With anywhere in the world to set up Norwegian Salmon Pte Ltd, including his beloved Norway, I wonder why Mr Kumar chose Singapore.
He tells me that Norway does not have the same robust “vending machine culture” that Asia has. Originally, he wanted to set up shop in Hong Kong, but found the language barrier a significant hindrance to business.
On top of that, Norway and Singapore have a visa-free import programme for salmon, which makes importing to Singapore relatively cheap and convenient compared to other countries in Southeast Asia. It was here in Singapore too, that Mr Kumar met his technology partner which produces the ATMs integral to his business.
Frankly, I am still sceptical of the long-term viability of a business based on salmon dispensed from a vending machine. Even with the inspiring backstory, the idea of buying salmon out of an ATM still seems … weird.
But as I talk to Mr Kumar, my scepticism fades. Norwegian Salmon Pte Ltd is making serious moves.
After presenting at Thaifex in Bangkok, Southeast Asia’s biggest food and beverage trade show in late May, Mr Kumar says he has received a torrent of franchise requests from around the world. Even companies in Sweden, Norway’s neighbour, have indicated their interest. Back in Singapore, the number of Norwegian Salmon ATMs will nearly double to around 100 island-wide by mid-July.
To top it off, Norwegian Salmon Pte Ltd is set to roll out a huge taxi ad campaign.
Mr Kumar shows me the concept for the ads. On 15th June, you’ll be seeing Comfort taxis looking like oversized, mobile fillets of salmon.
I am frankly shocked by how smoothly everything is going for Mr Kumar and his company.
When I ask about the key to his success, he says, “I know the Norwegian salmon industry well, and I am very dedicated to my vision of making Norwegian salmon time- and cost-effective. However, I had to get lucky to find such a good investor and partner, Mr Tore Lyng, and I had to get lucky to have such a good technology partner to actually build the machines.”
I figure that he must be thinking of expanding to other frozen vendable products, but no, he’s a salmon man through and through. He says, “I don’t plan to sell anything besides salmon in my ATMs. There is a reason why its called ‘Norwegian Salmon ATM’ and not ‘frozen fish ATM’. I am working to promote my country’s best product.”