For a long time, many Singaporean entrepreneurs have been encouraged by family and friends to look for a “proper job”.
However, despite the trials and tribulations of starting a business, these Singaporeans still chose to persist and strike it out on their own.
Although starting a business is risky, the term “high risk, high reward” is probably one mantra that many businessmen live by.
In fact, many businesses that have succeeded in Singapore have spread their wings to actually mark their mark overseas and fly the Singaporean flag abroad.
From startups like Razer and Secretlab to heritage brands like Old Change Kee, here are 10 local brands that are making waves in more than three countries globally.
Razer is a Singaporean brand that is popular with gamers around the world.
The company, started by Singaporean Min-Liang Tan, produces items that meet all gaming needs, from keyboards to software and systems.
The startup has gotten so popular that CEO and co-founder Min-Liang is likened to be more of an idol figure by his legion of adoring fans.
From Razer ‘shrines’ set up with solely their products, to tattoos on various parts of fans’ bodies, referring to Razer as a ‘cult’ is not an exaggeration.
It is evident that the company has managed to establish itself as the creator of one of the world’s largest gaming-focused ecosystem. The homegrown gaming firm also has 16 offices around the world.
Besides gaming, the firm has also expanded into financial technology (fintech).
Earlier in September, Razer Fintech — the financial technology arm of Razer — partnered with Visa to launch an all-new Razer Card, which is the first-ever prepaid card under the brand.
It has also extended efforts to provide support during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. In May, it set up 20 vending machines that dispensed around 5 million free masks to Singapore residents.
The Hong Kong-listed gaming firm also reported a record-high revenue of US$447.5 million with 25.3 per cent year-on-year growth for the first half of 2020 this August.
Yet another gaming company — local gaming chair brand, Secretlab — has put Singapore on the global map.
Secretlab manufactures more than 500,000 chairs a year and has made its mark in over 60 countries, with the latest expansion to Japan in June.
Its biggest market is North America with over 50 per cent of sales — this is not surprising given the sheer size of the e-sports industry in the United States.
In contrast, Singapore only accounts for about five per cent of its total sales each year.
According to Secretlab co-founder Ian Alexander Ang in a separate interview with Vulcan Post, international tech reviewers almost unanimously rate Secretlab as the best gaming chair.
They’ve also won numerous Editor’s Choice awards and have been named Hardware of the Year by PC Gamer.
Some of the biggest tournaments in the world have also used Secretlab’s gaming chairs including the likes of Dota 2’s The International and even the League of Legends World Championships.
Aside from e-sports, Secretlab has also partnered with some of the biggest gaming companies and brands over the last six years. Warner Bros, HBO and Blizzard have teamed up with Secretlab to release chairs based on Batman, Game of Thrones and Overwatch respectively.
According to Ian, the company’s grand vision is to put a Secretlab chair in front of every computer screen in the world.
3. Old Chang Kee
Local heritage brand Old Chang Kee has been filling Singaporeans’ stomachs with curry puffs for over 60 years.
It all started from a humble little curry puff stall opened by Chang Chuan Boon, an immigrant from Hainan.
In 1956, he set up his first stall at Koek Road, before moving to Albert Street until the hawkers were relocated by the Environment Ministry between 1981.
The well-loved store has successfully expanded to Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, and even London in 2018.
Old Chang Kee was also the only Singaporean company to be selected as one of the world’s 20 best fast food chains by US based Travel & Leisure Magazine in 2017.
4. The Golden Duck
The salted egg yolk trend in Singapore has been going strong for years now, and does not seem to be letting up.
Co-founders of The Golden Duck, Jonathan Shen and Christopher Hwang, broke into the F&B scene right at the height of the trend.
The duo had $35,000 in initial capitalisation, and spent about $20,000 of it before even launching their product. The bulk of it was spent on R&D as well as machinery.
According to a previous interview with Vulcan Post, Jonathan shared that The Golden Duck team went through over gone through over “30 rounds of research and development” before settling on the delicious snack that they produce today.
Its flagship products are salted egg yolk potato chips and fish skin crisps, and the brand now has five gourmet products.
It has since grown into a globally-acclaimed brand. According to the brand, its products are now sold in over 5000 touch-points globally, and have been consumed by “millions of people.”
5. TWG Tea
TWG stands for The Wellbeing Group, and its first Tea Salon & Boutique was launched in Republic Plaza in August 2008.
Despite being around for more than a decade, not many Singaporeans are aware that the luxury tea company is a homegrown brand.
Besides its opulence and grandeur, one of TWG’s selling points is their staggering array of flavours – over 1,000 flavours with 50 new ones added every year.
