KOTA BARU, Nov 13 — The Kelantan Match Factory, situated in Kota Baru, stands as a testament to a bygone era. After all, it makes matches... something most of us don’t even have in our homes anymore.
Started in 1933 — this year marks its 90th anniversary — it used to employ 1,000 workers but today only has 25.
Once, over a thousand people worked for the Kelantan Match Factory, but now there are just 25. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Word is it was originally started by a trader from Mumbai, but it changed hands several times until Tan Chon San took ownership in 1995.
Wee, the 75-year-old factory manager, said a significant challenge faced by the factory is the scarcity of wood in Malaysia, a consequence of rapid development everywhere.
Ownership of the Kelantan Match Factory has changed hands several times. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Take, for example, the coastal road from Terengganu to Kelantan which was once surrounded by dense forests, but today, all we see are buildings.
The lush forests used to provide wood for makers of matchsticks and matchbox covers but these have disappeared.
Local deforestation has put the future of the Kelantan Match Factory in question. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
The change in landscape, with buildings replacing forests, has made it increasingly difficult to get local wood for their traditional business.
This scarcity has forced the Kelantan Match Factory to rely on imported wood, primarily sourced from China.
The very essence of their industry is at stake as they navigate these challenges, desperately holding onto a heritage that seems to be slipping away in the face of modernisation.
Modern advances have made matches a relic of the past. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
The shift away from matches to lighters is a reflection of modern times. Still, there remains a niche demand for matches, particularly among those who appreciate their unique charm and history.
The Kelantan Match Factory produces various brands of matches, including the well-known Cap Lada, Cap Helang, Cap Keris, Cap 99 and Cap Bintang in addition to supplying matches to hotels.
The Kelantan Match Factory produces under brands such as Cap Lada, Cap Helang, Cap Keris, Cap 99, and Cap Bintang. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
The factory is perhaps the last of its kind, surviving when many others couldn’t. And that itself is a feat.