- 08 Apr 2021
Trading The Corporate Life
I came from a single parent family, (mum) and with an elder sister & brother. Home was a roomless studio apartment, housing my mum and the 3 of us in Singapore.
My mum had to make ends meet with 2-3 jobs back to back, each day, and it was left to the 3 of us to do our best to keep studying, keep the house tidy and get good grades. As the youngest child, the priority to study, or get new books or new shoes, rarely happened for me.
From the age of 7, I had to accompany my mum in the early hours of the morning to prepare food, to be sold (later) door to door or at the void deck of our apartment, By the age of 8, I was selling chilli keropok ubi, nasi lemak, or any other food that my mum and me prepared, and sold it door to door in the apartments blocks nearby ours and in our small little illegal shop set up beside the apartment we lived at.
It has been a long road to the top for Scott Abdullah Misso. Having begun life in Singapore, he was part of a single-parent family with his sister and brother, as their mother looked after them in a small studio apartment. She juggled two to three jobs at any one time, with Scott and his siblings left to keep the house tidy and maintain good grades at school.
Life began in earnest for him at the age of seven, where he accompanied his mother in the early hours of the morning to prepare food to be sold door-to-door. By the time he was eight, he began peddling the very food he prepared like keropok ubi and nasi lemak in the family’s small, illegal shop set up next to the apartment they called home.
This was a routine that continued for several years, which he credits with his unintentional passion for the food and beverage (F&B) business. In his teens, Scott had to juggle several jobs, working at fast-food chains and karaoke pubs to earn money to put himself through school.
“Looking back today, I know that that period of my life built my self-confidence and resilience for life ahead,” recalls the now founder and CEO of Pasar Segar.
Graduating from secondary school at the age of 17, Scott dove into the world of F&B and worked in several hotel kitchens, even gaining experience under a well-known executive chef at the Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore. He quickly saw how “amazing and hard” life was for aspiring chefs, and says this was his eye-opener to the world of culinary arts.
“After completing my national service at 21, the first professional job I had was with Singapore Airlines and it was here that I built my foundations of the F&B business,” remembers Scott.
“My knowledge of food preparation and science, business management, service and hospitality skills were developed over my three years with the airline.”
Three years later, he jumped into the deep end by taking on the role of operations manager for a growing bar/ restaurant chain. As the youngest senior manager in their history, he continued developing his understand of the business, before being given the opportunity to be part of a joint venture to start Singapore’s first ever Vietnamese cuisine café in 2000. His knowledge and industry expertise helped to quickly establish the café as one of the best supper spots in Singapore in just six months, receiving rave reviews from food critics.
His remarkable career trajectory continued, taking him to places like Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, working with major F&B brands along the way until he secured a role as an executive chef at a family restaurant chain.
By 2008, Scott was one of a handful of professionals in Asia that had experience working directly with Michelin star chefs, with his experience now drawn upon in a consulting role, culminating in becoming a personal attaché and principal trainer for a group of restaurants during the World Gourmet Summit in 2008.
The experience saw more consulting roles come his way. He landed the role of lead service attaché with several hotels, while also being professionally invited to train service staff for high profile events such as the APEC 20th Anniversary Summit in 2009, and the Singapore F1 VIP Paddock Club in 2008 and 2010.
His transition to the corporate world started as the group general manager of the retail, F&B and service operations of a European investment company. Spearheading the project, Scott turned it into a profitable US$60 mil a year machine, with over 350 staff under his leadership.
Further success followed as he moved to Groupon Singapore, developing their product retail business, customer service and warranty centre. He also helped to open Groupon’s first redemption centre in Singapore for Groupon International, a global first for the multinational company.
“This stint laid the most foundation for me, learning the skills to start any e-commerce business,” says Scott.
So why opt for the hardships and uncertainties of entrepreneurship instead of a stability and comfort of well-paid employment?
“The slow momentum of corporate life was enough. I needed to run a business where I had the control,” he says without hesitation.
This led to the formation of Hawker Express in 2014, the first-ever street food delivery business in Singapore. Within three months, the company was delivering over 3,000 meals from over 100 different hawkers daily, and was fast gaining ground on other food delivery services. However, the company eventually ran into partnership challenges which unfortunately led to its closing.
“I then decided to start a new business in Kuala Lumpur, which resulted in the birth of Pasar Segar in 2018,” says Scott.
As an online fresh produce marketplace, Pasar Segar helps busy families get easy access high quality ingredients so they can eat healthier. Fresh goods are delivered throughout the Klang Valley within 24 hours, five days a week (Wednesday to Sunday). All orders are cleaned, sanitised and repacked on the day of delivery into reusable packaging to reduce plastic wastage, with the team now managing over 5,000 deliveries each week thanks to their own supply of fresh seafood and vegetables from partner farms and fisheries.
“We are also embarking on a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program with non-profit organisations and individuals, and we contribute fresh poultry, seafood and vegetables to weekly distribution channels to the underprivileged, urban poor and marginalised communities,” he adds.
“We want everyone in Malaysia to have a healthier food choice so that they can eat happier. This CSR initiative is just a small contribution to society and we will be rolling out more of this initiative in the near future.”
Pasar Segar also benefitted from being fast-tracked to where they are today. Last year, the company joined the NEXEA Accelerator Program, finishing in the top five, while also placing in the top 20 of the MaGIC Global Accelerator Program, experiences that Scott says were his best investment as an entrepreneur.
The accelerators helped him to better acclimatise into the business world in Malaysia and paired with his grit and resilience honed from a young age, it is little surprise that the company has continued to grow steadily today.
“It is always about bridging the gap between capital and expansion. Any business depends on a great team of founders and each founder must be dynamic to wear several hats, mirroring their own expertise. This will always be a challenge in any business,” advises Scott.
His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to be prepared for “rejections, down days, and almost zero capital to continue”.
“But this is where innovation thrives. When one is faced with a wall, new ideas, solutions and maybe even a pivot of the business can happen,” he concludes.