Find out why she sells durians for 10 cents each
The durian season is almost over.
But for one woman durian seller, the season's end means success — for she has finally gotten the hang of the business.
Ms Vanessa Chua, owner of Delight Fruit Trading in Geylang, has been selling the king of fruits at a mere 10 cents.
That's right: 10 cents.
Word travelled fast in June once people discovered the price of the kampung durians. They are small and contain around three seeds per fruit.
The flesh tends to be creamy and bitter.
People go to the stall in Sims Avenue to satisfy their durian cravings, even when it's raining. PHOTO: TNP/ CHARLENE CHUA
But why is Ms Chua, 42, plying her trade at a loss?
After all, a check with five durian stall owners in Geylang revealed that the cost price of one of these small kampung durians is approximately 50 cents.
Ms Chua told The New Paper:
"We're new in Geylang and we wanted a chance to show customers that we're honest.
"Selling the durian at 10 cents made people come here (so they're able to find out) for themselves that we believe very much in customer satisfaction."
She said staff would open durians for customers to try. If customers were not satisfied with one, they would open another and so on.
On some nights when a bumper supply arrives from Malaysia, Ms Chua said customers would pay $5 — so they can fill one big plastic bag with as many durians as the bag can contain.
Some people who took up this offer ended up paying less then 10 cents per durian.
Housewife Chong Bee Leng, 52, was one such customer.
"I love the bitter ones and these kampung durians are very bitter in taste.
"Varieties like Cat Mountain King and Red Shrimp tend to be sweeter in general and they cost so much more (between $7 and $28 per kg)."
Since she was not well-off, "I feel lucky that I can buy a lot of these 10-cent durians" so her entire family of seven can have their fill of the fruit.
Taxi driver Keith Ho, 45, finds these durians easier to digest.
"The small kampung durians have a light flesh and they do not cause upset to my tummy.
"When I eat the creamy, 'heavy' Mao Shan Wang (Cat Montain King), I get rather sick after that."
Fruit sellers in Geylang, like Mr Lam of Hoe Seng Heng Durian Trading (above), price these small kampung durians for $1 or more each. PHOTO: TNP/ CHARLENE CHUA
Ms Chua said the 10-cent promotion has helped her reach a wider customer base:
"We don't consider it a loss... I benefit by attracting a bigger crowd and the cost of husk disposal is reduced.
"Customers will spread the word. We want to let more people try the king of fruits as they may become our potential customers in the future."
Customers also buy more expensive varieties of durian and other fruits like mangosteens from her stall.
Ms Chua's marketing strategy has seen her selling about 300 baskets of 10-cent durians, with each basket weighing around 50kg.
The 10-cent promotion ended last month (July).
Apart from that, Ms Chua had also offered bigger kampung durians for 20 cents each.
Durians sold at 20 cents each at Ms Vanessa Chua's stall. PHOTO: TNP/ CHARLENE CHUA
The bumper durian harvest in Malaysia has made prices more affordable.
In previous years, the cost price was around 80 cents per durian.
The durian season this year also coincided with the fasting period for Hari Raya.
Said Ms Chua:
"During the fasting month, the Muslims in Malaysia eat very little durian so that increases the supply by a lot.
"That's why we were able to offer the 10 cent and 20-cent promotions.
"Now that fasting is over, the supply of durians has decreased (thus the cost price has increased), so we now sell the kampung durians at 50 cents per durian."
Ms Chua said she is now seeing 30 per cent in profits.
Love for durians
It helps that she and her project manager-husband Ong Kong Hua, 44, are avid durian lovers.
Every year, they would scour Singapore just to find the best fruits.
Two workers (holding the basket of durians) at Delight Fruit Trading. PHOTO: SPH FILE
That's how they knew that some "durian workers" were facing a problem, with fruit sellers hiring them for only six months a year during durian season.
Typically, the season runs from June to August and December to February.
So the couple forked out over $100,000 for the business venture.
For the workers, that means round-the-year employment.
When it is non-durian season, they would sell other types of fruits at the stall.