“I don't want to smile too much (for pictures). I don’t have enough teeth,” Gustiar Ariffin jests, before flashing what’s left of his teeth for our camera. He may be too bashful for photographs, but his shyness disappears when customers approach.
Gustiar bounces back to his confident self, greeting them like old friends – and rightfully so. For over 30 years, the Malaysian vendor has been at his best selling local fruits to them – and he’s happy to do just that.
His lorry, parked in a Puchong neighbourhood of Selangor, brims with a variety of produce including duku langsat, rambutan and mango. The flow of customers doesn’t seem to end. We had to wait for a rare break before he managed to do this interview.
“I sell what’s in season and I’m happy that my customers like what I offer,” says Gustiar, 58.
Some customers will try to take advantage of his niceness by asking for extra discounts, he laments, but, “What to do? I have to keep them happy, so they will come back more often,” he says, adding that his fruit business is his only source of income.
Gustiar runs his fruit truck with his brother, the quieter of the two. “Don’t we look alike?” Gustiar asks, and beckons his sibling to join him for a photo. “We’re going to be on YouTube,” Gustiar says (incorrectly). His brother moves away instead.
Gustiar says he can’t think of anyone better than his brother to partner with for their endeavour. “It’s best to do business with your sibling as there is no trouble involved. It’s also safer financial-wise,” he thinks out loud.
Gustiar sources his produce from across Malaysia and keeps up with the different seasons. “The duku langsat is from Terengganu; the rambutans from Kelantan. I try not to sell imported fruits because there are many good local growers to support,” he says. His busiest period is durian season.
Though he lives in Gombak, another Selangor district, he travels over 30km to set up sales in Puchong because, “I have run my business at this spot for over 10 years and have many customers from around here. I don’t feel it’s time to move to a new area,” he says.
Gustiar says none of his six kids have any interest in taking over his fruit truck. But he says they’re free to choose their own calling. “My youngest are triplets and in Form 3. I don’t want to pressure my children to take over this business. I want them to be happy and successful in whatever they choose.”
As for the future of the family business, “That’s not for me to worry today,” he adds.
Come rain or come shine, Gustiar goes to work daily from 1pm to 6pm. “I’m not one of those sellers who disappear after they have made their money. In Malaysia, there is always something to sell every day,” he says.