Some Helpful Links on Product Management

One of the things I have noticed in Penang is the incredible amount of competition there is for street food. There are areas called hawker food centers where street stalls congregate. While there is some differentiation, the reality is that most of the demand congregates around well-defined categories: char koay teow, hokkien mee, curry mee, and to a lesser degree, cendol.

Cendol is an interesting desert made essentially of five basic ingredients. Unlike the other foods listed above which have way more than give and involve actually cooking something, cendol mixes together shaved ice, pandan noodles, gula melaka, coconut milk and red beans. That’s it. No real cooking involved.

However, two things come out from this: one, the basis of competition has to be around the quality of the components. This truly is a commodity business in that regard where either the lowest price or the best quality components/final product win out.

At the intersection of Penang Road and Lebuh Keng Kwee sit two stalls selling the exact same product: cendol.

However, time after time, you will see massive lines in one, and startk emptiness with idle workers at the other. They sell essentially the same product and, from what I hear, the same quality (I will try for myself soon to find out).

This was a scary moment and it made me realize the power of positioning and word-of-mouth: the one product “known” as the best gets all the customers. :w