Naiise owes “millions of dollars” to over 400 brands, does it still deserve a second chance?


Homegrown multi-label retailer Naiise made headlines earlier in April this year when it announced its abrupt closure due to financial woes.

It was struggling to repay multiple vendors and in January last year, some homegrown brands were pulling out of its online and physical stores due to payment delays of up to a year.

Following widespread news of its financial struggles, Naiise officially ceased operations on April 14.

Founder Dennis Tay also announced the decision to liquidate the business after eight years of operation, and revealed that he is filing for personal bankruptcy.

Fast forward five months later, Naiise has made an online comeback and relaunched its website yesterday night.

Most brands were not able to recover their debt

The biggest question that weighed on everyone’s minds when they read the above news was: have they repaid all their debt?

Singapore fine fragrance brand The LAB Fragrances — one of Naiise’s creditors — is owed over S$10,000, which has not been fully repaid till today.

After the small claims court officially ordered to Naiise the repayment of S$10,244, Naiise only paid back S$1,000, so we are still owed over S$9,000.

– Taylan Torin, founder of The LAB Fragrances

the lab fragrances
The LAB Fragrances / Image Credit: Wah So Shiok

Recounting his partnership with Naiise, Taylan Torin, founder of The LAB Fragrances, said that they started selling with Naiise back in May 2019. Naiise had duly paid them for the first two months (in May and June 2019), but defaulted on all the subsequent payments.

He acknowledged that the sales generated through Naiise were “actually pretty good”.

“They were cashing in the money generated from sales of all the products from the brands they were carrying, but just were not returning the contracted portion of that money back to brands,” he explained.

The LAB Fragrances continued on with Naiise until July 2020, before they finally lost all faith in them after “countless empty promises and different sorts of excuses”, the last of which was Covid-19.

However, it’s a known fact now that Covid-19 was not the primary reason for the retailer’s downfall. In fact, it has reportedly been defaulting on payments since 2016.

As such, many brands see this Covid-19 narrative as a mere coverup for their mistakes.

Taylan said that it is also well-known among the micro-brands community how Tay and his wife (who is an ex-director of Naiise) were maintaining a luxurious lifestyle, while telling brands that they had no money in the vaults at the same time.

According to a document by Deloitte — which oversees Naiise’s liquidation — seen by Taylan, Naiise owes money to over 400 brands, totalling “in scale of millions of dollars”.

Deloitte tells that the acquisition of the online assets of Naiise didn’t generate enough money to be able to repay any of the brands.

We understand that the money generated will be used to cover the debts of Naiise to priority creditors such as landlords and/or banks. So no brand will benefit from this transaction. 

– Taylan Torin, founder of The LAB Fragrances

Summing up, Taylan describes this whole experience as frustrating, and finds it unfair for micro-brands who are the most vulnerable.

He cited several reasons to this, such as them not having proper legal representation, not having resources to defend themselves, not identified as “prioritised creditors” so they don’t benefit from the redistribution of the liquidated assets, and the lack of options to create and build sales channels so they feel obliged to follow initiatives like Naiise.

He added that the common belief among the local retail community is that Naiise took advantage of this vulnerability to finance themselves.

“At the end of the day, everyone gets a slice or two; but there is nothing left for these brands.”

So why is Naiise returning to retail?

With the relaunch of Naiise, it’s safe to say that Tay is out of the picture as the company has since been acquired by WestStar Group. The sum of the acquisition deal was not disclosed.

WestStar Group is an independent multi-portfolio investment company that provides independent and professional investment advice, and personalised investment management services to entrepreneurial families and institutions.

ong lay ann
Ong Lay Ann, CEO of WestStar Group / Image Credit: honestbee

It’s helmed by Ong Lay Ann, the former CEO of the now-defunct honestbee. With how honestbee exited Singapore (also plagued by financial problems), it does not exactly inspire confidence in the new management.

However, in an interview with Vulcan Post last year, Ong shared that he has had a fair share of experience helping to turn around sinking ships.

