It took a pandemic to wake the world from its selfish slumber. After decades of chasing dollars, earning air miles, and carelessly traveling the world, the subsequent border closings and months of self-restraint at home have rekindled awareness of the mortal importance of health and home. And unless one owns a sprawling pile of land, it can be assumed that many have had to settle for living, working, and playing in a family that averaged 1,600 square feet for months.

This change in lifestyle, influenced by Covid, has masked us and forced us to look at our way of life again with gloves. To be honest, Malaysians are fortunate enough to be surrounded by the abundance of nature. The tropical rainforest is considered to be the richest repository of medicinal and medicinal herbs in the world, and the healing properties of a dizzying array of native botanicals are at our disposal, waiting for the person with the right knowledge to come along and use them to create treatments and cures for possibly every disease on earth.

Enter Nor Rezan Mohamad Noor. Those who know him fondly refer to him as “Tok Ayah”, a friendly term that denotes paternal kinship. At the age of 70 the founder and product developer of Gramps Asia – a brand of 100% natural air care, cleaning products and repellants – is just beginning the second phase of its career. Tok Ayah, who retired as Chief Public Health Inspector in 2009 after 33 years serving on Penang City Council, spends his days in his original passion: researching herbs and plants and creating natural remedies to solve everyday problems and problems Complaints.

Those familiar with the story of Gramps’ beginnings know that it was one of Tok Ayah’s five grandchildren who served as the catalyst for starting the company. “Tok Ayah had always played around with oils and experimented with herbs, but everything came to a head after the 17-year-old Dane developed a negative reaction to mosquito bites,” says his daughter Eza Feizaty, who works as marketing and communications director at Gramps Asia.

Blessed with a lifelong knowledge and innate herbalism skill, Tok Ayah set out to formulate a natural water-based mosquito repellent that is now one of the company’s best-selling and best-known products: Bye-Bye Nyamuk. “A religion teacher once said to me, ‘Don’t go against God,'” says Tok Ayah. “God created all things around us, including all animals mentioned in the Koran. God also created everything in pairs. For every negative there is a positive. So whoever created mosquitoes would also have provided a means to repel them. The answer is around you, he told me. So I followed his advice and went looking for what God would have provided to protect us. “

The second impetus for founding Gramps Asia came after Tok Ayah’s wife passed away in 2015. “We wondered how he would spend his time,” says Eza. “I worked in marketing and HR, but left my job in 2016 to join Gramp’s.” A year later, Reza Fikry joined his sister, now CEO of Gramps Asia. “I worked as an assistant finance manager doing financial planning for others,” he says. “I thought, ‘Why not for my own family, our business? ‘The early days were really scary, however. “

With an unwavering commitment to formulating products that are natural, water-based and safe for people, pets and the environment, Gramp’s Asia is focused on expansion and striving to be present in all households in Malaysia. It is a self-financed family business with seed capital of RM 300,000 that was pooled from various sources to build a factory in Puchong in 2016.

The building is located in a 4,000 m² building on 10,000 m² of land and is small but offers enough space to grow. A tour of the research and development area is like a stroll through a cabinet of technical curiosities. Rack after rack with drying herbs are marked with the most exotic names. There is kucing galak, a type of local catnip; Daun Bidara or Indian jujube, which is supposed to ward off jinn; Pecah kaca, a medicinal herb believed to help treat cancer and diabetes; and Manjakani, a type of Asian oak. “Our production is still low at 5,000 bottles per week, but we plan to double this by the third quarter of 2021,” says Reza.

Small but effective sums up the Gramps Asia work ethic best. The company currently has fewer than a dozen employees – four in production, five in management and two in administration. Many of the bottles are still filled and sealed manually, although a recent investment in automated equipment speeds delivery. The company has 12 products and what sells varies. “We initially struggled to sell our surface wipe, but when the pandemic hit, sales skyrocketed,” says Reza. “Before that, our bestsellers were the Bye-Bye series: Nyamuk (mosquitoes), Lipas (cockroaches) and Semut (ants).”

Gramp’s Asia currently has more than 200 stores across the country, from Caring Pharmacy – one of its earliest and greatest supporters – to Mothercare, Cold Storage, Watson’s and Mercato. Plus, Gramp’s Asia is shipped to Singapore, where Bye-Bye Cicak (house lizard) is the most popular product. To maintain and ensure optimal effectiveness, all items are made to order. Prices are also kept affordable to ensure that the safe and effective formulations are inclusive and available to all. “Sometimes I do this to prove how safe our products are,” says Reza, squirting a splash of surface wipe directly into his mouth. “And yet these products work because they are all based on Tok Ayah’s herbalism know-how and decades of scientific research. You just have to try them out for yourself to see them. “

Tok Ayah was born in Taiping, Perak. His interest in nature was inspired by his mother, who made her own Bedak Sejuk and other home remedies. “You could say I inherited a gene for human learning,” he laughs. “I was also with an uncle and helped him plant herbs. The house had no electricity or water supply. We bathed with water from the well and very quickly learned to be self-sufficient. My curiosity about the world began at a young age when, as a public health inspector, I learned to always look for the third side of the coin.

“I was constantly learning from everyone around me, and I’ve worked in many different fields throughout my career so that I could learn even more about different things. In my work with the Health Council, I have dealt with primates, rats and mosquitoes. I was also fortunate to have had many mentors throughout my career, including Dr. Lim Chong Eu, ”he says, referring to the politician and former prime minister who is often referred to as the architect of modern Penang.

“Dad used to bring mosquitoes back into the house in wire cylinders,” interjects Eza. “To study them cononically.” “But I had to test the effectiveness of the insecticides supplied by companies,” countered Tok Ayah.

“I usually work when a friend or loved one presents me with a problem. After that, I start researching the root of the problem in order to find a solution. For example, the lavender air filter was made after a friend of the hotel’s general manager asked me to help solve his problem of lingering in his hotel rooms or having a musty smell. Like Lampe Berger, he complained [a brand of air purifiers and perfumes] I ate up all of his winnings, and that’s how I came up with the air filter.

“The children always accompanied me to on-site inspections. While the family is shopping and eating, I look for items that are incorrectly or incorrectly labeled, ”he laughs. No wonder then that he cites the late SM Mohamed Idris, a legendary pioneer of consumer rights and a founding member of the powerful Penang Consumers’ Association, whose lobbying led to the establishment of the Ministry of the Environment in 1975, as a good friend.

Now on shelves is Gramp’s Asia’s Natural Food Wash, launched March 24th, which ensures raw food is safe to consume by thoroughly cleaning fruits and vegetables and raw meat and seafood. Bye-bye lalat is currently in the R&D phase, a potential boon for households plagued by irritating houseflies.

“All of our products are tested in the laboratory to ensure their effectiveness,” emphasizes Reza. “This is honest business with good values, all of which are based on Tok Ayah’s intention to help people. I can tell you, profits come second to our father. Its main goal is to create natural yet effective solutions to overcome everyday problems at prices accessible to all. My goal now is to strike a balance between our core values ​​and building the business and brand. “

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia on April 5, 2021.