ASME Entrepreneur Awards: Winners drawn from diverse sectors
Turning a modest family-owned shop selling fishing nets and rope into a major enterprise that produces its own angling gear has put Mr Lee Seng Shoy in the running to be named one of Singapore’s top entrepreneurs.
Hong Guan (Tackle), which was set up in 1942, started selling fishing tackle in the 1970s from a North Bridge Road outlet but the arrival of Mr Lee set the firm on an ambitious growth strategy.
Mr Lee, who is the fourth generation in his family to own the shop, stepped in after his national service with one clear goal in mind: to expand and internationalise through his own brand.
“When I entered the family business, we were dealing with fishing nets, rope and general hardware. I thought fishing tackle might be the trade that we could possibly excel in, ” he said yesterday.
Mr Lee, 40 and the managing director, saw that fishing tackle, such as rods and reels, had the potential to become lifestyle products, which would make them easier to market than items like nets.
That led him to launch the firm’s proprietary brand, Pioneer Tackle, in 1997.
Mr Lee grew the company from a three-man show to a 40-strong company, with a revenue of more than $15 million, shops in Malaysia and Thailand, and joint ventures in Indonesia and China.
His enterprising story has earned Mr Lee a place in the entrepreneur awards, which are organised by the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme) and the Rotary Club of Singapore.
There are categories for new and established entrepreneurs.
Overall winners will be selected from each of these two groups.
Mr Lee’s firm was named along with 12 others in the established category at a ceremony at the Marina Mandarin Hotel yesterday.
Like Mr Lee, Mr Parthiban Murugaiyan, 43, dared to chase his dreams instead of a degree.
Mr Murugaiyan, one of three winners in the new entrepreneur category, is managing director of Luvenus Jewellery.
He has spent 21 years in the industry, starting out in the family business, which dealt with gold Jewellery.
Mr Murugaiyan saw a big demand for fine gold Jewellery but realised there was lack of choice and competitive prices.
This led him to set up Luvenus Jewellery, which procures and sells 22- and 24-carat gold jewellery.
The firm also plans to launch its own designs in December.
Mr Murugaiyan took the bold move of choosing Changi Airport as the site of its first outlet in 2012.
“I knew that Changi Airport is the best platform for me if I wanted to go global. It’s where I can meet the local and international customers,” he said yesterday.
The move paid off, with Luvenus Jewellery scoring three awards from Changi Airport – one for being the best outlet and two for having the best customer service – and generating a revenue of $30 million in two years.
The entrepreneur award winners were picked after several rounds of interviews and site visits. The overall winner of the established and new categories will be announced at a ceremony in November.
Past winners include Mr Charles Wong, founder of local shoe label Charles & Keith.
Said Mr Thomas Fernandez, the awards co-chairman: “The diversity of industries that our winners come from not only reflects Singapore’s vibrant business landscape, but also indicates that the entrepreneurial spirit is very much alive in Singapore.”