I’ve done a number of these turnarounds and restructuring before. I’ve got a track record of doing this. In Australia, I turned around a company pretty fast. I actually hired back the management that used to run it and (together), we built it from nothing … (till) it’s listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Today, I’m still the chairman and larger shareholder there. Along the way, we’ve acquired a few more businesses and today, it’s profitable.

– Ong Lay Ann in a 2020 interview with Vulcan Post

He also shared then his plans to save honestbee by shifting its focus to a quick-service restaurant (a pizza joint in particular), and restart its online grocery delivery business in Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

None of these plans have come to fruition unfortunately, and there has been no new movements from honestbee since then.

With his failure to revive honestbee, can we then trust Ong to do the same for Naiise, which has lost a lot of consumer and brand confidence?

As the saying goes, ‘once bitten, twice shy’. Regardless, a second chance is only fair and this website relaunch might just serve as a successful restart for the business.

What’s different this time round

Under this new ownership, Naiise will stand strong to its initial commitment of championing local designs, creatives and artisans.

The company also has plans to introduce an “incubator model for upcoming designers” and “buy now, pay later concepts”, which are currently in the pipeline.

Vulcan Post has reached out to both WestStar Group and Ong to elaborate further on their business plans to grow Naiise, but did not receive any replies as of yet.

According to Naiise, over 500 merchants will be featured gradually on its platform. It will feature more hyper-local, eco-friendly and independent international brands in the coming months, including debut from new brands.

Screenshot of Naiise’s website

Some brands listed on its new website include Wet Tee Shirt, Punny Pin Greeting, Ecobar SG, Wick & Litt, Changi Chowk and Petale Tea, amongst others.

It’s interesting to note Wet Tee Shirt being relisted as one of the featured brands, considering that it was also a creditor of Naiise.

Naiise has not paid the company for their goods since 2019, which has since amounted to a “mid-five-digits sum“.

At the same time, Nicholas Chan, director of Wet Designs, which owns and operates Wet Tee Shirt, has been vocal about not wanting Naiise to collapse as part of his endeavours to support local.

This is actually a key factor for Naiise to survive and thrive — they need to be able to convince and attract brands to get listed on Naiise. Without the support of these brands, Naiise will just be an empty shell.

One way it’s attracting brands is by offering merchants a waiver of listing fees and reduced last-mile delivery rates till the end of this year.

It’s not clear if Naiise will be taking on a new business model that monetises purely based on listing and delivery fees, but it has also promised sellers that they will be “paid instantly upon every successful order fulfilment”.

Previously, products are sold on a consignment basis where suppliers are paid only for the merchandise sold, minus a commission fee of between 30 and 45 per cent of the retail price.

Naiise still stands a fighting chance

Prior to its saga, Naiise was seen as a success story in the sluggish retail scene and a champion of local designers.

It provided a platform for local brands to market themselves, and was the go-to place for quirky and Singapore-themed products like kueh-shaped cushions and t-shirts with Singlish slogans.

Right now, establishing a purely-online presence is a smart move, especially when retail has taken a huge hit during these pandemic times. It’s important for Naiise to only consider expanding when they have time and money on their side. After all, rapid growth can end up killing the business.

Today, Naiise is still helping to bridge a gap for local brands who need to market themselves. There’s not many of other such platforms or initiatives in Singapore, besides Design Orchard.

If Naiise is helping to solve a pain point, then it still stands a fighting chance. It just needs to make sure that history does not repeat itself, and if their core mission is to support local brands, then they better stand by it.

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Featured Image Credit: Naiise

Also Read: S’pore retailer Naiise acquired by WestStar Group, helmed by ex-honestbee CEO Ong Lay Ann

S’pore retailer Naiise acquired by WestStar Group, helmed by ex-honestbee CEO Ong Lay Ann

naiise ong lay ann

Following the news of homegrown multi-label retailer Naiise’s online comeback, it announced today (September 16) that it has been acquired by WestStar Group for an undisclosed sum.

​WestStar Group Inc is an independent multi-portfolio investment company that provides independent and professional investment advice, and personalised investment management services to entrepreneurial families and institutions.

