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10 Successful Local Brands That Thrust Singapore into the Global Spotlight

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Singapore is known for its great food, great weather, friendly residents and being super clean. It is also known for its thriving economy. In the past few years, several brands have taken the Singaporean touch to the international community. Below we highlight 10 successful local brands across the globe.

1. Razer Inc.

Founders: Tan Min-Liang and Robert Krakoff

Year of Establishment: 2005

The idea for Razer came about in 2005 after Min-Liang Tan graduated from National University of Singapore with a degree in law. Min-Liang Tan founded the company with the aim of providing hardware, software and services specifically for gamers.

The company launched itself into the global scene by establishing dual headquarters in California and Singapore. It also launched its first gaming mouse, the Razer Diamondback gaming mouse.

Razer Inc. has since become one of the best-known gaming companies globally, providing gamers with state-of-the-art keyboards, audio products, mice and gaming laptops. Many people are surprised to learn that the brains behind it is a Singaporean. Min-Liang is now in charge of the company’s creative design function.

2. Bunyan Tree Holdings

Founders: Claire Chiang and Ho Kwon Ping

Year of establishment: 1995

This brand is popular amongst luxury travelers all over the world. Bunyan Tree Holdings has a strong presence in 28 countries including countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and America.

The first Banyan Tree resort was established by Claire Chiang and Ho Kwon Ping in 1995 in Phuket. It only had 7 staff members. It took the duo 13 years to establish a second location. Since then, Banyan Tree Holdings has grown and now owns 37 resorts and hotels, 81 galleries, 68 spas and 3 golf courses. The group also has more than 9000 employees.

While their hotels and spas are spread globally, the brand has held true to its Asian roots. There’s a touch of Singapore in each and every location. The group continues to be the leading spa operator in Asia Pacific and is targeting the global title with the establishment of even more locations.

3. TWG

Founders: Dr Phua Kok Khoo, Doreen Liu

Date of Establishment: 1981

When the company was first established, it only had 5 employees and was housed in a tiny office. It was founded with the aim of publishing non-fiction books. The publishing company currently publishes more than 600 books annually in addition to more over 135 journals in different fields.

The company also employs more than 200 staff at its Singapore headquarters and 450 in various locations around the world. The company has offices in Geneva, New Jersey, Hong Kong, Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chennai, Tokyo, London, Taipei and Munich.  It has established itself as one of the world’s leading scientific publishers.

4. BreadTalk Group

Founder: George Quek

Year of establishment: 2000

George Quek’s entrepreneurial journey began long before the establishment of BreadTalk Group. He started out in Taiwan selling dragon beard candy. Before the founding of BreadTalk, Singapore bakeries were established at every corner offering run-of-the mill items. It was Quek that recognized the potential of revolutionizing bread in Singapore and making it a lifestyle by presenting a unique selection in stores with a sleek style.

Since then, BreadTalk has become a global brand generating an annual revenue of over US$240 million. The brand is established in 16 countries with its largest market in China where Quek plans to continue expanding. The brand continues to create new concepts to ensure it stays engaging and relevant to the market.

5. Hyflux

Founder: Olivia Lum

Year of establishment: 1989

Founder and CEO of Hyflux, Olivia Lum’s story is inspiring. She worked hard to support herself through high school. She established the fledgling water treatment company at the age of 28 after selling her car and apartment to raise the capital needed. Lum sold the company’s water filters and water treatment chemicals off the back of a motorcycle.

Lum later ventured into manufacturing water treatment technology including membrane technology. The company went on to install water plants in factories in the mid-nineties. The first big break for the company came when it won a $250 million contract to build and operate the first seawater desalination plant in Singapore.

The company has since built several desalination plants around the world including in countries like China and Algeria. It currently employees over 2,800 staff located in Asia Pacific, Africa, the Americas and the Middle East.

6. Axe Oil

Founder: Leung Yun Chee

Year of establishment: 1928

Axe Brand Universal Oil is the brain child of Leung Yun Chee after a chance meeting with a Dr. Schmeidler, a German physician. Dr. Schmeidler had given Chee a recipe to a medicated oil that he said could cure just about any ailment. Impressed by the cure-all remedy, Chee set about marketing the product.

