Musang Queen Anna Teo undeterred by Black Thorn durian fad
|WOMAN ENTREPRENEUR IN THE KING OF FRUITS WORLD
They call her the MUSANG QUEEN, an industry honor to a lady who pioneered the export of Musang King durians, first to Australia and then to 18 countries such as China, USA, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, UK, France, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia. Anna Teo Lee Chu is Group CEO of Hernan Corporation Sdn Bhd, Malaysia’s largest and leading exporter/manufacturer of Malaysian durians from frozen and fresh durians to durian treats like Durian Mochi, Durian Pancakes, Durian Cream Puff, Durian Chocolates and Durian Mooncakes. She founded the company in 1996 but ran it full time from 2006. Hernan owns a 1,500 acre durian orchard in Raub, Pahang, its source of fresh durians. The company also sources durians from contract farmers. In 2019, Hernan started Durian2go, a platform for online sales direct from its durian orchards.
Former Malaysia Airlines stewardess turned entrepreneur, ANNA TEO reminds high brow people that "We don't just know how to serve coffee, you know." She won SOBA's 2019 Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She has plans to drive the business to at least RM500 million. Without a strong financial backer, it would not have been possible.
Is Anna Teo fazed by the rise in demand and popularity of the now famous Black Thorn durian which originated from Penang? It appears to have relegated the long reigning Musang King to second place in the eyes of durian connoisseurs. Not really. When Anna Teo wanted to export fresh Musang King durians to China, there were plenty of exporters at the starting line. Jostling with them would be a no go. She knew she had to go downstream to differentiate Hernan Corporation from the pack. So she did and China loved her Musang King durian treats. In the fresh fruit category she may have a challenge but she has diversified Hernan's offerings.
The Black Thorn story was documented in a blog https://www.yearofthedurian.com/2018/05/black-thorn-durian-story.html by Lindsay & Richard who charted the origin of this Thai durian which has through hybrid experimentation morphed into the Black Thorn. Two enterprising durian orchard owners on the mainland side of Penang are now Black Thorn kings - Heng Mee Oo (Ah Heng) and his friend Leow Cheok Keong.
Entry of Navis Capital
In October 2019 Asia based Private Equity firm Navis Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in Hernan to help Anna Teo push the envelope upstream and downstream. She is well compensated for her years of efforts to build the business and now has a formidable partner to take it to where she alone could not go. Navis has RM400 million earmarked to help Hernan scale up via acquisitions of land to plant more durian trees, increase resources on the marketing side and diversify downstream manufacturing. Nicholas Bloy, co-founder and Managing Partner of Navis said that there is great scope to modernise the entire value chain from durian farming to processing with the application of agri-tech, IOT and industry 4.0.
Navis Capital has also acquired substantial stakes in SEGi education group (2012), Village Grocer premium supermarket chain (Sept 2014), the Oriental Group of restaurants (March 2016) besides Herna Corp in Oct 2019.
- Hernan Corporation Sdn Bhd. 23 July 2022. The future of Durian & value chain of durian businesses. https://hernan.com.my/newsevent.php
- BFM. The Business Station. 8 June 2022. https://www.bfm.my/podcast/morning-run/the-breakfast-grille/hernan-corporation-durian
- The Star. 1 October 2021. https://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2021/10/01/steady-hand-at-hernans-helm
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- The Star. 19 December 2018. Douglas Elliot. https://www.thestar.com.my/business/smebiz/2018/12/19/queen-of-the-king-of-fruits/
- Vulcan Post. 8 October 2019. Rayden Koh. https://www.thestar.com.my/business/smebiz/2018/12/19/queen-of-the-king-of-fruits/
- Reuters. 21 February 2020. Mei Mei Chu. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-health-malaysia-durian-idUKKBN20F1N3
- Lindsay and Richard. The whole Black Thorn durian story. 5 May 2018. https://www.yearofthedurian.com/2018/05/black-thorn-durian-story.html