Durian lovers no longer need to trek to Geylang or Balestier to hunt down the best deals.
The king of fruits can now be delivered fresh to your doorstep at the click of a button, with more sellers turning to e-commerce to beat the competition.
Durian sellers are listing their products on e-marketplaces such as Qoo10 or setting up their own websites to drive online sales.
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Mr Tan See Thong, who runs Durian Plantation in MacPherson Road, said the company started listing its products on the Qoo10 platform last
month and has since sold close to 1,000 durians online.
Online customers select their durians based on weight. The fruits are then de-husked and packed into boxes for delivery. Prices online are similar to those in-store.
“The (online) response has been good even though it’s now a smaller harvest and prices are about two times higher than usual,” said Mr Tan, who speaks mainly Mandarin.
“A traditional industry like ours needs new ways to grow, and e-commerce can help us reach out to new customers. We need to be faster than others to get ahead.
“In the past, if people didn’t come to the store, we wouldn’t have sales. But now, we’re trying to be more proactive because this is the new way forward,” he added.
Another company, Fruit Monkeys, also recently started listing its products on the Qoo10 platform. Co-founder Bernard Tan started the business with a partner last December and opened a store in Rangoon Road. “I have been eating durians for more than 20 years and could not find anyone who could provide me with consistently good durians,” said Mr Bernard Tan.
“Usually, people go to Geylang or Balestier, but they have to bargain and they’re not sure whether the durians are good.
“That’s the gap we’re trying to fill. We are looking for opportunities not captured in the older traditional business.”
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He declined to reveal sales figures but said business has “picked up really fast”, with online sales now contributing about 40 per cent of total takings.
But the e-commerce market comes with its own set of challenges, durian sellers said.
“It was tough initially – we had to perfect the packaging and make sure we deliver good durians to customers within a short time,” said Fruit Monkeys’ Mr Tan.
Durian Plantation’s Mr Tan said there have been some hurdles, including issues with maintaining the quality of delivered fruits.
“We’ll keep adapting and learning,” he added.
Mr Raymond Ng of Lele Durian said the company first dipped its toes into e-commerce two to three years ago but subsequently took a break from online sales.
“We had to do our own deliveries, so it was tough to manage,” said Mr Ng, who is helping his father with the business.
He recently decided to get back into the online game, but limits online sales to 20 per cent of his stock while keeping the bulk for regular customers who visit his store in Ghim Moh. He also makes use of a delivery service offered by Qoo10 which picks items up from sellers and delivers them to buyers.
“This is a fruit, so there will be taste differences. Some durians are more bitter and some are more sweet, so we have to take that into consideration when selling online,” said Mr Ng. “Initially, there were some complaints from customers that the taste wasn’t what they expected, but slowly we built up our reputation.”
But some still prefer to shop for durians in-store, said Fruit Monkeys’ Mr Tan. “Durians are not like other fruits. Some customers still want to engage with the seller and build a relationship.
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“They want to talk to you, ask you what’s good, see you open the durian… There are different types of customers and we have to cater to them accordingly.”
Qoo10 Singapore country manager Cho Hyunwook said there are now six durian sellers on the platform, who have sold more than 4,000 durians in total since March.
“The main pull factor for these merchants – who have mostly never ventured into online commerce before – is the large database of customers that we have at more than 2.5 million registered users.”
Instead of using e-commerce marketplaces, other durian sellers have opted to set up their own websites, including Durian Culture which has brick-and-mortar stores in Sims Avenue and Upper Serangoon Road, as well as 227 Katong Durian which operates in East Coast Road.
But not all durian sellers are jumping on the Internet bandwagon.
Mr Cedrik Shui of Ah Seng Durian in Ghim Moh said the company has no immediate plans to start offering its products online.
“People have different preferences when it comes to durians… It’s easier to cater to these preferences when they come down to our shop and try the fruit in person,” said Mr Shui, who is helping out in the family business and eventually intends to take over from his father.
“Delivery is also an issue – the charges can be quite pricey and not all customers might be comfortable paying.”