About this series
Building Asia is a collection of business stories on CNA that examines the financial forces driving Asia's position as an economic powerhouse.
Boong Group – Digitalising a traditional business is the first episode in the Building Asia with UOB series and was first aired on 24 February 2020. It looks at how UOB helped a traditional business tap technology to renew its operating model.
Wesley Tan (Group Executive Director, Boong Group):
My father started as a chicken trader in Singapore. That was like in 1980-something – I'm born in (the) 1990s. My father lived in a place called Pekan Nanas (Pineapple Town). He needed to drive a small truck in and out between Singapore and Malaysia. That's how he started the business with 10 chickens a day, and now in Singapore we're selling 12 thousand chickens a day.
When I was six or seven (years old), my job was to count the money. And it was always a rush, because the bank would close at 5pm. Sometimes I would have to stay in the car for one or two hours to count the money.
Oh Wei Chiat (Wesley's cousin and Chief Operating Officer, Boong Group):
The notes from the wet market would always be sticky, wet. There were also miscommunications with the bank because of miscounts of the cash notes. Last time (when we were children), it was just like having fun when collecting money. Unlike now – it's become a responsibility for us. Problems still occur. We have to spend a lot of time queuing at the bank, maybe at the roadside, counting the money, issuing invoices and all that.
We also face the problem where (some) salesmen forget to report to the accounts department after they bank in the money. Maybe we would spend like half a day's time to find out who actually banked in the money.
We never thought that there was a solution, because all this while, that's the practice in our industry… until UOB introduced us to the mCollect service.
So Lay Hua (Head, Group Transaction Banking, UOB):
So when we sat down together, we actually realised that mCollect allows them to integrate the whole accounting process, including collecting the money. What their salesperson does is on the go, they take the app, they go to the shop, they then actually show it to the buyer. So if they use PayNow, immediately, instantaneously, the money gets transferred. The digitisation of the information goes into the accounting backend system.
Oh Wei Chiat:
It's not solely the accounts department, but the whole operation has benefited from this.
So Lay Hua:
Modernisation is very crucial. We call it renewing their business model. So leveraging on technology is very crucial for them to grow the business, and that's very important.
We also have a pineapple business. How can we reduce wastage in the whole supply chain? We basically take the pineapple into a fermentation, convert it into an enzyme, a probiotic solution, and feed that to the chickens. I studied biotechnology and farming is actually related to biotechnology. What I did for the Group is that I integrated the pineapple farming and the chicken farming. It's about Farming 4.0.
Modernisation and digitalisation is the way to move forward.