Longan tree blossoms are starting to emerge in Northern Thailand’s bee zone. Over two decades ago, Eric Tang, co-founder of Singapore-based Xali, visited Chang Mai on vacation. Impressed by the rich-tasting local honey from Longan nectar – a world apart from the bland, processed honey available in Singapore supermarkets – he decided to refocus his business activities from computer software to honey.
Throughout the past 20 years, together with his business partner and sister June, Xali has developed a network of local bee farms equipped with the latest technology to test and process honey for its customers in Singapore and Malaysia. Marketed under the B.HIVE brand, Xali’s products include Royal Jelly, as well as Longan, Wildflower, and Wildforest Raw Honey.
B.HIVE’s honeys are not heated during processing in order to retain the beneficial bio-active compounds such as bee defensin, caffeic acid and catechins, powerful antibacterial agents and antioxidants that help promote digestive health and protect the cardiovascular system. Its honeys also contain vitamins A, B complex, C, D, E and K, as well as beta-carotene, magnesium, sulfur, phosporus, iron, calcium, potassium, iodine, sodium, and manganese. B.HIVE’s Longan honey boasts an enzyme activity level of 18+.
While Xali has a loyal local consumer base, its wholesale business makes up about 85% of sales. Of this, approximately 70% of wholesale customers are in Malaysia. They use Xali’s honey as an ingredient in products such as bread, drinks, or marinades for chicken.
From March through May 2020, the business was heavily impacted by COVID-19. Thankfully deemed ‘essential’, Xali was able to continue operations. However, sales dropped by 30%. Staff were able to work remotely, but due to lower business volumes, the company was forced to reduce working hours. To date, the company has been able to maintain all eight employees (75% of whom are women). Although Singapore was able to resume somewhat-normal levels of economic activity after a few of months, Xali’s business partner in the North struggled. Pre-COVID, Xali’s customers paid them 90 days after goods were delivered. As Malaysia’s economy faced challenges with its COVID-related health crisis, their customers stretched payment terms to 120 days or more, placing a huge strain on Xali’s cash flow.
Fortunately, AGC’s partner provides Xali with convenient access to funding – how and when they need it. As June explained, “Unlike a bank where we need to attach multiple documents and supporting evidence to access financing, with AGC’s partner, we just send in our invoice and can access financing immediately.” Xali can’t discount invoices from all of their customers, because some of them refuse to send payment to AGC’s partner. However, Xali has been able to extend due dates on some invoices, allowing them to maintain relationships during this challenging time.
Flexible funding has not only enabled Xali to stay relevant during unprecedented economic turmoil, but to remain hopeful – and strategic – concerning the future. With the upcoming harvest of Longan-infused honey arriving, June has various plans for expansion in the works. Near-term ideas include the development of retail sales, including more supermarket channels, and the addition of some private labels to boost margins and diversify income streams. “Our customers choose to work with us because of our relationships, and the services and quality that we provide. They trust us.” Given the strength of such connections, 2021 looks to be filled with even more growth and success.