It has since completed the acquisition of Naiise’s online marketplace, as well as its accompanying trademarks and social media accounts.

“Under new ownership, the priority will be to build and improve on the Naiise platform to ensure its long-term sustainability and scalability for a wider creative ecosystem. Naiise will also continue to pursue its commitment to championing local designs, creatives and artisans,” it said.

What’s different however is that sellers will be now be “paid instantly upon every successful order fulfilment,” it added.

Previously, products are sold on a consignment basis where suppliers are paid only for the merchandise sold, minus a commission fee of between 30 and 45 per cent of the retail price.

It added that an incubator model for upcoming and incoming designers and “buy now pay later” concepts are also in the works.

Naiise said that it will be featuring more hyper-local, eco-friendly and independent international brands in the coming months. Over 500 merchants will be featured gradually on the platform, as well as debut from new brands.

To show its commitment in supporting local businesses, Naiise is extending an exclusive invitation for merchants, which includes waiver of listing fees and reduced last mile delivery rates, until 31 December 2021.

“In line with its mission of inspiring creativity and connecting communities, Naiise aspires to be at the forefront of aggregating a community that has always appreciated local designs,” said Ong Lay Ann, CEO of Weststar Group.

“The creative ecosystem is fragmented and the reintroduction of Naiise marketplace, will allow both consumers and merchants to connect through a dedicated platform. I encourage consumers to support these local designers, creatives and artisans through this difficult period and beyond,” he added.

Ong is also the former CEO of the now-defunct honestbee. According to his LinkedIn profile, he has been the founder and director of WestStar Group Family Office since 2001.

He also became the director and chairman of WestStar Industrial Ltd since October 2014, where he is responsible for the development and determination of WSI’s strategies and policies, and ensuring that all key issues are identified timely and appropriately discussed by the Board.

He also identified himself as the director of Asia Digital Ventures, as well as the director of ISDN Investments Pte Ltd.

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Featured Image Credit: Naiise / honestbee

Also Read: Naiise to see you again: S’pore retailer makes a comeback with website relaunch after closure

Naiise to see you again: S’pore retailer makes a comeback with website relaunch after closure


Earlier in April, homegrown multi-label retailer Naiise closed its last and largest outlet at Jewel Changi Airport as it struggles to repay its vendors, some of whom are owed about S$10,000.

Naiise has been defaulting on payments since 2016 and earlier in January last year, some homegrown brands were pulling out of its online and physical stores due to payment delays of up to a year.

Following widespread news of its financial struggles, Naiise founder Dennis Tay announced the decision to liquidate the business after eight years of operation. Naiise had ceased operations on April 14.

He also revealed then that he is filing for personal bankruptcy.

Fast forward to five months later, Naiise announced on its social media platforms today (September 16) that it is “coming back online”.

It will be relaunching its website tonight at 9pm.

“We’re gonna continue our mission in championing local creatives, designers and artisans. Come on a journey with us as we inspire creativity and connect communities!” said the company.

This comeback is not too surprising as the previously-defunct website had the words “opening soon” emblazoned across. It also urged those who are keen to be notified of when the company reopens to leave their email address.

Vulcan Post has reached out to Naiise for more details on this relaunch.

Featured Image Credit: Naiise

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Also Read: S’pore Retailer Naiise Has Ceased Operations – Founder To File For “Personal Bankruptcy”

AirAsia recently launched ride-hailing services in M’sia – will S’pore be its next destination?

airasia ride

On 24 August 2021, Malaysian airline AirAsia announced its entry into the ride-hailing space with the launch of its new airasia ride in Kuala Lumpur.

In a media statement, the company promises to provide passengers with “greater convenience, more competitive prices, and better income opportunity for drivers, in addition to a safe experience with a 100 per cent fully-vaccinated driver fleet.”

Users can book a ride through the airasia app, or by visiting

“airasia ride inherits the DNA of running a low-cost model which enables savings to be passed on to guests and strives to offer the lowest fares on the road, introducing great value to the highly competitive e-hailing ecosystem,” said Amanda Woo, CEO of airasia Super App.

