The durian is probably the world’s most divisive fruit: either you love it or you hate it.
Some say its heavenly smell is unparalleled in the fruit kingdom.
Others say it stinks like a sewer.
It may be the only fruit banned from airline cabins, hotels and public transport.
While this love-hate relationship continues between humans and what many in Southeast Asia consider the King of Fruits, a Hongkonger has taken the plunge of starting a business selling durians online.
“In the last couple of years, many friends of mine in Hong Kong have asked me and my business partner to bring them durians from Malaysia,” said KK, founder of Durianbb.com, a website that sells Malaysian durians.
“When I brought this up on online forums, I found that there are actually a lot of durian fans out there, which means there is real demand.
“It is how I began thinking about starting my own business selling durians.”
Durianbb imports its durians directly from Malaysia, including the most eagerly sought-after “Musang King” variety.
In just four weeks after their website opened for business, the pair sold a whopping 700 durians.
KK used to run an online marketing business that helped clients advertise on social media, and that was how he built some of his connections.
While most middle-aged and elderly people tend to buy durians from traditional fruit stores, the online channel can reach more young people and broaden the customer base for the fruit, he said.
It took KK quite a while to build his connections with owners of durian orchards in Malaysia.
He has even become a shareholder in some of the orchards, so as to make sure he can always secure a supply of fruits of the highest quality.
To keep them fresh, durians are vacuum packed in Malaysia after they are cut down from the trees.
They are then shipped to Hong Kong.
To ensure the fruits are delivered to customers as fresh “as if they were just cut down from the tree”, they are put in chilled storage immediately after arrival from Malaysia.
KK’s durians range in price from HK$450 (US$58) to HK$550 each.
However, even though sales have soared recently, the website is only breaking even at present, because of high operating costs.
KK said the peak seasons for the sales of “Musang King” durians are generally from January to February and from July to August.
Given the relatively short duration of the peak seasons, he and his partner are planning to introduce durian desserts to diversify their product base.
Even though Malaysia is famous for its durians, it has export quotas, and tourists often can’t buy them on their own.
So KK is hoping the pair can create their own durian desserts and market them as signature souvenirs of Malaysia.
This article first appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 27.
Translation by Alan Lee
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