NUS Business School Alumni - BAcc 1981
Executive Chairman - Food Empire Holdings
Tell us more about yourself and your background
I graduated from NUS in 1981 with a B. Acc degree. I joined Arthur Young upon graduation for a year and decided thereafter that I needed to pick up some marketing skills. So, I joined Business Computers, distributor for NEC minicomputers for one year. During this period, I realised that microcomputers was getting popular and decided to form a computer reseller company to take on NEC and Fujitsu dealership for microcomputers. Over the next couple of years, we started assembling IBM compatible computers and we were then exporting to Eastern Europe and particularly to Poland and Hungary.
It was my trip to Warsaw then that I realised that the containers of computers and peripherals that we shipped over was not fully for Poland but much of which were shipped across to Russia. Thus I began our journey eastwards to Moscow. We started out in trading of computers, home consumers electronics, peripherals, communication devices and eventually moved into food and beverage products. We started in Moscow and moved out to outlying cities across the vast land of Russia and into the countries in the Commonwealth Independent States after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. We decided to kickstart our own range of brands, starting with MacCoffee in 1994. In the beginning, we were struggling to sell one to two 20 ft containers of 3in1 coffee a month. Never did we imagine then that today, we can be selling more than 8,000 containers a year. Today, as a global food and beverage company, we are producing and serving more than 7 billion servings of coffee all around the world. We got listed in the year 2000 on the Singapore Stock Exchange main board.
As a child, I have always followed my father on his marketing trips in selling textiles and watching him do his sales pitch. Everything is about relationship. This inspires me to do my own business. I have always been a dreamer all my life. I have dreamt of doing a travel agency, a tuition centre, a photography studio, a garment boutique, etc.
In school, I personally competed with the school book store in selling school textbooks to the students. Instead of waiting for customers to come to the bookstore to buy, I offered to deliver the books to the students at a discount to them and earned the difference from the textbooks which I ordered directly from the publisher. I also remembered competing with the school in offering class coloured photographs against the traditional black and white ones in 1974. I just needed a 35 mm camera and a roll of films. And of course, I couldn’t have done this alone without the help of my classmates in helping me with taking the orders.
When did you start your giving journey? Do you remember your first time?
My giving journey started during my early school days. I was always very active in joining school societies and helping to raise funds for charity drives and organisations. I remembered actively organising movie screenings for schools, rented projector and films and sold movie tickets to raise funds.
Somehow, I have always had a soft spot for the underprivileged. Even though my father had to borrow money to migrate to Singapore and to start his business, I considered my siblings and myself fortunate that we have a roof over our heads and that we could afford education and tuition. We could see many others around us who were struggling in terms of financial needs to go to universities. This made me start giving journey.
What led you to give to NUSBSA Bursary Fund?
It all started when I attended a social gathering with my ex-schoolmates from NUS. The NUSBSA Bursary was mentioned during one of the meetings and I felt that it was such a great opportunity to play a part in it as a class of 1981 and to be part of this meaningful journey by helping underprivileged students with their education. Having benefited from the education I received in NUS, I felt that contributing to the Bursary Fund makes it extra meaningful.
What advice would you give to those who not know where and how to start in Giving?
Giving should always come from the heart. If we can open up our hearts and contribute, even if it’s just to one person, it can make a huge difference. Even the smallest contribution can transform a person’s life. If you are keen to create a positive difference in someone’s life, find out more at NUSBSA Bursary Fund’s website.