She added that this is part of the company’s continuous digital transformation journey to become Asean’s top super app through its regional expansion into Thailand, and potentially Indonesia very soon.

The low-cost carrier also recently acquired Gojek’s ride-hailing and payments businesses in Thailand, signalling its fierce expansion into the region.

Although Singapore was not earmarked as a potential market, is there a possibility that airasia ride will launch here in the future?

Cashing in on new opportunities to build a super app

Airlines around the world have mostly been idle due to global travel restrictions following the Covid-19 pandemic. To stop the cash bleed and survive, most have had no choice but to innovate, finding new ways to leverage their assets and revenue streams.

Singapore Airlines, for instance, has doubled down on its e-commerce efforts, with initiatives like its blockchain-based digital wallet Kris+ and activities booking site Pelago.

AirAsia is no exception. In fact, it’s using this downtime to accelerate its super app ambition, which it has been very vocal about since last year. The end goal is to let its users do more within a single app.

It aims to provide a simpler, faster and more convenient user experience with over 15 types of products and services, under three main pillars: travel, e-commerce and fintech.

Amid the pandemic, AirAsia has entered the food delivery arena, and it’s actively adding more services as it shapes itself into becoming one of Southeast Asia’s leading super apps.

airasia super app
airasia, the Asean Super App / Image Credit: AirAsia

So far, the super app allows users to book flight tickets and hotels, order food and groceries, buy insurance and beauty products, and most recently, book a ride-hailing service.

The new airasia ride has been “many months in the making” and it’s very much like the last jigsaw piece that helps to “complete the whole airasia super app ecosystem,” said Captain Ling Liong Tien in the company’s media statement.

What sets airasia ride apart from other players?

airasia is all about convenience, flexibility and unbeatable value and airasia ride presents a different, yet compelling e-hailing solution to passengers through a single super app platform for a total mobility booking experience from air to ground.

By leveraging on our rich data we collected in the past 20 years, airasia ride is the new game changer for the e-hailing and travel industry. airasia ride not only brings you from point A to B, but we offer a complete user experience for our passengers — pre-flight, during flight and post-flight.

– Amanda Woo, CEO of airasia Super App

Lim Chiew Shan, CEO of airasia ride Malaysia, echoed that the “unique insights and data” captured by the company due to its super app positioning, is very valuable.

By tapping on the vast data and algorithm, they can better provide a seamless and connected journey experience for their passengers.

They will be able to perform in-path booking for both their flights and pre-book their ride to the airport and even for their return journey at the same time, all within the convenience of one single itinerary and without having to leave the airasia super app.

airasia ride
Captain Ling Liong Tien (left), Chief Safety Officer AirAsia Group and Head of airasia ride and Lim Chiew Shan (right), CEO of airasia ride Malaysia, posing with airasia ride vehicles / Image Credit: AirAsia

Very soon, passengers will be able to use their BIG points to pay for their rides, and be able to enjoy the lowest fare in addition to free rides, just like the iconic airasia free seats.

To add to that, passengers will have the ability to choose their preferred vehicle type and also drivers, as we have various communities that are part of our driver fleet.

– Lim Chiew Shan, CEO of airasia ride Malaysia

airasia ride also offers a special feature, where passengers can book an ‘Allstar Ride’ and be chauffeur driven by AirAsia pilots and cabin crew.

Unlikely for airasia ride to take off in S’pore (if and when it launches here)

Personally, I don’t think AirAsia’s holistic offering to provide a seamless user experience is a huge incentive, especially when very few people are catching flights nowadays.

Ultimately, I think pricing is the biggest appealing factor — it’s very likely that users will go for a ride-hailing platform that offers the cheapest fare.

However, staying true to their budget branding, airasia ride promises to offer low-cost fares and is positioning themselves as the more affordable super app.

According to the company, fares on airasia ride are set at an average of RM1 per kilometre, excluding toll charges.

A separate article by Vulcan Post has compared ride fares between airasia ride and Grab in Malaysia, and found that there is no significant price discrepancy. At most, you’ll save just a few Ringgit with airasia ride.

