10 Quick Questions for Straws.my in the Business of Supplying Environmental Friendly Paper Straws in Malaysia
In this interview, we are going to have a deep story in the business of supplying Paper Straws in Malaysia. We have the opportunity to have a quick interview with the Founder of Straws.my to share his story on how he has the idea to start his own business in supplying Paper Straws in Malaysia.
1. Hi Kevin! It’s good to have you here. Can you tell us more about yourself about your background?
Thanks! My profession is an engineer. Upon graduating from an Australian university with a degree in Mechatronics Engineering in 2006, I came back to Malaysia and joined an American based semi-conductor manufacturing company as process engineer.
2 years later, I joined my family’s company to oversee their production line of automotive parts. At the same time, I also helped out in the factory’s trading company, which is Grip Bond (M) Sdn Bhd. In 2019, I decided to put more of my focus on growing the business of Grip Bond (M) Sdn Bhd.
2. So when did Straws.my come to the picture?
Straws.my is a subsidiary project of the company Grip Bond (M) Sdn Bhd. Grip Bond (M) Sdn Bhd has been supplying automotive products such as tyre valves, tyre tubes and tyre flaps to companies in Malaysia.
Moving forward, we want to contribute more effort into conserving the environment. As a first step into materializing this idea, we started Straws.my to supply high quality, environmental friendly, 100% bio-degradable paper straws to reduce the usage of single-use plastic straws which is often being ignored by the public.
3. That’s a very big change in the industry. What was the major reason for doing so?
Some of my hobbies include hiking and doing nature photography. It saddened me whenever I see articles and news from the media or internet about all the pollution in the environment. The feeling grows even stronger when my 8 year old child often ask me about this issue when watching YouTube videos, especially the video which shows a plastic straw being stuck in the nose of a sea turtle. Being a father of 2, I really want to do something to improve the environment for the future generation. That was when I decided to propose to the company to start up Straws.my back in August 2019.
4. Why straws?
As mentioned about the YouTube video of the sea turtle, it made me look into the sea pollution issue. Upon doing some reading and research on the internet, it struck me by surprise that based from researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, USA in 2017, 91% of the plastic we use is not recycled and instead ends up in landfills or into the ocean. 8.1% of them are plastic straws and stirrer.
Since we were not from this industry, we wanted to start with something that seems to be easier to start with. Taking into consideration of the initiative of the Malaysian government to reduce the usage of single usage plastic like plastic bag and plastic straws, it seems to us that straws has a lower threshold for us to start to venture into this new field.
5. Is paper straw the only alternative to plastic straws?
Of course not. Besides paper straws, there are a lot of other environmental friendly alternative to plastic straws such as stainless steel straws, grass straw, bamboo straws, wheat straws, PLA straws etc.
As business owners ourself, we understand that cost is a major concern to any businesses. While there are many other alternatives to plastic straws as mentioned, ultimately paper straws is the cheapest option. It is much easier to convince business owners to phase out plastic straws and convert to paper straws.
6. Do you produce the paper straws locally?
No we don’t but that was actually our initial plan. I wanted to set up a production plant in Malaysia to produce paper straws locally. I have even flew to China a couple of times to visit the machinery manufacturers to discuss about this. However, after being involved in the manufacturing field for 14 years, I felt that the challenge of setting up a new manufacturing line in Malaysia was too challenging considering the issue of worker and the inconsistency of government policy. Ultimately, I chose work closely with manufacturers from China to import the final product.
Having said that, I emphasise of the quality of the paper straws that they produce in China. After visiting several paper straws manufacturers in China, I have selected the one that can produce good quality paper straws that meet my requirement.
7. Do you only supply paper straws to local businesses?
Yes. We are currently supplying paper straws to local restaurants and cafe. Early this year, we were ready to export the paper straws to several countries such as India, Sri Lanka and Romania. However, due to the global Covid-19 pandemic issue, the deal had to be put on hold. Nevertheless, the customers in this countries were very satisfied with the quality of our paper straws.
8. That’s unfortunate to know. Had the Covid-19 issue affected your business?
Definitely. As you should know, all F&B businesses in Malaysia were affected badly due to the Movement Control Order (MCO). The demand for paper straws has reduced significantly. But we are starting to see a rise in demand when the Recovery Movement Control (RMCO) started. It is time for us to start promoting paper straws to businesses again.
9. What are the challenges that you face while trying to promote your paper straws to new customers?
Cost is definitely the major concern for businesses to switch from plastic straws. The cost of paper straws are roughly 3-4 times the cost of plastic straws. Therefore many businesses are still reluctant to replace plastic straws with paper straws in their business.
Although there are a few states in Malaysia, such as Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Penang that have already had regulation for the ban of plastic straws to be used, the enforcement is still weak. Hence you can still see that plastic straws are still being used in a lot of eateries. Sorry to say, Malaysians rarely obey to the law if there isn’t a strict enforcement.
Also, the pollution awareness among Malaysians are still very weak and we need constant awareness program to instil the mindset of the importance to preserve the environment.
10. What’s your plan for growing your business?
Besides paper straws, we are also looking at products to replace other single use plastic items such as biodegradable food containers and tableware. Our latest product which we haven’t started to market is a set of Korean made baby utensils made of a combination of biodegrade plastic and coconut fibre.
11. Any comment to add-on for a conclusion?
We are committed to make the Earth a better place for the future generation by reducing the damage that we are causing now. We hope that our initiative will slowly forge better understanding of the importance of doing so in the public mind.