M’sian curated, experiential neighbourhood grocer launches new store


Whenever David Tseng, founder and CEO of Qra, travels, one of the essential things that helps him get to know a place is its grocery stores. They’re where the neighbourhood’s consumer behaviours are reflected, so he makes it a point to experience them for himself to get intimate with a location.

And I can understand where he’s coming from. When I was in Melbourne, the way fresh produce was sold without being individually packaged in single-use plastic spoke volumes about the agriculture and healthier eating habits of the locals.

Fresh greens from local brand Cultiveat

My boss, Sarah, adores Japanese mini-marts for their tasty ready-to-eat meals, convenient desserts and snacks that are affordable. These reflect the behaviours of the busy Japanese working crowd who tend to fuel up on the go.

Thus, we agree that there’s merit to David’s belief. With the experience of co-founding Ben’s Independent Grocer (B.I.G) and general enthusiasm for grocery stores, he opened Qra in January 2021.

Its first outlet was in The Stories, Bukit Tunku, and it later expanded to The Five, Bukit Damansara, with its newest location being at Arcoris, Mont Kiara. And all this in just over the span of a year.

Its Mont Kiara outlet is its largest yet, spanning some 15,000 square feet, and is now their flagship store.

Snacks (healthy and some slightly naughty) galore

The name “Qra” is taken from “curate”, and we can definitely see this value reflected at the urban neighbourhood grocer in various ways.

Whether it’s from the brands that they select to work with, the interior design, or specific elements in the store, the brand’s focus on curating products in the health and wellness niche is clear.

Why health and wellness? It’s been a growing consumer trend accelerated by the pandemic, and David believes that many in Malaysia are becoming more conscious of what they consume.

To cater to this evolution, Qra’s more unique lineup consists of sugar-free sparkling soda, cauliflower crackers, vegan chocolate bars, gluten-free snacks, keto-friendly ice creams, and even vegan cooking sauces, to name a few.

Spot the Malaysian brands

As an online media publication that covers a lot of local startups, we were also happy to see many brands that we’ve interviewed and featured on Vulcan Post before being proudly displayed on Qra’s shelves.

They include names like ENYA for menstruation products, Cocova for chocolate drink products, Amazin’ Graze for healthy snacks, Softsrve and Calli (keto-friendly) for ice cream, Niko Neko Matcha for matcha products, The Good Fat Company for nut butters, PledgeCare for human grade pet snacks, BoomGrow for fresh vegetables, SauceLabMY for artisanal sauces… we could go on and on. (And we will.)

See any names you know?

Other familiar names we spotted among the aisles were:

David shared with us after the official launch that these local brands are specifically picked based on several factors, among which include consumer affordability, quality, product variety, and long term potential of them working together sustainably.

Beyond that, Qra also focuses on the experiential side of things. You can get your coconuts or oranges freshly juiced on the spot, grind and churn your own peanut butter, and pour Wild Kombucha’s fizzy health drinks from taps of three flavours.

You could bring back your bottles for discounted refills

Go on and refill your personal care products at a self-serve refillery by Re{me}dy and stock up on essential grains and other foods at Qra’s own bulk food section. Finally, end your grocery run with self-checkout stations.

The above tie in with David’s conviction that consumer experience is crucial. Any retail store can sell the same items, but it’s how they sell them that matters. 

“How do you want to engage your customers, how do you want them to feel, what do you want them to leave with at the end?” he described in a brief interview with us. 

This combination and more rounded approach of providing various experiences from product lines all the way to checkout is what Qra prides itself on continuously perfecting.

After crossing off your grocery list, there’s a cafe with a menu that spans Australian brunch-themed delights and Malaysian inspired favourites, as well as coffee and pastries to enjoy at the al fresco dining area.

Grab a bite before or after your shopping

Outside of the retail stores, Qra is also planning to upgrade and improve their e-commerce site and experience. Their delivery services are now accessible via a dedicated WhatsApp hotline too, and a mobile application is in the works.

Once all these are properly established, the omnichannel grocer will be several steps closer to becoming an integrated lifestyle brand.

  • Learn more about Qra here.
  • Read about other Malaysian startups here.





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