Beyond price, I think customers will also take into consideration how fast they can secure a ride booking. Even if airasia ride offers a cheaper fare, this won’t matter at all if they cannot even find a driver.

This is a likely possibility since airasia ride only had about 1,500 registered drivers in Malaysia at launch. Even if it plans to add another 5,000 drivers within the next few months, this pales in comparison to Grab’s pool of local drivers. According to a 2020 article, Grab has over 100,000 drivers in Malaysia.

airasia ride app
airasia ride app / Image Credit: Tech Wire Asia

If and when airasia ride launches in Singapore, airasia ride needs to take these two factors seriously. It needs to make sure that it offers a competitive pricing (compared to all the ride-hailing apps in Singapore) and make sure that it has a big enough driver fleet to compete with the other players.

It’s also worth noting that AirAsia has mentioned that there’s a chance for airasia ride to integrate with its logistics arm, Teleport, to complement its logistics and delivery services.

(We will tap) into the same pool of drivers for maximum efficiency and cost savings, apart from synergising with our e-commerce verticals, supplementing our existing last-mile delivery capabilities with greater capacity and reach.

– Amanda Woo, CEO of airasia Super App

“Another exciting product innovation in the pipeline is partnership with electric vehicles, to spearhead the drive for sustainability in mobility for Asean,” she added.

While venturing into EV is an interesting move and aligns well with Singapore’s national plan of ramping up EVs, it’s not a winning reason for users to jump onboard airasia ride.

Moreover, many other transport players in Singapore like Grab and SMRT have also ramped up investments in electrifying their fleet, so this is nothing novel.

Even if it uses promo codes as an incentive to get users to book airasia ride, this is merely a short-term strategy to build its customer base.

The key to winning the game is not just to capture new users, but actually retain the existing users — this is what will make a difference when it comes to long-term play.

A look at AirAsia’s business performance

AirAsia has been in the red for seven consecutive quarters, posting a net loss of RM767.4 million (S$248.3 million) in the first quarter this year. 

Last week, AirAsia Group revealed its latest financial results. It posted a smaller loss in the second quarter amid a jump in revenue, even as an enhanced lockdown dampened sales during an ongoing travel slump.

Revenue was 160 per cent higher at RM370 million (S$119.8 million), boosted by cargo revenues. Under its digital arm, revenue from its logistics business tripled while the fintech unit revenue was 56 per cent higher.

Net loss for April to June was 41.6 per cent lower at RM580 million (S$187.7 million), compared with a loss of RM992 million (S$321 million) a year ago, when the airline hibernated its fleet at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Singapore, AirAsia has been strengthening its foothold with its logistics arm Teleport, and food delivery service airasia food.

In Southeast Asia, airasia food is clearly lagging. Grab, foodpanda and Gojek are the top three players in terms of gross merchandise value (GMV) and in Thailand, airasia-Gojek only contributed seven per cent.

food delivery sea
Food delivery leadership in SEA / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

food delivery sea
Top 3 SEA countries by GMV / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

Momentum Works notes that for a food delivery platform to stick, it needs to provide at least check two boxes out of these four points — food selection of restaurants and menu items, fulfilment speed, quality of food and reliability, and prices — to be “consistently and better than its competitors”.

food delivery sea
How food delivery players are meeting consumer expectations / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

After assessing how food players are matching up to consumer expectations, we came to the conclusion that airasia food needs to improve its customer experience fast, since the ratings are currently hovering around a near pass or below standards.

Commenting on airasia food’s performance, Lim Ben-Jie, head of commerce of airasia Super App shared that it has been seeing two to three times monthly growth, fuelled by expansions in more cities.

If you ask me ‘would airasia food survive?’ We would. Food is just one of our businesses and our core is still travel. Our diversification strategy, our infrastructure, and logistics are very ahead of the curve, that’s why we are confident that we will make it through with these services.

We are still a very young platform, so comparing us with Grab isn’t an ideal comparison, but as Tony (AirAsia Group CEO) said, ‘Give us six months, that’s all we need to have experiences that’s better than our competitors.’ That’s how ambitious we are.

