUCKOO Malaysia celebrates its fifth-year anniversary this year. The home appliances company has expanded into a large organisation comprising 400 employees, 2,000 servicing specialists, and 6,000 to 7,000 active resellers. It has achieved RM450 million in revenue last year, and hopes to meet the target of RM1 billion in 2019, in spite of the seemingly gloomy economic environment.
While the company has grown in leaps and bounds over the past five years, Hoe admits that it hasn’t been easy. “For instance, when we first started introducing CUCKOO water purifiers in Malaysia, I was concerned about market acceptance and how to make people believe in what we believed in, that is, having access to clean and healthy water. This is because I feel that drinking clean and healthy water should be a right for all Malaysians to enjoy, not just for rich and wealthy people.”
With the willingness to challenge the status quo, being open to accepting changes and having good team support, the visionary entrepreneur pushed ahead to overcome those challenges. “By introducing flexible and affordable rent-to-own payment plans, Malaysians from all walks of life can enjoy clean and healthy drinking water, breathe cleaner air and ultimately live a good quality of life.”
Hoe plans to do more in giving back to society and the community. He aims to continue leading CUCKOO Malaysia to be a socially responsible organisation and to be the number one healthy home appliance brand in Asia. He also aspires for the organisation to be a public-listed company in the next couple of years.
“My leadership style is like this – I paint a big picture for the team. I give them a vision of where I want to go with this company. The team is very clear about their roles and responsibilities, therefore they are able to work together and execute what is needed for us to achieve our goals,” says Hoe.
In addition to being a people-oriented person and open to new ideas and changes, the entrepreneur also shares, “Many people have big ideas about running big businesses, but fail when it comes to execution. My advice is to never give up. There will be challenges and obstacles for sure, so the important thing is to have a never-give-up attitude to overcome those challenges and to be successful.”