The Youth Of Today: Dato' Joel Low

by Anton D. Javier
Photography by Chino Sardea
21 Jun 2019

Dato' Joel Low, 32, is the Executive Director and CEO of Agrivo

Agrivo International Limited, which was founded by multi-hyphenate Dato’ Joel Low, is an agricultural portfolio company that focuses on the Southeast Asia region. It envisions itself as a pioneer in changing the agricultural scene within the region through investing in agricultural technology and improving the ecosystem with regards to transparency, visibility, and responsible farming.

What led to Agrivo being established? Share with us some of your personal experiences that convinced you that a company like this was necessary.
Agrivo was established with a purpose. I started my journey as a Sommelier back in 2010. During that process, I had to learn the many aspects of agriculture - from the understanding of the terroir to the geographical locations, the wind, the water, etc. It made me really interested in the agriculture scene. During my process of learning and going deeper into understanding the agriculture industry, I realised that there were many fundamental problems and issues that have been causing the yield and the industry to deteriorate. Together with my partner, Dato' Nicholas, and some close associates and friends, we gathered some seed funding to start Agrivo International Limited. 

While helming Agrivo International Limited, the experience opened my eyes to the real problems that the farming communities within Southeast Asia are facing. There is a lot of focus on agriculture in the West, but little to no knowledge and research has been made or done for the agriculture scene in the East. We found a huge potential for investing into Southeast Asia while creating a platform that could build businesses and bring them to an International stage. 

An example is Kampot Pepper. Kampot pepper is just like Champagne, it can only be called Kampot Pepper if it is produced from the Kampot region in Cambodia. Its flavours and aroma is something that many consumers who know about the pepper would vouch for. However, how many of us actually know what Kampot pepper is, and how many of us have actually tasted Kampot pepper?

Therefore, we saw the potential in the sector, to focus on the macro vision of increasing awareness of the agriculture scene within the Southeast Asia region, while building businesses and growing them to a scalable and sizeable level.

Walk us through the steps you took leading up to the official establishment of Agrivo. What were some challenges you met along the way and how did you overcome them?
Agrivo's journey was never a simple walk in the park. I feel that the bulk of the problem came from not having enough awareness of the industry. There is a lot of potential for agriculture in Southeast Asia, however, many investors are not informed on this huge potential. It takes a lot of educating on our part to guide investors on this and highlight the potential and risks that the agriculture scene presents. Personally, I believe that in every industry, there will be challenges, but the mindset of a leader or entrepreneur has to be strong, and stubborn enough not to give up.

As a serial entrepreneur, was age ever an issue for you? Were there instances where you felt it was a disadvantage ? How did you work around this?
Age is only an issue if you see it as an excuse to give up. Personally I do not see it as an disadvantage. My younger age also means that I have the ability to learn and master my craft. I am a person who truly believes in continuous learning. As a business owner, we have to continuously upgrade ourselves. 

This is also apparent within my organisation where we believe in constant learning. We have subsidised the education of some of our colleagues in their skill-based learning or even their masters programmes. As long as someone is willing to learn, we will support them by all means.

What advice do you have for young, aspiring entrepreneurs that you wish someone told you when you were getting started?
The right mindset is very important. For young, aspiring entrepreneurs, I always encourage them to look for a good mentor. As entrepreneurs, we often face a lot of challenges, be it mentally or in our work. Sometimes, this can be really draining to the soul and a strong support network is very important for personal growth. While the entrepreneurial journey was never easy, I would still do it all over again in my next life if I had a choice. 

There is nothing in particular that I wish I had known before getting started, because being an entrepreneur is a journey, and one has to be "educated" in the school of hard knocks and go through the tough times. This way, when the good times finally come to you, you can truly enjoy and appreciate the fruits of your labour.