When Martin Ang started out with a career in building design, he had no idea his life was about to be turned upside down. Now, he’s the Director of Julie’s Manufacturing Sdn Bhd, celebrating three decades with the biscuit giant.
Julie’s is one of Malaysia’s leading biscuit manufacturers. The company has been in the market since 1981 and prides itself on its quality products, which are “baked with love”.
“We produce a very high-quality product, as good as any of the international brands,” Martin enthuses. “Our philosophy is, ‘What we don’t eat, we won’t let other people eat’. We make sure that we put only the finest ingredients into our products. No artificial colouring, no preservatives added, no compromise,” he explains.
“Our philosophy is, ‘what we don’t eat, we won’t let other people eat’. We make sure that we put only the finest ingredients into our products. No artificial colouring, no preservatives, no compromise.”
An unexpected turn
Martin started working for Julie’s 30 years ago, after his career took an unexpected turn. “I’m not from the food industry originally, I’m actually a building designer,” he says. “During the recession in the mid 1980s I lost my job, so I was looking for work and it was very hard. I became a door-to-door salesman, which was difficult because not many people entertain door-to-door salesmen,” Martin explains.
After returning to his hometown to look for work, Martin took a job in the Julie’s warehouse. “I still remember the director asking me, ‘Are you sure you want to work at the warehouse? You are a designer.’ I told him I needed the job,” Martin recalls.
From there, Martin became a delivery driver, and worked his way up to the top. “I became a Director about five years ago. I’ve been taking care of the domestic market for the past 15 years; and in the past 10, I’ve taken care of the international market as well. Currently, I’m looking after both markets, as Director.”
Exports are an enormous part of Julie’s business and the company now exports to 80 countries around the world. “In the past 10 years, we have been aggressively promoting our product overseas,” Martin adds. “Exporting to 80 countries is not easy to manage. Every country has its own culture, its own beliefs, and its own business practices. I find that very challenging but also interesting.”
“Exporting to 80 countries is not easy to manage. Every country has its own culture, its own beliefs, and its own business practices.”
Maintaining good relationships
Maintaining good relationships with so many different markets and cultures is tricky. “The most important thing is, we work on understanding where we are in terms of each country. At the same time, we identify every market and the challenges they are facing,” Martin explains.
He says Julie’s relationships with its business partners are about much more than just business. “We did not want our business partners to be just willing sellers. We want more than that. We want them to see that this is a company that cares about a lot of things. It cares for its employees, it cares for the society, and it cares for our planet.”
Julie’s encourages its business partners to come to Malaysia to meet its team, and get to know the business. “We want their people, not just the owner or CEO of the company to come,” says Martin. “We also want the procurement people and some of the other staff to visit us. We invite a lot of people to visit our factory, so they can see for themselves what the story behind the brand is. This is very important to us.”
The company has a multicultural workforce, which can be a challenge to building a strong culture. “We not only have local workers, but also some foreign workers. This is a big challenge because we have quite a few nationalities, some from Vietnam, some from Nepal.” This led to the company tailoring its training methods to support all its staff.
“The staff speak different languages so, for instance, we will have Nepalese providing training to the Nepalese staff, to ensure that we’re all one big family.”
The future for Julie’s means embracing automation and ecommerce, to keep the business strong. “Ecommerce is an interesting challenge now, because you can’t keep doing things in conventional ways,” Martin says.
For Martin, Julie’s is about much more than just biscuits; it’s about promoting his country on the world stage. “What I’m trying to do is not just promote Julie’s, but also Malaysia, to make people see that Malaysia has many things to offer. That is also my job,” he says.
“When people come to Malaysia to visit our plant, we also take them around to show them our culture, and how Malaysia is a multicultural country.”
What I’m trying to do is not just promote Julie’s, but also Malaysia, to make people see that Malaysia has many things to offer.”
Community involvement program
The company is also involved in supporting the local community. “We work with a lot of NGOs and we get our people involved. We want them to see that this company is a very caring company” Martin says. “We want the country to see that the Julie’s is something that has been made by them.”
The company also has a community program called Mentoring SMEs. “My goal is getting together with government agencies to see how we can help SMEs,” Martin says. “We have this responsibility to give back to society.”
Julie’s will always be more than just a job for Martin. “Our mission is we care; we love the Earth, and we care for our society.”