By Sophie Hong
IN 1990, a young systems analyst at Hewlett-Packard called it quits and bid adieu to the humdrum of corporate life. This was just three years into his first job.
"I got quite sick of programming. I wanted to do something of my own," said Mr Kang Puay Seng, 52.
That something turned out to be a small soya bean-milk stall in People's Park Hawker Centre, which Mr Kang ran with the help of his former Chinese High schoolmate and longtime friend Loh Jwee Poh.
The stall opened for business in June 1995.
Fast forward 17 years: The humble stall has been transformed into a brand name that all Singaporeans are familiar with. With 63 stores scattered around the island, one can't be unaware of Mr Bean.
Mr Kang is now the managing director of Super Bean International, which manages Mr Bean, and his business partner, Mr Loh, is its executive director.
Under their leadership, Mr Bean managed to penetrate the notoriously difficult Japanese market in 2010. It boasts two outlets in Tokyo.
Mr Kang says selling soya-bean milk hardly crossed his mind at first. But he saw a business opportunity after witnessing a demonstration of a new soya bean-milk processing machine at an exhibition.
Mr Kang remembers that it was impossible to get fresh soya-bean milk in the afternoon or evening those days, as most hawker stalls get their supplies from factories at the start of the day and would run out of it by the end of the morning. The only option was to go for the canned or tetra-pack version.
However. Mr Kang recalls that it was not easy to market the product even though they found a niche by providing fresh soya milk throughout the day.