Tan, the founder of Joven Electric Co, was a production manager in a company manufacturing refrigerators and air-conditioning units then when the inspiration came after using the instant water heaters.
Tan started his own manufacturing firm making instant water heaters in 1983 with a bank loan of RM70,000.
"I left the marketing of the water heaters to an agent. That was the logical thing to do then, as I had to do a lot of the work myself, including the welding."
With support from suppliers and the agent's network, Tan's instant water heaters found a market: some 3,000 units were being sold yearly soon after he started out.
One of the selling factors in his instant water heaters was the variable electronic power control that worked under low water pressure, when all other instant hot showers in the market then were using the stet-control and needed higher water pressure.
"With the mechanical-stet control switch, you could only go one, two or three. That means if the water pressure was not right, you would not get the ideal shower temperature."
Tan said Joven was well-received because it was competitively priced with the Japanese and British water heaters then. Joven, which cost about RM350, was cheaper than its imported competition by 30 per cent.
Now, it sells more than 100,000 water heaters a year in the local market, and another 50,000 yearly in overseas markets which include Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and India.
And from fewer than 10 employees working for him at the start, Tan now employs 100 who work in his 18,288 sq m plant in Shah Alam.
Over the years, Tan expanded his product range to include the multi-point instant water heater, shower filter and water purifier. With more workers to rely on, he took over the marketing of his company's products in 1997.
He now has an extensive sales network spanning from Penang to Kota Kinabalu.
And the 61-year-old is still innovating: coming up soon is the launch of his I-series water heater, featuring an ultra-slim unit.
And he is unperturbed by the gloomy economic conditions as he is confident his brandname will withstand any unfavourable condition.
Having been a pioneer in the instant water heater industry in the country, he has one safety advice to his competitors: to stop using metal hoses and metal-stop valves in their water heaters.
Instead, he said, all manufacturers should use non-conductive material such as PVC and plastic to avoid accidents during an electricity leak.