Clean Sweep: CUCKOO International’s Rise To Success With Visionary Founder & CEO Hoe Kian Choon

As someone who carved out his own career path, Hoe Kian Choon talks about tapping into his entrepreneurial spirit as the founder & CEO of CUCKOO International.
text by Daween Maan
Hoe Kian Choon of CUCKOO

Hoe Kian Choon, Founder & CEO of CUCKOO International  (Photo by Robin Yong)

Hoe Kian Choon may not be the next generation in his family’s business, but he definitely carried the torch of their entrepreneurial spirit. From humble beginnings of a fisherman father and mother who sold chicken rice, KC, as he introduces himself, believes he learned from a young age that the only way to work, is to work for yourself.

“I always believed that only by doing my own business could I give my family a better life,” says Hoe Kian Choon, the founder & CEO of CUCKOO International. While the CUCKOO brand in Korea traces back to the 1970s, CUCKOO International, a Malaysian based company founded by KC, will be celebrating its 10th anniversary later this year.

Most well known locally for their water and air purifiers, the CUCKOO brand under the company boasts a much larger range of home appliances and household goods that includes kitchen appliances, washer & dryer, air conditioners, massage chairs, and even mattresses. “We don’t just manufacture and sell electronics; we want to create healthier homes,” says KC.

The heavily lauded CEO is warm and unpretentious, opening up willingly about his past while sharp and to the point about his present business. He goes back to the chicken rice stall, run by his mother in a restaurant headed by his grandmother that also included some aunts and uncles. The extended family would later branch out and start up other small businesses like hardware stores. Those formative years laid the road for his own entrepreneurial journey as his first venture was a restaurant that he opened straight out of university.

“I was surrounded by some good people in university,” he says fondly. “So, when we graduated, I told them instead of looking for work, why don’t we go into business together ourselves.”

Despite its success, the restaurant was short-lived as KC decided that there were bigger opportunities he and the team would like to venture into. He started his second business, a B2B furniture e-commerce platform, then went on to work at a home appliance brand, where he conceived the idea of a rent-subscription business model.

“I thought this model was fantastic,” says KC. “Rent-to-own, rent-to-use, and subscription made products more affordable and accessible for people. Otherwise, it’s not easy for lower or middle-income people to spend a few thousand ringgit upfront to own these appliances.”

Based on just an interest in the business model, KC began his hunt for a brand and a product that aligned with his vision and direction. Starting with over a hundred brands, he narrowed them down to just twenty before beginning the literal journey to visit these companies and try their products.

“I selected a few products, bought them, and brought them back,” he explains. “I had a friend who was a technician, and we turned my house into a small workshop. That was my R&D; we opened up everything to find the best product, because even though the business model is good, it would only work with a good product.”

While lauding his good product, KC concedes that the challenge of the business model that made things easier for the consumer, actually made it harder for him. The capital-intensive business saw him tighten his grip on the company’s finances to ensure they avoided any cash flow problems. However, that was only half his challenge.

Hoe Kian Choon of CUCKOO

Hoe Kian Choon, Founder & CEO of CUCKOO International  (Photo by Robin Yong)

“I had to figure out how to make people believe what I believe. As a businessman, we all want people who share our values and have our common goals. So that was challenging, but we were able to overcome that and with the whole team’s effort, we made it.”

That team has since grown significantly in the last decade. From top to bottom, including sales and service personnel, KC oversees over sixteen thousand people to date, and due to the same entrepreneurial spirit that got him to where he is now, he expresses that he feels a responsibility to help them build better lives for themselves.

 I don’t feel the pressure,” he says about overseeing such a large workforce. “I know some people won’t believe it, but I enjoy it. It really gives me motivation to do the best I can for them. When I see people who are happy, whether that’s my employee or my customer – when I see them smile it gives me energy.”

With revenue trending upwards quarter to quarter, CUCKOO International’s business model has diversified beyond just the sales of home appliances and household goods. Fixated on their motto to be ‘The Healthy Home Creator’, every new offering that rolls off the line is aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of their customers in one way or another.

In line with this, KC launched three new brands in 2020 called WonderKlean, WonderLab and WonderDewi. WonderKlean offers home cleaning and disinfection services that were rolled out at the heights of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Also operating on the subscription model, customers can have every nook and cranny of their house, kitchen, bedrooms, and beds cleaned by trained professionals to keep their homes healthy. WonderLab and WonderDewi on the other hand offer a range of skincare and nutritional food products.

“All of this is part of our direction to create a bigger social impact,” he explains. “From our growth in revenue, we have hit a lot of our goals. In that sense we are successful, so I want us to create more impact. I am very excited for this.”

KC lays out that the immediate goal of the company is expansion, in order to take this vision to as many people and markets as possible. With a presence in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, the priority is to strengthen within these markets by offering more products and services under all its brands.


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Further regional expansion isn’t off the table, and while major manufacturing will stay in South Korea for now, KC sees opportunities to develop certain products with other Malaysian brands. A recent partnership with OGAWA Malaysia to produce a bespoke massage chair is one such example.

“We want to appreciate the Malaysian market and create more job opportunities. Working with Malaysian companies like OGAWA Malaysia, LSK and Fujiaire allows us to create new products made by Malaysians.”

While KC is looking to build a business that is subscribed for multiple generations, he doesn’t think about his own next generation getting involved in his business. Going back to his foundational experience, he expresses that he only wants to give his family and his teenage children the best life he can.

“If they express interest in wanting to learn about the business then maybe, but if not, I want to build a business that a professional manager can take over easily. I want my children to enjoy their lives, do what they want to do and have their own dreams.” Now that’s something we can subscribe to.

This story was first published in The Peak Malaysia June 2024 Issue.


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