Several months ago, in the afternoon, my logistic man Ann delivered the last parcel of the day to Ken, one of our customers.
Upon arrival, he went inside Ken's place and nearly stepped on a wooden bracelet on the floor. Fortunately, that did not happen, Ann picked it up and looked at it.
" Sorry Ann, I am sorting my stocks. That bracelet has some issue so I put it on the floor for the moment." Ken said
"It looks alright, why don't you want it?" Ann asked
"Because if this were my product, I would close my business like others right now. And Ann, I and you would not be talking today."
Ann looked puzzled
Ken: "Have a seat; I will explain to you."
Ken was a local craftsman, and he had been handcrafting many fashion and prayer beads for years. He also made perfume from our oils and other ingredients.
Ken: "Like any other industry, it is super competitive. There are many big players in this bead manufacturing industry. In the past five years, many local bead makers have been out of businesses because they were unable to compete in price. The imported products are cheaper and more in variety. People are selling them on many online market place. It is a challenge to tell a customer what to look for in terms of quality. Because they do not know much about the quality, so they go for the lower price."
Ann: "The stores on your left and right are closed. Yet you are still here. What is your secret?"
Ann: "And what is that?"
Ken: "That is inside the parcel that you are delivering today."
"You see, stable, genuine agarwood supply is difficult to get access to, and this is my competitive advantage."
Ann: "So you are implying to are not referring us to anyone?"
Ken: "Why should I create another competitor for myself haha?"
Ann: "It makes sense"
Ken: " Now, let get back to the bracelet. Please look at the beads you picked up before. Do me a favour, run your finger through it?"
So Ann did what Ken asked.
Ken: "Now, try this one of yours. What is the difference?"
Ann: "I don't know, you tell me."
Ken: "With your agarwood beads, it is slightly more abrasive because of the grain, the texture or the way you made it. The colour is either too dark or white but natural.
Genuine Agarwood beads
So-called "High-quality agarwood beads"
The other one was too smooth. It is smooth because of the thick coating or painted. It is dark because of the dyeing substance. Its appearance looks alright, but spiritually, it is lifeless."
Ken pointed to the "grains", he continued.
"You see, it looks like someone painted or artificially made the grains. It is not part of the wood naturally. The scent you felt when you try to smell it does not from the bead itself. The manufacturer 'added' it on.
I heard of this quote, but I am not sure who said it.
You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.
If I sold this stuff without knowing it, one day, someone would come back to me, and my reputation would be over."
Ann: "Where did you get it from?"
Kenn: "When your doors are open for business, the customer is not the only one visiting you. Yesterday, a hawker knocked on my door and introduced this product to me. He left the bracelet on my desk and left. I only found out it was not what I wanted, so I threw it on the floor. And you came in."
"That explained it. Thank you for letting me know" Ann said.
Ann: "Huh, what was it?"
"The hawker, he left the business card. He was just a representative of this company. When I searched this online, I found that this company did not just make normal beads but special ones."
"What do you mean?"
"Wait, so they are one-stop-shop for all the beads: for hand, for necklace and for. ….. No wonder their beads were so smooth."
They had a good laugh.
Ann came back shared with me the conversation with Ken. Later that night, when Ken closed the door for the day, I decided to message him in Whatsapp and discovered that there are many challenges he had been facing. Agarwood bead is just one of them. I will share more in part 2.
P/S: In case you are interested, the beads that Ken used to make his fashion and religious beads are here
We like peace so unfortunately, we are unable to provide the name of the company that do all sort of beads (include "adult-only" bead).