Hoe Kian Choon

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

CUCKOO International (MAL) Sdn Bhd

2023

Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Hoe Kian Choon

Young Entrepreneur of the Year

2023

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

CUCKOO International (MAL) Sdn Bhd

about Hoe Kian Choon

“Building a Legacy as a Healthy Home Creator”

Founder and CEO Hoe Kian Choon tells the story of how it was the business model before the product that skyrocketed the CUCKOO home appliance company in Malaysia into the giant home health provider known today as CUCKOO International, the Number One Healthy Home Creator in Asia. 

CUCKOO International’s journey into becoming Southeast Asia’s leading Healthy Home Creator began when Hoe Kian Choon left the MNC he was working for to introduce CUCKOO, the South Korean home appliance brand to the country back in October 2014.

Hoe brought in the CUCKOO mild alkaline water purifier and in no time, it took off and became a household name.

Healthy, Happy Growth

Under his leadership, CUCKOO International grew exponentially to serve millions of households across Malaysia. The strong financial performances year after year allowed CUCKOO to expand beyond Malaysia to Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia. By 2018, CUCKOO International officially became the Southeast Asian hub.

When the company achieved a record-setting revenue of RM910 million by 2019, it led Hoe to think of expansion and diversification, especially since there was strong demand from Malaysians for a wider range of healthy offerings. It was also at the start of the pandemic when people became more aware of the importance of health.  

In 2020, CUCKOO International positioned itself as a Healthy Home Creator and expanded its portfolio to include new brands and areas. By the following year the company’s sales skyrocketed and recorded a staggering RM1.13 billion in revenue.

Quirk of Fate

In many ways, Covid helped precipitate the jump in sales.

“People rearranged their priorities,” he surmised, “They were becoming very health conscious and were looking to make their homes a healthier and safer place to live in.”

But then he adds that they had always positioned themselves as a company that wants to help Malaysians live healthier and happier lives. Even at the time when he started marketing the water purifier, he always positioned it as a health-providing item.

“That’s why we were able to capture the market,” he says.

Transformation to Healthy Home Creator

“From 2014 to 2019, we were only focusing on appliances and most people thought we were only a water purifier brand,” he said in a 2022 podcast interview.  “But then from 2020 onwards, we transformed from appliances to Healthy Home Creator which is led by four pillars. They are:

1: Heathy Appliances Pillar with CUCKOO includes water purifiers, outdoor filters, air purifiers, induction hobs and kitchen wares.

2: Healthy Living Pillar with massage chairs, mattresses and air conditioners.

3: Healthy Lifestyle Pillar with WonderLab Group bringing a holistic approach to beauty and wellness with a wide range of skincare, cosmetics and nutritional beverages.

4: Healthy Home Care Pillar with WonderKlean which is a home care specialist offering a wide range of home care services including indoor disinfection.

By September 2022, over five million household users in Malaysia were enhancing their homes with CUCKOO International’s array of Healthy Home offerings that are Beyond Standards − a philosophy the company follows to deliver satisfaction over and above the norm in all that they do. CUCKOO International’s unprecedented growth is supported by 100,000 employees, sales and service specialists serving in more than 640 branches nationwide.

It All Began with a Plan Like No Other

Apart from the strong demand of Malaysians for healthier home solutions, a lot of CUCKOO International’s accelerated growth can be attributed to its revolutionary rental and subscription payment model concept called the GOOODPLAN™. This payment concept provides customers with a variety of affordable payment options that lowers the barrier to entry. “In fact,” says Hoe, “more than 90% of our customers subscribe to our rental-based services.”

Even their skincare products under the WonderLab Group are under the subscription plan, he reveals.

“For a very small sum a month, you can get your makeup and skincare and even health drinks with Vitamin C.”

As a matter of fact, all of CUCKOO International’s products have the option of being under the GOOODPLAN™. The choice is the customer’s of course, but with the plan, one can own the product at a much lower price and enjoy free servicing and warranty for the duration of the contract.

This is what Hoe means by going Beyond Standards.

Actually, it was this very plan that started the ball rolling. Hoe revealed that before he identified the product to begin his business, he was already a firm believer in the rental and subscription model.  

“That’s why before I got the products, I set up the model first,” disclosing that he wanted to go into the home appliance sector but wasn’t sure which product and which company he wanted to partner with.  

He then went to South Korea for 10 days, visited 20 factories and found that CUCKOO had the business direction and philosophy that best matched what he wanted.

What Makes CUCKOO International Different

“First, our service is different,” he explains. Unlike other servicing personnel or call centres that are actually revenue generating teams, CUCKOO International’s service team are dedicated only to service. Not sales.

“We are different,” he says. “I want to give Malaysians Beyond Standards.

“Secondly, our brand positioning is also different. We emphasise healthy home products. Our positioning is Healthy Home Creator while the rest of the market is doing home appliances. The reason why we transformed ourselves is because we can provide a range of products that pertain to health and wellbeing, not just appliances. Even our skin care products use the best quality to provide health and wellbeing.”

Rice Bowl Protector

Hoe is known among his employees as their Rice Bowl Protector. He ensures that every single person is made to feel engaged, motivated, empowered, and a part of the huge and growing CUCKOO family. Hoe ensures diversity and inclusion, and employs the differently-abled too. During COVID-19, when employees feared for their rice bowl, Hoe and his management team ensured that there were no lay-offs or pay cuts.

For this reason and more, Hoe and CUCKOO International has been recognised through a multitude of awards, most importantly by the Human Resources Minister Award at HRD Awards 2022 for being The Most People-Focused CEO. The company has also been awarded by HR Asia as one of the Best Companies to Work For from 2019 to 2022 consecutively.

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