Not many people are aware that osmosis drinking water goes through 17 stages of purification before being delivered to retail outlets. This is the fact in the case of K2 Reverse Osmosis Drinking water and all other products manufactured by Life Water Industries Sdn. Bhd. (Life Water). Their carbonated drinks, fruit flavoured drinks, and ice sticks are carefully processed to the best possible standards, so as to ensure full compliance with food safety regulations regionally.
“We started in 2002 with the initial idea that every individual deserves pure clean drinking water, and ever since then, we have never stopped investing into research and development (R&D), particularly in our manufacturing technology, in fact, it is our mission”, says Mr. Liaw Hen Kong, the founder who began Life Water in Sandakan together with Mr. Chin Lee Ling, Mr. Tan Hwong Kuen and Mr. Lim Young Piau in April of that year.According to Mr. Liaw, the main reason of focusing on R&D was to keep the retail price low, in line with their company’s motto ‘Make Quality Beverages Affordable for Everyone’. He believes that the success they have achieved, including winning the 2010/2011 Sabah Industry Excellence Award and the 2012 Excellence Brand 11th Asia Pacific International Entrepreneur Excellence Award, comes from their focus on customer and quality. “When we began, we already knew that we wanted a locally-produced, customer-oriented product that would be competitively-priced. To ensure this was possible, we knew we had to practice continuous improvement from the very beginning,” says Mr. Liaw. Every aspect in the business operations is subject to scrutiny. The changes in oil prices and currencies affect Life Water, because of the usage of resin (in their raw materials for their bottles), transportation and export costs. “Due to this, not only do we need to ensure our manufacturing practices are constantly reviewed, we also have to go through our business model all the time to ensure that we are cost-effective in our operations,” he adds. It is clear to see how this continuous improvement mind-set has done well for Life Water in more ways than one. Life Water is now recognised as being a pioneer in practicing ethical, sustainable and environmentally-friendly manufacturing processes in the drinking water industry, and it has recently launched a subsidiary called Green Borneo, based in Kota Kinabalu.
This recognition has led to many visitors, mostly from schools and members of the public to their production plants. Life Water gladly hosts these visits, as they hope to help improve the understanding of the water production process and the importance of pure water for the human body amongst their visitors. In turn, these visitors have also been ambassadors for Life Water. “Going green has indeed been very good for us, as embracing these new technologies have helped us outgrow our initial market,” says Mr. Liaw. He adds that the successes from these initiatives have motivated them to expand further into the international market.
Mr. Liaw is appreciative of the assistance he has received to date from the Government. When they began the company, the soft loan received from the Malaysian Industrial Development Finance Berhad (MIDF) proved useful in reducing the amount they owed commercial banks. In addition, Mr.Liaw is also grateful for the assistance they received from various Ministries such as the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), as well as Government agencies including SME Corp. Malaysia, Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE), Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (MIDA) and Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM), whom had all given Life Water valuable advice and support. “Some of the challenges we faced at the beginning included raising capital, getting the right infrastructure in place, and equipping ourselves with the relevant knowledge i.e. related to health and religious standards. All these agencies were very helpful to us back then,” he says. “Everyone can succeed in the beverage business, provided that they are willing to work hard, have clear core values and purpose, and have the right skills. To be able to effectively leverage on the support of the Government and the market in building a brand, one need to have the right competencies in marketing, management, accounting, production and human resources,” adds Mr. Liaw.
In his view, the food and beverage industry has been growing steadily over the past 20 years, and there is room for more players in the market. He would be the right person to say so, as Life Water already has three branches in Lahad Datu, Kota Kinabalu and Tawau, making them the largest local company in terms of market share in Sabah. In fact, his team does not see this as an achievement, but rather as a milestone in their journey, as they have begun to re-align their direction towards the international market now. Mr. Liaw is confident they will be able to achieve success in this endeavour as well; as the team at Life Water continues to find ways to minimise business expenses while maximising their production capacity and enhancing their sales.To be able to effectively leverage on the support of the Government and the market in building a brand, one need to have the right competencies in marketing, management, accounting, production and human resources