– Lim Ben-Jie, head of commerce of airasia Super App’s in a recent interview with Tech Wire Asia

It also helps that AirAsia has a huge financial war chest to rely on. The company said it plans to raise up to one billion ringgit (US$238.7 million) through a rights issue, to support its working capital needs as it grows its digital business units.

The digital arm of the low-cost carrier is also reportedly considering listing in the US via a special-purpose acquisition company or SPAC to raise at least US$300 million.

Featured Image Credit: AirAsia Travels via Facebook

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Also Read: ShopeeFood is already hiring in S’pore: Will it join the food delivery industry here soon?

Why some S’poreans are still saying ‘no’ to EVs despite govt’s plans to phase out ICE by 2040

electric vehicle singapore

The Singapore government has been charging ahead towards its electric dreams and has rolled out several initiatives and grants to work towards the national plan of phasing out Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles by 2040.

For starters, the government has nearly tripled its original target of setting up 28,000 charging points to 60,000 by 2030. Out of this figure, 40,000 will be installed in public carparks, and 20,000 in private premises.

Most recently, two consortiums, including ComfortDelGro, have won the bid to build and operate over 600 EV charging points across 200 public car parks in the next 12 months.

In line with this, Singapore is also looking to establish eight EV-ready towns in Singapore by 2025. They will be located at Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Choa Chu Kang, Jurong West, Punggol, Queenstown, Sembawang and Tengah.

These eight towns will be fitted with EV chargers, and other towns will also progressively be EV-ready by the 2030s.

With these increased efforts and incentives, Singapore is definitely well on its way to push the adoption of EVs, but why are some Singaporeans still resistant towards it?

Ownership cost of EVs

When it comes to buying a car, budget considerations are important, which is why the government continues to incentivise through rebates and other measures.

A major hurdle to EV ownership is the high upfront cost. A Hyundai Ioniq Electric currently costs upwards of S$150,000 here, while the hybrid version of the Ioniq costs a little over S$100,000.

Hyundai Ioniq Electric
Hyundai Ioniq Electric / Image Credit: EV Database

These prices exclude COE, and there are other cost considerations that come into play, including car insurance, road tax and ARF (Additional Registration Fee). We’ve listed out the cost breakdown of owning an EV in Singapore here.

Although electric models tend to be significantly more expensive than petrol ones, it also offers savings in fuel and maintenance. Other than the fact that electricity will cost up to six times less than petrol, you’re also likely to pay lower maintenance costs — there’s no need to change oil, clean the valves and so on.

Furthermore, as more models of EV emerge in the market, we can expect upfront costs to fall, as car brands will have to begin competing with each other in the EV space.

While EVs have not reached cost parity with petrol cars, the trend is definitely heading in this direction. In fact, clean energy research group BloombergNEF forecasted that we will reach parity by 2025.

After factoring in the falling costs of EV cars and batteries, savings on energy and maintenance, EVs will be cheaper than petrol cars in the long run.

Limited EV options in the market

Although electric car giant Tesla has reentered the Singapore market after almost a decade, the models of EV cars are still very limited.

There are still only a handful of electric car models available for sale in Singapore, such as the BYD e6 and the Nissan Leaf. 

Moreover, most automakers are still focusing on a single electric car as compared to a whole lineup like what Tesla is doing, which means that consumers only have a few options to choose from.

On the bright side, the situation will change in the not-too-distant future as nearly every major manufacturer plans to commit heavily to electric vehicles in the coming years.

The world’s second largest automaker, Volkswagen, plans to invest billions to fund the transition towards electric vehicles by 2025. Luxury car brand Jaguar has also announced that it will be producing only electric vehicles from 2025.

Hyundai's electric car manufacturing plant in Singapore
Hyundai’s electric car manufacturing plant in Singapore / Image Credit: Hyundai Motor Group

Meanwhile, South Korean carmarker Hyundai has revealed plans to set up an electric car manufacturing plant in Singapore and it is expected to produce up to 30,000 vehicles per year by 2025.

