Rolling out a difference

James Kon

Three youngsters wanted to make a difference to the environment. They knew paper waste was a major issue in the country. So they come up with innovative idea to repurpose recycled papers.

To realise their aspirations, they set up EnEvo Sdn Bhd with their own savings to became the first local company to produce tissue toilet rolls made from 100 per cent waste paper.

The company is now up and running at the DARe Industrial Complex at Serambangun Industrial Site, Tutong.

Founders Tan Thiam Kui, Siti Norasyidah binti Haji Kariya and Frederick Wong explained to the Bulletin how it all started.

As Norasyidah recalled, “the idea was based on my background as an environmental consultant. One of the initiatives that we undertook was making sure that we recycled.So we were thinking of innovative ways of reducing waste in the office as it has one of the biggest impact on the environment.

Tan recalled, “In 2015, we came across an article in the Bulletin calling for more recycling centres. So we told ourselves that instead of waiting for the centre to happen, why not set up our own company to kick start the initiative?”

Norasyidah added, “We took up the challenge of producing tissues using recycled papers; the article in The Bulletin acted as a motivator for us.”

EnEvo Sdn Bhd founders Tan Thiam Kui, Siti Norasyidah binti Haji Kariya and Frederick Wong. PHOTO: AZIZ IDRIS

Both Tan and Norasyidah were working at the same consultancy firm at the time.

Asked why they chose toilet roll as their product, Tan explained, “We were very excited to start the project and the easiest machine that we could find was a machine that make toilet rolls from recycled papers. We felt that toilet rolls and papers are of very high usage everywhere; and are essential.

“We decided to go ahead with the project. At the end of the day, we wanted to diversify, and re-purposing papers is part of our research and development.”

The company was registered in 2016 though the production only started at the beginning of this year.

The official launch of the company was supposed to take place in March. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the operation had to be temporarily halted for two months as it could not carry out face-to-face marketing activities as a result of restrictive measures.

As Frederick shared, “During the travel ban, engineers overseas could not enter Brunei. We were forced to put the operation on hold for a few months.”

Explaining other factors that contributed to the postponement, Tan highlighted, “We needed to apply for land and to do this we needed a proposal. We also needed to wait for the permit to come through, and purchase the machine which took 90 days to build. Once the construction was completed, there was the installation by the engineers to make sure the machine run smoothly.”

As a start-up that has yet to turn profit, the founders have opted to keep their day jobs and be available for their new business venture in the weekend.

As Tan cited, “We have different backgrounds, which do not involve setting up a factory. So we don’t know what a structural integrity is or that we have to reinforce the ground to fit the machine, which weighs 21 tonnes. We also don’t have experience in running the machine, so we are still learning from the engineers.”

Norasyidah said they didn’t have any experience of registering the company as Sendirian Berhad and had to learn from scratch in terms of legality and documentation.

Despite the varied backgrounds, she said, “I feel that we complement each other.”

Tan added, “It’s actually very risky to start a business without any business background but we really want to make a change. We want to build awareness that preserving the environment is the responsibility of everyone.”

He said many people don’t know that the cost of disposing in landfill is borne by the country; and that it’s not free.

“Why not dispose to a recycle centre to be processed and reused?

“People may think of us as only a toilet roll maker but we have a bigger mission of raising awareness on recycling and preserving the environment as well as providing employment for locals. Our staff is local. And we hope to change the mindset of people by encouraging them to reduce waste.”

Speaking on the market response, Tan said, “It has been quite positive. At the end of the day, we want to target the whole of Brunei Darussalam, and we have a long way to go.

“We are taking one step at a time. Our products are not available in all supermarkets yet, so we are still trying to push for supermarkets to have our products on their shelves and Bruneians to use our products.”