Mention about Singapore brands and Singapore Airlines (SIA) will undoubtedly come to mind. Like SIA, there are many Singapore Government-Linked Companies (GLC) that are internationally well known e.g. Singtel, NOL, PSA, JTC, Capitaland etc. It has been said that the success of GLCs has sucked away the much needed talents and businesses to the demise of the local enterprises. You have the Sony, Matshushita in Japan, Acer and HTC in Taiwan, Samsung, LG and Hyundai in Korea, Hutchison/Cheung Kong in Hong Kong but probably none in Singapore from the private sectors. However, things are beginning to change. In fact, we are seeing quite a number of successes in the last ten years and the trends are accelerating in the last few years with some companies who first find success in Singapore and rapidly expanding overseas and make Singapore proud. What set these companies apart from the GLCs despite the lack of resources and humble background are sheer grit, doggedness and innovativeness. Here are my favourite list which make me proud whenever I travel overseas and see these presence.
Perhaps the most successful Singapore brand and poster boy for entrepreneurship in the early 90s. Creative was probably the first local company that was listed in both the Singapore Stock Exchange as well as NYSE. The founder is the charismatic Sim Wong Hoo who by the way is a well known philanthropist. The company first found success in producing sound cards during the computer boom years. The company later expanded to produces multimedia devices such as video cards, PCs, speakers, headphones, modems and etc. Prior to the advent of Ipod, the company’s most successful products was MP3 and was one of the leaders in digital entertainment until Apple came along. The company’s sale and its fortune have been on the decline since the launch of Ipod and have no major breakthrough in product development in the last few years. Sincerely hope that Mr Sim will be able to make his third come back and make us proud.
Hyflux found its success and niche in water treatment. The company has since expanded to be a provider of integrated water management and environmental solutions with operations and projects in Singapore, Southeast Asia, China, India, Algeria, the Middle East and North Africa. The company was founded by a Malaysian lady Olivia Lum and the company is currently listed in the Singapore Stock Exchange. She is one of world’s richest eco-pioneers with a net worth of S$500m as of 2009.
Charles and Keith is an international brand for women shoes, bags, belts, and sunglasses. Founded by two young entrepreneurs Charles Wong and Keith Wong in 1996. Today Charles & Keith has more than 200 outlets in over 25 countries in Asia and Europe.
While BreadTalk did not invent the Pork Floss Bun, it has made Pork Floss Bun a signature dish of theirs and widely copied by their competitors. It has become a must have item in almost every bread and bakery shops in Singapore. BreadTalk was founded by the unassuming George Quek (his story to fame is very inspiring, read it here). BreadTalk’s success is its ability to revolutionise a stable but unglamorous industry by making visiting bakery a fashionable thing to do while making lots of money. BreadTalk Group is currently listed in Singapore Stock Exchange. It sell a wide range of bread, cakes, buns and pastries through a chain of retail outlets in Singapore as well as Malaysia, Indonesia, China and etc.
BreadTalk outlets feature a “see-through” kitchens, often located next to or within the retail outlet, separated from the main retail space by transparent glass panes, allowing the public to view the kitchens. The rationale for doing this was that it would promote confidence in their hygiene quality and food standards.
These companies are just tip of the iceberg, the other successful businesses in Singapore that may just make it big in the coming years in venturing overseas and make us proud are:
Fish and Co (fish and chips and seafood restaurants) – My personal favourite
New York New York (affordable western food)
Old Chang Kee (local snacks)
Sakae Sushi (affordable Japanese food)
The list are not exhaustic, please feel free to email me.