Ethnic Business Award Champion: ABC Tissue

Starting ABC Tissue soon after arriving from Hong Kong, Henry Ngai now manufactures some of Australia’s most popular brands of tissue products. He discusses his business, his strategy for success and being named Champion of Champions at the 2013 Ethnic Business Awards.

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Henry Ngai had barely set foot on Australian soil when he decided to make tissue products his business. “These are things that everyone needs every day, so I was confident they’d be recession-proof,” he says. “Back in 1985 I could also see a gap in the Australian market for affordable, good-quality products.”

ABC Tissues started life in Ngai’s garage when he began importing tissue from Hong Kong, his previous home. Within six months he’d moved into a small factory in Lansvale, NSW, so he could install the machinery he needed to start manufacturing his own products. Today, ABC Tissue is one of the largest manufacturers of tissue products in Australia, turning over more than $375 million a year.

Australian-made

As a growing number of Australian businesses were taking their operations overseas, Ngai bucked the trend by purchasing and developing local mills and production facilities. He now has an advanced paper recycling plant in Brisbane and manufactures over 1,000 product lines at his world-class tissue mills in Sydney’s Wetherill Park.

From paper towels and napkins to toilet and facial tissues, the flagship brand of three-ply toilet tissue, Quilton is the country’s top-seller. And his next goal is to start manufacturing Through Air Dried (TAD) tissue paper in Australia. “This will enable us to expand our range with a superior-quality kitchen roll and a much softer, more absorbent and more luxurious toilet tissue,” Ngai says.

Overseas competition

A major challenge has been fending off intense competition from low-priced imports and multinational tissue-making giants. “I think our commitment to quality, high levels of personal service and our ability to respond quickly to changes in the market have helped to set us apart,” Ngai says. “Strategically, we’ve always focused more on innovation and our long-term vision than short-term gain.”

ABC is also recognised for its charitable work and donations to worthy causes worldwide.

A Champion of Champions

In 2004, Ngai won the Large Business category in the annual Ethnic Business Awards. These awards were established in 1988 to recognise the achievements of migrant and indigenous businessmen and women. Last year, to mark the 25th anniversary of the awards, previous winners and finalists were considered for three Champion of Champions awards, and Ngai was named Champion of Champions in the All Winners category.

“I was very honoured to be recognised the first time and it was a real privilege to be named among the best of the best,” he says. “It really gave my energy a boost and, again, I’ve found that, since receiving the award, I’ve been able to make more and more connections that have helped my business to move forward.”

Upon receiving his award, Ngai said he and his wife, Jenny, were thankful to all the people who have helped them along the way. This includes his own family who, he says, have all put 110 percent effort into the business over the years. He was also appreciative of the role the awards play in celebrating cultural diversity and recognising the contributions migrants make to Australian business.

NAB is proud to be involved with the Ethnic Business Awards. Established in 1988, the Ethnic Business Awards was designed to recognise and celebrate cultural diversity and reward the valuable and innovative contributions migrants have made to Australian business and the economy. NAB has been committed to the Awards since their inception and we continue to be the ‘Founding and Major Sponsor’ in this 26th year.

This year’s winners will be announced at the upcoming Ethnic Business Awards Gala Dinner on Sunday 9 November. Good luck to the nominees.