30 year-old Singaporean Jason Koh did something totally unthinkable for many in his generation – he eschewed his very respectable IT degree from an acclaimed Australian university, and a 6-year systems engineer job, to sell beancurd. Today he helps to run Rochor Beancurd House, which has two outlets in Singapore, selling one of the country’s quintessential breakfast and dessert food.
People often asks Jason why he doesn’t run his own IT business instead. The answer, he says, is simple.
“I love to interact with people and by running my own food business, I get to cook and see all sorts of people from all walks of life everyday,” he shares. “That is something I can never do when I just place myself in front of a monitor or just by meeting my office-based clients.”
That’s not to say his information technology education from the Queensland University of Technology is not put to good use. Jason is extremely active on popular microblogging service Twitter, constantly reaching out to and engaging a new generation of potential beancurd-eaters. Other than providing updates on events and new product launches, Twitter allows him to ‘keep up with the current trend and likings’. “We can also create loyal fans or followers who share the same ideas in life and food,” he says.
The origins of Rochor Beancurd House, like the soya bean, are humble. Jason’s father, Xu Kun Ming, and his grandparents arrived in Singapore from China during the 1950s, and started a street stall selling soya bean milk and beancurd beside the Rochor seven-storey mall. From 1955 Mr Xu single-handedly touting soya bean milk from a pushcart, peddling along Rochor Road to Beach Road and Balestier Road. Hence the name Rochor Beancurd House.
The demographic of consumers who eat beancurd, Jason shares, have changed over the years. Back in the 60s, it was the middle-aged customer who liked their beancurd plain topped with sugar syrup. These days, however, it’s the choice dessert among teenagers, who are adventurous and prefer their beancurd with different flavorings. “There are many new dessert shops offering different toppings for beancurd,” he says, “Rochor Beancurd House chooses to differentiate itself by selling only traditional original tasting beancurd.” The only concession they’ve made is adding an option to serve it cold.
With 50 years experience of making and serving traditional beancurd, Rochor Beancurd has gained a relatively loyal customer base. Its beancurd has also been well-regarded in the local media for its smooth texture and taste, and Mr Xu have even been hailed by MakanSutra founder and food guru KF Seetoh as a “Singapore Street Food Master”.
Jason says the next steps for Rochor Beancurd is to work on its branding, and expansion by taking the business islandwide to provide convenience for customers. It’s currently in talks for its third outlet.
Jason’s also learnt, from his IT background and experience, how vital customer service is to the success of any business. Rochor Beancurd House’s motto is to ‘provide very good customer service at all times’. “We feel happy when we see smiles on our customers face, complimenting that our beancurd is nice and service is good.”
Views on Entrepreneurship
“I believe in my family recipe and I want to keep my father’s effort going. I want to build our family brand into a household brand in Singapore,” Jason says, matter-of-factly.
An important lesson he’s learnt is that champions take failure as a learning opportunity. “So take in all you can, and run with it. Be your best and don’t ever give up.”
“Success is a reality to those who pursue it,” he insists.
Rochor Beancurd House is located at:
a) 745 Geylang Road Lor 39 Singapore 389653
b) 432 Balestier Road #01-436 Singapore 329813