THOSE living in Saudi Arabia who love Malaysian food and snacks will now be able get their hands on popular Malaysian food products at specialty grocery store branch Kedai Asia.
Located in the Jeddah Al Aziziyah neighbourhood, not far from the Malaysian Consulate in Saudi Arabia, Kedai Asia offers more than 300 types of Malaysian food and beverage products from popular local brands such as Adabi, Yeo’s, Kipas Udang, Boh Tea, Life as well as Malay authentic products including budu, tempoyak, cincalok, pekasam and belacan.
Kedai Asia’s concept was initiated by Engku Isa Al-Husam in 2011. He first started by supplying and distributing Malaysian food products to hypermarkets, and based on the positive response, he decided to set up Kedai Asia last November.
The initial investment to set up the store cost him more than RM1.2mil.
“We believe by establishing our own chain outside Malaysia, it will create a sustainable demand for halal Malaysian SME products.
“It took us a year for the idea to materialise. We knew it would not be easy as we would have to stock up hundreds of products.
“The first hurdle was to register each product and get the approval from the Saudi Food & Drugs Authority, and this was a long and tedious process,” said the 35-year-old managing director of Husam Waksa Sdn Bhd.
Formed in April 2005, the company first started out in the agriculture and livestock trading industry. Over the years, Husam Waksa went through significant changes and ventured into various business activities focusing on the halal food industry.
In 2011, Husam Waksa shifted its interest and focused on the Gulf region and Saudi Arabia, and became an exporter of Malaysian food products.
It is now the leading Malaysian company operating and distributing food and beverages in Saudi Arabia, operating through various channels, ranging from modern trade in hypermarkets and traditional markets through grocery chains as well as supplying haj and umrah food services.
The business has since expanded to various trading sectors, including import and export of raw materials, commodities as well as semi-finished and finished processed food to various countries within Asean, Gulf countries and Europe.
For Husam Waksa, Kedai Asia marks a huge success as it is not the only first Malaysian concept store in Saudi Arabia, but also in the Gulf region.
“We are the only Malaysian company in Saudi Arabia dealing in food retail, and we actively support Malaysian halal products.
“Our aim is to establish Kedai Asia in the Gulf region, and hopefully, this will be a good platform to export our products, apart from traditional export methods.
“This is similar to Daiso stores which offer unique Japanese products, and at the same time, export their food products and culture through retail.
“We want Kedai Asia to have the same sort of operation and reputation,” said Engku Isa.
Husam Waksa Sdn Bhd and food importer/distributor M. Nazeyh Garah Est jointly own Kedai Asia Arabia Est, and Husam Waksa marketing manager Anas Atarek Kamil handles the operations in Jeddah.
“The company chose Jeddah for its first store and flagship franchise in Saudi Arabia. Several other concept stores are being planned in other main cities in the region, including Madinah and Riyadh. Kedai Asia intends to bring back warm memories of good old Malaysia and its interesting food,” said Anas.
Since its opening, Kedai Asia has received more than 2,000 visitors with many positive reviews.
Malaysia trade commissioner, Consulate of Malaysia in Jeddah Khairul Annuar Abdul Halim said Malaysian SME halal food industry players should look at Kedai Asia as a great opportunity to enter the Saudi Arabia market.
He added that Matrade is very supportive of such initiatives, especially when it comes to homegrown young entrepreneurs expanding their business overseas.
“This is our eighth year in the Gulf region. Kedai Asia shop is not only selling our exports, but will have multiple impacts on Malaysia branding.
“This is an achievement and a milestone for all of us at Husam Waksa. It adds value to our tourism industry as well as helps promote Malaysian food products,” said Anas.
“We are also aggressively promoting halal Malaysian products to the world, through our Trading House in Mecca and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
“Our Kedai Asia concept store has benefited more than 50 Malaysian companies with over 500 SKU (stock keeping unit) products. Currently, 135 SKU are Muslim products from medium and micro industries from all over Malaysia,” concluded Engku Isa.