Enterprise Vol 2, 2010: Sponsored Feature: Kar Wo Fertilizer & Seed Co
An excellent grasp of the law of supply and demand has cultivated a luxuriant niche for agriculture, arboriculture and grounds maintenance specialist Kar Wo Fertilizer & Seed Co.
The 67-year-old enterprise is an importer and agent for leading international machinery and equipment suppliers, and also offers consultancy services.
“We are seeing growing demand,” explains Managing Director Thomas Ng, an expert in turf maintenance and tree management. “That’s how we handle the market — mostly it’s a reflection of the needs at the time.”
Machinery and equipment supply is the main business of Kar Wo, which is an agent for 13 leading manufacturers.
“Sales of machinery and equipment have risen from less than one-third of our business in the 1960s to more than 60% today, and are climbing towards 70% and above,” Mr Ng claims.
The company’s latest agent agreement, with German chainsaw and garden power tools manufacturer STIHL, began in January 2010 but has taken more than 15 years to bring to fruition.
“During that time we imported and sold STIHL products, but now we are the exclusive agent for Hong Kong and Macau and most of the Chinese mainland,” enthuses Mr Ng. “There is strong demand in Hong Kong for chainsaws — heavy, medium and light — for tree management and maintenance.”
Kar Wo also acts as an agent for such well-known manufacturers and products as:
“We also supply crawler-type transporters for areas with steps, which is a growing market,” adds Mr Ng, noting that the Hong Kong government is using these machines to remove debris from beaches.
Kar Wo’s consultancy services cover tree management and turf maintenance, with a clientele that has included both the Hong Kong and Macau governments.
Past turf maintenance contracts include the Hong Kong Sports Institute facilities in Shatin, and the 2005 East Asian Games grounds in Macau — one of the biggest projects Kar Wo has undertaken to date.
As such, they reflect the company’s evolving response to changing market requirements, and carefully nurtured relationships with both customers and suppliers.
Mr Ng’s grandfather established the business in 1947 to sell rice seeds before his son registered Kar Wo as a trading firm in Hong Kong and diversified into selling packaged vegetable and flower seeds in Hong Kong and Macau.
The enterprise expanded into selling flower bulbs in the 1950s, and started supplying cabbage seeds imported from Japan and the US to China in 1958.
Mr Ng joined the business in 1968, when Kar Wo took its initial steps to establishing itself as a major supplier of turf machinery and equipment by becoming Hong Kong’s first importer of hand-power tillers manufactured by ISEKI of Japan.
“Manpower became costly in the late 1960s and 1970s, so we began to import these machines with small engines to break down the soil for cultivation,” he recalls.
During the 1990s, the firm started to supply brush cutters that the government used to cut hedges, and began selling gasoline-powered transporters to village people who lived in areas with narrow roads or footpaths.
“We not only sell, we also provide follow-up services showing customers how to use and maintain equipment, and advise manufacturers on how their equipment can best be adapted for the special needs of our customers,” advises Mr Ng.
He believes people trust Kar Wo because the company works with them, and because it has a long history.
“We believe in representing good brands, and we know loyalty and quality are important — they build lasting relationships.”
Looking to the future, Mr Ng says Kar Wo is evaluating new markets elsewhere in Asia and in the Middle East, and considering expanding on the mainland.
“We will try to break into the Chinese market for specialist rope and arboriculture products, which we believe have vast potential,” Mr Ng reveals. “We also plan to represent more Chinese machinery manufacturers.”
Given its business savvy and ambitions and excellent track record to date, Kar Wo looks certain to be heading for even greener pastures.