By Vasuki Rao
The conventional practice of refilling gas cylinders for cooking in Malaysia has remained relatively the same in the last decade. One either goes to the closest retail store to buy and transport a 10kg, 12 kg or 14kg cylinder back home, or call on their retail agent to have it delivered to the house.
…No loans, no grants, no handouts. Pure grit and acumen!
While for the end user, the latter method has proved relatively convenient, the supply chain logistics in the back-end remains “heavy” in getting the load from distributor to end user. As a result, the ceiling price of liquified petroleum gas (LPG) mandated by The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry (KPDNKK) to wholesalers, gains weight as it travels through multiple layers of “middle persons” before reaching the end consumer.
Determined to provide an alternative solution to high cooking gas prices and slow deliveries, 35 year old entrepreneur, Suthan Mookaiah founded Malaysia’s first cooking gas delivery business, BeliGas, shortly after the first Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented last year. In less than a year since it was founded, BeliGas now owns 13 branches and 2 warehouses to effectively cater to delivery demands in multiple locations across Klang Valley.
While speaking to Suthan about BeliGas, it was hard to not be inspired by his story of resilience and innovation. After dropping out of college due to financial challenges, Suthan immersed himself into the coding scene which according to him, was still a relatively untapped skill in Malaysia back then.
… As devastated as Suthan was by the news, he was determined to find a way to turn things around for his staff…
Taking advantage of that, at the age of 18, the Winner of Top 100 Malaysia’s Influential Young Entrepreneur Award 2020, used his self-taught coding skills and started providing website building services to both local and foreign clients, on top of selling ebooks and audiobooks. By the time he turned 21, Suthan had made his first million and was later headhunted by Spain-based global integrated digital services company, to lead and develop the content market in SEA as the Regional Business Development Manager.
After 10 years of constant travelling, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Suthan and his team of 12 in Malaysia received the news that the company’s stakeholders had decided to exit the SEA market, suddenly leaving them all without a job.
… Cheap and easy – these two words define BeliGas’s business model born out of the mission to streamline the segmented LPG industry that has seen no significant innovation over the last decade…
As devastated as Suthan was by the news, he was determined to find a way to turn things around for his staff. The idea of BeliGas came to him when he was at the Bandar Sungai Long Centrepoint restaurant which he owns.
“One of my chefs noticed that the restaurant was running out of cooking gas and as I watched him make the call to the closest distributor, I realised that our restaurant’s urgency was being brushed off and the price of a 14kg cylinder was around RM 35,” Suthan said as he recalled the incident which led to the conception of BeliGas. “As I was eager to start a business of my own, I did more research on LPG and spoke to other consumers and that’s when I noticed that cooking gas prices were at least RM 10 more than the government mandated price.”
“Providing a stepping stone for reformed convicts could help them to blend into the community with business training and delivery service,”
Cheap and easy – these two words define BeliGas’s business model born out of the mission to streamline the segmented LPG industry that has seen no significant innovation over the last decade.
BeliGas prices its 14kg cooking gas cylinders starting at RM 26.60 for on demand orders and RM 25.50 for pre-orders. Consumers may place their order via the official BeliGas app available for Android users or via its website. BeliGas obtains cooking gas cylinders directly from suppliers and with delivery partners, gas can be delivered effectively from any point.
“A RM 10 difference might not affect some of us but by removing hierarchies and using a flat transaction model, our prices benefit the financially underprivileged communities in Malaysia,” Suthan said.
However, aside from using digital solutions to provide controlled cooking gas prices and efficient delivery services, BeliGas is also making an impact on society by functioning as a social enterprise. “Providing a stepping stone for reformed convicts could help them to blend into the community with business training and delivery service,” Suthan explained. “In doing this, BeliGas has formed a collaboration with the Malaysian Prison Department, in particular the Kajang Prison, to train prisoners and provide employment once released from prison.”
In terms of marketing, Suthan says his strategy combines different forms of over-the-top advertising approaches, billboards and straight-forward videos to reach consumers. “In terms of customer awareness, most we’ve noticed that organic word of mouth recommendations from our satisfied customers has been the most impactful,” Suthan added.