Last Updated: March 10, 2018
We sat down for a chat with Ang Jun Ting, deputy director of Hai Sia Seafood and son of founder Ang Jwee Heng, to talk about his experience being the second generation to succeed a business.
He shared with us his stories of success and struggles as a modern fishmonger in this millennial age.
My name is Jun Ting and I’m 28 years old. My background is in F&B and Hospitality, and my family runs Hai Sia Seafood, a local-run fresh and frozen seafood supplier. We’ve been around for the past 40 years, supplying our seafood products to airlines, supermarkets, hawkers and more.
My first contact with the industry was in secondary school when my father would tell my brother and me to come over to the fish market to kill time during holidays. I got to see how the trading was done and helped out by doing menial tasks like scaling of fish, which is the first step of apprenticeship as a fishmonger.
Both my father and I are actively involved in the business together, so I wouldn’t say that I ‘took over’. He gives me advice and guides me in the making business decisions. I started about three years ago at a juncture where I wanted to contribute, and in where I thought he needed help. With these two factors, I embarked on a trial period at first, but here we are, three years and beyond.
To be very honest, I spent quite a bit of time here, but my father did allow me to have a good childhood.
One of my fondest memories when I was 14, was coming to the fishery port with my father at 12am. We would go eat porridge together, after that, I would walk with him around the market and we would visit the plant together.
My job was scaling fish, but sometimes when I got too tired I would go to the seaside and hide under a coconut tree to take a nap, sometimes until 4 or 5am. Then we would go for deliveries from there.
The life of a fishmonger is actually quite similar to that of someone who works in the culinary industry – the hours are long and there is little to no social life.
But I would say that it is an industry driven by passion, so keeping that in mind really helps to motivate you when it gets tough. It took some time to get used to this lifestyle, but it definitely wasn’t very hard.
My father is not a man of many words, so I think there isn’t exactly something I can quote from him, but I think its just learning from him leading by example. From the way we treat people around us, to being open-minded to fresh ideas for the business.
He is 68-year-old Teochew towkay, but he is extremely open-minded and places importance on carrying himself with humility in all that he does.
It’s more like the new generation working hand in hand with the older generation. We are always looking to keep improving the plant – from where it was before to where it is now, I can safely say that the quality of processing to the quality of our products, it is now higher than ever before. This is a significant level up for us as a business.
I think having business sustainability doesn’t just depend on just a few individuals or the bosses, it depends on the team. The workload and responsibilities that we share all goes into maintaining standards and making sure that the business runs smoothly.
Hai Sia Seafood also offers a free experiential tour of Jurong Fishery Port on Saturday mornings. For those who are curious to see another side of Singapore, here’s a sneak peak into what you can expect on the tour.
The market truly comes to life around 2am, with lorries loading up produce to be sent out for delivery. Greeted by the briny smell of the sea, do remember to come dressed comfortably with good slip-proof shoes.
We enter into the central market place of the fishery port. Standing from a viewing deck on the second floor, we got a view of the market from above as it hits its peak hour of business around 3am.
Nothing could prepare us for the many sights, sounds and smells as we wandered through the market, led by our guide from Hai Sia Seafood. Goods are weighed on old-school scales and baskets line the stalls with preorders from buyers. If you see the handles are tucked in, it means the basket has been sold.
As the night goes on, workers buzz to and fro with large baskets of fish on their troll, so do look out for tons of traffic along the market walkways.
Stall owners perch at wooden high desks manually recording their ledgers and having a bird’s eye view of all that is going on. All transactions in the market are dealt in cash, and if you intend to make a purchase, be prepared to buy in bulk!
Hai Sia Seafood’s Tour is a great experience that your whole family can enjoy, maybe even pick up a couple of fresh seafood products for dinner too. It’s an activity you don’t get to experience often in Singapore, and it was great to learn about the history of this dying trade.