Most of us Malaysians are familiar with picking up the phone and calling the nearest shop that sells cooking gas for gas delivery. Taking a page from many other businesses that have gone through digitalisation during the pandemic, Suthan seized the opportunity to revamp this traditional industry by founding BeliGas Malaysia, a gas delivery service that allows you to order cooking gas through their website or the BeliGas app.
Bringing technology into a traditional industry
As he had to close down the local tech office of an international mobile content service provider in March 2020 due to the pandemic, Suthan decided that the business he wanted to start next should be one that is not affected by the pandemic. His thought process led him to consider cooking gas which is an essential in many Malaysian households. With his experience in the tech industry where lifetime value (LTV) and customer satisfaction are important, he brought these values into BeliGas Malaysia to not only allow people to easily order cooking gas online, but also to have a good experience doing so.
In July 2020, the first outlet of BeliGas Malaysia was opened in Bandar Mahkota Cheras. With no network and no experience in the logistics and operation of a gas delivery business, Suthan had to learn and improvise during the initial stages of his business. He managed to deliver 2 barrels of gas each day for the first week and within 6 months, his business grew to include 1 warehouse, 10 outlets, and 40+ team members that brought in their first RM1 million in revenue. To date, an average of 9,000 gas cylinders is sold each month with 30% of the orders coming from online channels. He aims to double the scale of his business before the first year anniversary of BeliGas Malaysia's operation.
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A business with a cause
BeliGas Malaysia is registered as a social enterprise by MaGIC & accredited under Shared Prosperity Organization (eSPO) by MPC to show their commitment towards social values. With many Malaysians getting retrenched due to the pandemic, Suthan wants to give back to society by hiring only Malaysians for his business; more than half of his team members are from the B40 who lost their job. Besides that, he carried out the CSR BeliGas Prihatin Programme last year to provide cooking gas that is below the market price to NGOs, frontline organisations that fight the pandemic, and places of worship.
The most important part of the business is the fundamentals. You need to know your numbers, keep a sharp eye on profit margin after expenses, and start with a scale that the individual is comfortable in. Don't be shy to start small, or take baby steps. What matters is that, you take a step forward daily!
Suthan Mookaiah is the founder and managing director of BeliGas Malaysia. He is also an Associate Professor (Adj) at Taylors University, Subang Lakeside Campus lecturing on Social Entrepreneurship & Innovations. You can get in touch with him through email.
This article is part of the 5 real stories of starting a business in the midst of the pandemic series written to tell the stories of entrepreneurs who have braved through these difficult times and successfully started a business. Check out other stories here: