Malaysia is renowned for having one of the largest number of vapers per capita in Southeast asia. Being a nation where tobacco usage is close to 50% of the adult population, it is no surprise that many people are looking for ways to reduce their tobacco dependency and vaping has been a revelation for many. Consequently, Malaysia is home to hundreds of small e-liquid breweries. This is the story of ASAP Juice, an e-liquid brewery based in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.
Twenty seven year-old Mohamad Faiz Sallahuddin was born and raised in Petaling Jaya. Tired by the monotony of the corporate world, he never let it ebb his entrepreneurial spirit. Faiz had always wanted to run his own projects and dreamed of owning a business empire in which he could be proud off. Like many budding entrepreneurs, the transition from the 9am-6pm working life was a move characterised by ups and downs. His first foray into business was in the food and beverage industry. A hobbyist cook, he sold a popular local dish known as butter chicken with his own twist.
“It was a grind. I got up at 5am each morning to prepare the food that I targeted towards the lunch crowd. It was a really physical job. But it was a pleasure to see people enjoy my hard work”.
The experience taught him grit, pleasing demanding customers and managing cash. Faiz was a trained accountant and although he was good at balancing the books for clients, managing it by himself as a solopreneur gave him a greater appreciation for the decision making skills and small details required to run a small business. After some months he built up a small cash pile, enough for him to get into what he always wanted to do - brewing e-liquids.
In pursuit of flavor
Keen to vape his own ejuices, Faiz looked at vaping and saw an opportunity to re-invest his hard earned cash. At that point, Faiz had already been vaping for over a year and was hooked. Determined to start, he started to brew small batches for friends and family. Soon after, he convinced 2 childhood friends - Nabil and Rizal to join him. Not satisfied by some brewers outsourcing their manufacturing to other people, they wanted to keep everything in house and be hands on in the brewing process and flavor creation.
“Testing and customising the flavors to the level we wanted, we knew we had to be hands-on.”
Soon after, they created their first official product - a creamy honeydew liquid. Thus, ASAP Juice was officially born. As Faiz recalls fondly - “We created it by researching online and buying raw materials from local suppliers. Honestly, at that time, we thought it was the best creamy and fruity creation out there in the market. We sold a lot and couldn’t keep up with demand.” But some months later, after the initial fanfare had died down, the three young men realized that they could do a lot better. “We took inspiration from some overseas brands like KILO - we loved their creamy juices and we said - hey, if we’re going to brew and turn this into a real business, we have to be at that level, nothing less.“ Besides, in 2016, the local Malaysian vape scene was flooded with brands pursuing fruity flavors leaving a huge untapped opportunity for creamy flavors.
The brand name ASAP stands for ‘Anak Sallahuddin & Partners (Son of Sallahuddin & Partners)’ named after the founder - Faiz. The word ASAP also literally translates into ‘smoke’ in the Malay language. They chose the name to create controversy as vapers and non-vapers always debated about whether those thick white clouds should be called smoke or vapor. Facts and science aside, he felt that they needed a memorable brand name that would stick in people’s minds. It didn’t matter so much whether the name would be taken positively or negatively - all that mattered was that it was memorable. “We loved looking at the comments on social media and seeing people arguing about the name and whether they should buy the product or not based on whether they agreed or disagreed with the name” he recalls jokingly.
Making a breakthrough in the Malaysian vape scene
ASAP made their first big breakthrough when they booked a booth at a local vape festival in 2017. It was a launchpad for their 6mg creamy flavors in the first premium series - Birthday Cake, Caramel Churros and Blueberry Muffin.
“We imported all our ingredients from many different suppliers and chose the best ones. We also brewed at a ‘true’ 6mg that had a greater throat hit compared to what was available in the market which we felt was a really weak throat hit for a 6mg. We also used less sweeteners coz we knew that ppl had a huge problem with over-sweetening.”
Sales after the event were hugely encouraging as Malaysian vapers craved for e-liquids with an optimum throat hit. They quickly signed up dozens of vape shops from the north, south and central Malaysia. To this day, ASAP does not have local distributors and chooses to keep their relationships with vape shops totally in-house. Close relationships with local vape shops are valued highly by the team and this helped them in launching their second line - the Savage Beverage Series in 2018. To date, ASAP is proud to have close to 60 shops in Malaysia stocking their products.
Running a small business is not without its challenges and missteps. One of the most challenging times was when the group packed their bags and headed to Germany for a vape festival in 2018. Feeling buoyed by their local success, expectations were high. They spent a good deal of cash, time and effort planning for it and swung for the fences. But alas, the sales garnered were unable to cover costs. “Looking back, we were too aggressive and too optimistic.” The team re-assessed and buckled down and only spent when it was absolutely necessary to make-up for the loss for the rest of the year. “It was tough but a great learning experience for all of us.” As they say, adversity introduces a man to himself.
ASAP Juice Going Global
Undeterred, ASAP feels that there are bigger and brighter days ahead. Their newly released Sour Series - War Games, Hazmat and Brick City is aimed at the overseas markets adjacent to Malaysia. Their goal for the next 2 years is to be established in at least 10 countries outside of Malaysia. For them, being established in the export markets means being in the minds of consumers and having fans in those countries that crave their eliquids. “It’s no point to simply sell some products in a country just to say we are there.”
Needless to say, ASAP are investing heavily in their brand in areas of production, branding and marketing to help them achieve their goal. Being very brand conscious consumers themselves, they take great pride in their design, marketing and photography work which is all done in-house. Very determined to be ultra hands-on in every aspect of their business, they feel that this is the best way to to get good at growing their brand and for their team to take their skills to the next level. Thankfully, their efforts have been paying off, as witnessed by rising orders from Vietnam & Australia and surrounding Southeast Asia.
After all, a satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.
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