Anna Teo: From Cabin Crew to Durian Queen


Anna Teo: From Cabin Crew to Durian Queen

Hernan Corporation founder and Group CEO Anna Teo tells AWANI Review how she made the switch from cabin crew to moving Malaysian goods and fruits to feed pent-up overseas demand.

The lure of the King of Fruits has steered Hernan Corporation to become one of the country’s largest durian exporter, breaking into the China, U.S. and Australian markets. 

Watch the interview to learn more about Teo’s business and management strategy, in building the durian exporting business.

“Hernan started off as a trading company” says Teo. “Being an ex-stewardess, I knew I had to do something after my flying career ended” she adds.

In the late 1990’s, Anna realised that many Malaysian products are still absent in large cities like London and Paris. After her career with Malaysia Airlines came to an end, she started exporting food and consumer products popular in Malaysia, in full container bulk loads to these cities.

“I was a Knorrs agent. I was an Adabi agent. I was practically everyone’s agent," says Teo with a laugh. "The 20-foot container shipping was my business."

A few years into the trading business, a buyer asked her, ‘Why not you export durians too?’. The perplexing issue about exporting fresh fruit – and more so durian – is the need to keep the ‘cold chain’ mechanism intact, while continuously adhering to the various food regulations of the export market destinations.

“It wasn’t easy, and initially, it wasn’t profitable either” she recollects. “But after my first durian shipment to Australia, the same customer came back and said he wanted more. It was then I realised that there could be a serious demand coming from exporting durians” she says.

Two decades on, Hernan has grown substantially, with an annual turnover that is close to RM30 million. The challenges now, Teo says, is very different.

“I want to grow my company further. I need capital and I need partners. If I can merge with someone, or raise funds either through private placement or through the LEAP market at Bursa, I will need to figure out how and soon” she says.

China, she adds, is a big growth market, and she is looking to ramp up exports there. “The demand that is growing year-on- year is exponential," says Teo. She expects exports to China to grow five to ten fold in the coming years. 

Podcast of the interview: 

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