Even though it opened during the 2008 financial crisis, the company went all in with three factories and a large central kitchen. Their risky endeavour paid off, as TWG took off and sold 650 tonnes of tea in the first year alone.
It now has 13 outlets all over Singapore, and has also expanded beyond Singapore to all over the globe, with a presence in Tokyo, London, Dubai, Shanghai, Russia and more.
6. Love, Bonito
Over the years, Love, Bonito has become a household name, and is highly regarded as a successful local brand in the local women’s fashion and e-commerce scene.
The brand started off as a blogshop called Bonito Chico in 2005, but the business soon turned into a full-time venture.
In 2010, the Love, Bonito founders stopped bargain hunting for apparels in Asian markets and ventured into designing their own original pieces instead.
This move was aligned with their decision to rebrand to Love, Bonito and move away from that “blogshop stigma”.
Love, Bonito opened their first 4,603 square feet store at 313@Somerset in 2017 to provide an alternative shopping experience to their online customers.
The local brand later opened more boutiques at Funan DigitalLife Mall and Jem.
Most recently, it has went on to open its fourth outlet in Singapore at VivoCity despite the pandemic. Unlike its other outlets, this new outlet takes on a family-friendly concept.
Outside of Singapore, Love, Bonito has retail stores in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Cambodia.
To serve the demands from its international customers, its online store ships to 18 markets. This includes the United States, Australia, Middle East and other Asian regions.
7. Charles & Keith
Singaporean females who shop for shoes would typically be familiar with Charles & Keith.
Founded in 1996, it is the go-to store for the fashion-forward looking for the trendiest shoes, bags and accessories.
The brand is locally-grown, a venture by true blue Singaporean brothers Charles and Keith Wong.
Since its founding, the brand has also attracted the attention of French luxury giant Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH), which now owns 20 per cent of the company.
LVMH’s involvement also helped Charles & Keith to expand further into markets such as China, India, US and Western Europe. It now has over 600 stores in Singapore and across the globe.
The brand is currently present in over 30 countries, from Mongolia to Egypt and Pakistan.
For years, OSIM has been a household name in Asia, known for their luxury massage chairs.
OSIM was launched as a household goods business in 1979. In 1990, the company rebranded to OSIM, a lifestyle and wellness brand famed for its Japanese shiatsu-style luxury massage chairs.
OSIM went public in 2000, selling over 25 per cent of its shares in a deal that valued the company at S$120 million.
In 2013, OSIM reportedly generated over S$648 million in annual revenue and hit a S$980 million market cap in 2016.
OSIM was dubbed as one of the top 10 massage chair brands in the world with over 413 outlets in 88 cities, according to UK-based research firm TechNavio.
9. Prima Taste
Singaporeans hold their food in high regard, so it is not surprising that another F&B related company has made it as a global brand.
Prima Taste offers Singaporean cuisine in a convenient all-in-one pack. From laksa to beef rendang, Prima Taste has found a way to replicate Singapore’s beloved dishes.
According to The Weekender, Founder Primus Cheng was afraid that Singapore would lose its traditional dishes due to the disappearance of hawkers over the years.
In 1998, long before anyone else, Primus saw the need to preserve and make Singapore cuisine accessible and convenient to Singaporeans and people all over the world.
Now, it is sold in more than 40 countries, and is deemed a “must have” product for anyone who wants to have a taste of Singaporean cuisine abroad.
Many claim that chili crab is Singapore’s national dish. Hence, it seems fitting that Jumbo Seafood has brought the dish abroad.
The brand had humble beginnings in 1987, operating from a single outlet — now its flagship restaurant — in East Coast Seafood Centre.
The restaurant soon gained a loyal following, garnering a reputation for its fresh seafood and for serving up iconic dishes such as the Singapore Chilli Crab and Black Pepper Crab.
As its reputation grew, so did the number of outlets the brand has.
Jumbo seized the opportunity to bring Singapore’s local delicacy abroad, and is currently present in five countries, with a total of 18 outlets.
From Local To Global
Starting a business is no mean feat, but these homegrown brands managed to go above and beyond, expanding to multiple countries worldwide.
As many businesses continue to struggle due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important for business to strive to pivot and innovate.
This adversity is likely to produce the next wave of successful local brands, that will possibly start to emerge soon.
At the same time, Singaporeans can strive to support local to ensure that we can see more Singaporean brands abroad in the years to come.
Featured Image Credit: Esports Insider / ONE Esports / Capitaland / Love, Bonito / Charles & Keith / Osim / Prima Taste / Jumbo