While the idea of entering the agriculture industry may sound unappealing and unglamorous to some, it has always been in the works for Ricky Chey to join the family business, Farmcochem, which manufactures and markets crop protection and plant nutrient products.
As a young graduate, Ricky started his career in Banking, working in Malaysia and Singapore before making the switch to Management Consulting in Hong Kong. This career path was carefully calibrated to garner exposure in the corporate world and to be able to bring that experience back to Farmcochem. While living the high-flying corporate life was exciting and rewarding, the urge to join Farmcochem remained strong and in 2006, Ricky Chey officially started his tenure at Farmcochem. At that time, Farmcochem was predominantly a domestically-driven business and focused mainly on importing and marketing of formulated products. Throughout its twenty or so years in business, it had been run quite conservatively, as with most family businesses in those days. With the benefit of exposure to different companies during his consulting days, Ricky saw opportunities for the Company to expand its revenue base, improve and modernize its processes and to tap on the talent base and experiences of professional managers.
A key priority for Ricky was to expand the Company’s revenue base and the reach of the Company’s products globally. Initially, due to limited resources, Ricky had to single-handedly set up the export division of Farmcochem. Through sheer hard work and determination, Ricky was able to market and establish a name for Farmcochem’s products internationally. Today, Farmcochem has a team supporting the Company’s export footprint across 25 countries. “When people think of agrochemical products from Malaysia, they will probably think of Farmcochem. In a way, we succeeded in building a brand for ourselves”, says Ricky proudly. Ricky also identified expansion opportunities in Thailand and Indonesia and led the establishment of operations in those markets, building a brand for the Company’s products. “Since day one, consistency in quality has been a hallmark central to the Company’s reputation. And our reputation has been the key to our success in expanding overseas”, adds Ricky.
To stay competitive and establish control over quality assurance of its products, Ricky led the ISO certification process for the Company’s manufacturing plants. He strongly believes in harnessing technology to improve production processes, upgrading the Company’s laboratory and R&D processes along the way. In addition, Ricky initiated the move to establish Farmcochem’s own amination plants. With the blessings of the Board, this move has been central in ensuring that the Company maintains its reputation for quality products.
Today, Farmcochem is a reputable crop-protection company in Malaysia. As the Executive Director of Farmcochem, Ricky’s role today is focused on formulating and executing the company’s strategic plans and driving business growth and expansion regionally. “In order to grow sustainably, we must add value to our customers’ businesses. We have to develop a strong and trusted relationship with our customers”, says Ricky. Part of this is branding and one interesting aspect the Company has done is to leverage Farmcochem’s semi-professional basketball team, to organize basketball clinics and competitions for its dealers and the farming community.
In reaching out to the farming community at the grassroots level, the Company has also been relentless in educating the farming community through transfer of knowledge and technology, which in turn helps farmers improve crop yields and income. As a member of the Executive Council of the Malaysia Croplife and Public Health Association from 2013 to 2016, Ricky has also been actively pushing the agenda in improving the quality of health sciences and the agricultural industry in Malaysia.
Farmcochem’s rapid growth within a span of 10 years meant that management styles had to be fluid with the changing times. Ricky considers taking care of staff and customers as priority. “Over the years, I’ve learnt to adapt to different management styles. When I first joined, I was rather aggressive. It was all about growth, growth and more growth. However, if you ask me what I believe in today, I would say that I believe in taking care of my staff, developing them professionally and giving them opportunities. In turn, they will give their loyalty, take care of customers and help grow the company. Some of our staff have been with us for over 20 years and they are proud to be part of our growing family. We would not be where we are today, if not for our people”, adds Ricky.
As an entrepreneur, the journey gets tough sometimes and to be inspired, Ricky strives to maintain learning and education as a key priority for personal growth. One unforgettable learning experience that Ricky found particularly rewarding was when he attended the Harvard President’s Program. “We stayed on campus and participated in workshops and study groups. I met diverse and accomplished counterparts, who shared the rationale behind their business decisions through case studies. You just can’t get this amazing experience anywhere else”, adds Ricky enthusiastically.
Apart from learning and education, Ricky believes in moving out of his comfort zone, be it professionally or personally. In the spirit of pushing boundaries, Ricky participated and completed a 400 km Tour de Malaysia biking challenge that cut across 3 states in 4 days. Ricky is also currently on the EXCO of the Malaysian Chapter of the Young President Organization (YPO) where he currently serves as the Membership Chair. YPO is a by-invitation organisation with 23,000 members across 130 countries that connect members to exchange ideas, education and share strategies for personal growth and professional success.
Looking ahead, Ricky is steadfast in ensuring that Farmcochem, which turns 32 this year, continues to be competitive and ahead of the curve. He considers it a privilege to build on his father’s legacy of growing the company. His focus now is to ensure that the Company delivers on its expansion plans. “Our vision is to be one of the largest crop protection companies in South East Asia”, adds Ricky. While challenges may lie ahead, Ricky firmly believes in the saying by Albert Einstein, “You will never fail until you stop trying.”