The journey to success wasn’t easy however. Chee faced fierce competition from brands in Hong Kong and China. However, adopting his axe logo, he set about to produce pamphlets detailing the many benefits of the oil and distributed them throughout Singapore.

Axe was adopted globally in the late 1930s and early 1940s. It has since become a go-to brand for medicated oils. The company however, continues to retain the passion and spirit of its founder.

7. Osim

Founder: Ron Sim

Year of establishment: 1979

The company was established in Singapore as a retailer specializing in home healthcare products. It opened the doors to its first shop in 1986. This was after the founder, Ron Sim, bounced back from nearly being driven into bankruptcy.

The company has since established itself as a leader in the health and wellness industry. It has over 1,100 outlets in 360 cities around the world. The brand is known for providing devices that promote healthy lifestyles including massage chairs. The founder attributes the brand’s success to providing its customers with high quality products manufactured by different companies under it.

8. TWG Tea Company

Founders: Taha Bouqdib and Manoj Murjani

You can’t be blamed for thinking this brand is from Europe. In fact, many Singaporeans assume that it is a European brand and are surprised to hear that it is in fact homegrown.

The idea for TWG Tea Company was born after a chance meeting between the co-founders, Taha Bouqdib and Manoj Murjani in Mariage Freres, a historic teahouse in Paris. The two had a lively conversation about their love for tea which led to the creation of the luxury brand.

Murjani’s family had a history in luxury fashion while Bouqdib had worked in the tea industry for more than 15 years. The two chose Singapore as their preferred location for the launch of their brand. This was because Singapore has a rich heritage as a port for the trade of tea due to its proximity to many of Asia’s largest tea-growing capitals.

TWG Tea rose to prominence quickly in Singapore with its products being served in first-class cabins of Singapore Airlines as well as in the best hotels on the island. It has since taken the global market by storm, establishing itself as a brand in the US markets through brands such as Harrods and Dean & Deluca.

9. Tung Lok Group

Founder: Andrew Tijoe

Year of establishment: 1984

The Tung Lok brand is huge in Singapore. It is the leading restaurant chain in Singapore offering multi-sensory and distinct dining experiences. Andrew Tijoe gained experience in the food and beverage industry by working for his family’s first restaurant, Charming Garden, which opened its doors in 1980.

Four years later, he established his own brand’s flagship restaurant, Tung Lok Restaurant in Singapore. Driven by its success, he went on to establish other similarly upscale Chinese restaurants in the region. The brand now owns over 30 restaurants in the region with locations in Vietnam, China, Indonesia, India and Japan.

10. Thai Express

Founders: Dellen Soh and Ivan Lee

Year of establishment: 2002

Many Singaporeans have to head down to the Golden Mile Complex (also known as Little Thailand to Singaporeans) when they have a craving for Thai food. The lack of availability of Thai food outlets didn’t escape the notice of Dellen Soh and Ivan Lee. The idea for Thai Express was born. The first outlet opened in 2002 in Holland Village. It was a casual eatery that offered high quality Thai cuisine.

The restaurant proved to be a great success. Driven by this, the founders set up several other outlets in the region. The brand has more than 100 outlets in the region and around the world. These restaurants have proven to be a hit in countries such as Australia, China and Mongolia.

Each and every outlet holds true to the casual theme of the flagship restaurant. The brand is currently the world’s largest chain of modern Thai restaurants. It continues to offer high quality Thai cuisine at an affordable price.

A force to reckon with

The list above is in no way exhaustive. Singapore continues to prove that it can produce world class brands with many emerging businesses establishing themselves in various industries including fashion, entertainment and technology. This is quite a feat for a country that is only in its mid-fifties. Many of the entrepreneurs that have been able to take their brands global attribute this to the strong business culture on the island and the good reputation that the country has abroad.

Singapore’s international brands are known for their superior quality and professional management. This makes it easier for emerging brands to establish themselves across borders. The future is certainly bright for aspiring entrepreneurs as well as already established brands that dream of becoming global brands.

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