Range anxiety is real

Drivers who plan to switch to EVs struggle with “range anxiety”, a term used to describe the fear that the EV will not have sufficient charge to complete a journey.

Since the driving range of a petrol car is much longer than an electric car, many feel that EVs will be problematic for long-distance trips, particularly drives to Malaysia.

However, this fear is misplaced. It’s actually possible to drive to Johor Bahru on a single charge and there are also fast chargers there that can add hundreds of kilometres to your range in 30 to 40 minutes.

It’s also assuring to know that carmakers are improving their products regularly, with many mainstream models already achieving around 300 to 400km of real-life range.

Therefore, journeys between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur or Penang could be made without the need to stop on the way. Driving about 500km to the Thai border would take require one charging stop, which you would typically need for a meal and toilet break anyway. 

With vehicles like Hyundai’s Kona Electric, whose long-range version can cover more than 400km, you can easily drive to Kuala Lumpur in one go.

ev charging malaysia
EV charging point in Malaysia / Image Credit: EdgeProp

Furthermore, Malaysia has already started rolling out EV charging points. As more chargers get installed along the North-South Expressway, we will definitely be able to make those road trips without any problems.

Lack of EV charging stations

On the recent Land Transport Industry Day, Transport Minister S. Iswaran had acknowledged that the building up of an EV charging network is a key component of Singapore’s strategy to promote EVs.

Although the government has expressed ambitions to deploy 60,000 EV charging points islandwide by 2030, there are only about 1,800 public EV chargers as of December 2020.

This also means that Singapore’s EV charging infrastructure will undergo a massive 30-fold increase within the next decade and that there is a long way to go before we hit the desired number.

However, it’s heartening that many firms are onboard the electrification ambition and have put in place plans to deploy EV charging stations. Charge+ for instance, plans to set up 10,000 EV charging points by 2030 in line with the national agenda.

tesla supercharger orchard central singapore
Tesla Supercharger at Orchard Central carpark / Image Credit: Alvinology Media

In July, Tesla has also installed three Supercharger stations at Orchard Central mall’s carpark, which is available for public use 24/7.

Minister S. Iswaran said that while there have been some “early progress” in the development of charging infrastructure in private premises, most of these are in commercial developments like shopping malls.

Stressing the need to drive the rollout of shared chargers in non-landed private residences, the government has decided to further expand Singapore’s EV charging network with offers to co-fund installation costs of such systems in private residences across the island.

Called the EV Common Charger Grant, it will offset up to S$4,000 per charger, capped at 2,000 EV chargers.

According to the Land Transport Authority (LTA), the scheme is available to non-landed private residences such as condominiums and excludes hotels, hostels, and serviced apartments.

The government agency noted that these private properties accounted for a significant portion of residences in Singapore and would play an important role in improving the national charging network. 

Battery-related concerns: degradation, fire risk, hard to recycle

lithium ion battery ev
Lithium-ion battery packs in EVs / Image Credit: Jaguar

Currently, lithium-ion battery packs in electric vehicles are estimated to be serviceable for 10 years or longer. Although all batteries degrade over a long period of time, this can be slowed down.

The most optimal way is to charge EVs to 80 per cent, and then switch to slow charging for the remaining 20 per cent.

EV manufacturers have also taken an active role in the battery management system to ensure the battery does not start degrading after just a few years. With a mix of sophisticated battery management systems and cooling technologies, most EVs have shown excellent performance which will only improve over time.

Another battery-related concern is fire. Unlike internal combustion engine fires, lithium fires release toxic fumes and require special fire-fighting methods to put out. So how can EV owners mitigate this fire risk, especially when more than 80 per cent of Singaporeans live in high rises?

Well, some EV makers have engineered battery management systems with sensors and protection devices, such that the battery will be disconnected when the pack is about to sustain damage.

In addition, as lithium-ion batteries operate at a temperature range of 15 to 45 degrees Celsius, battery cooling systems are important to ensure effective thermal management, which will mitigate the risk of fire.

Therefore, there is an important need to adopt recognised standards for EV batteries and charging, with regulations ensuring manufacturers adhere to a common safety standard.

This will prevent a replay of what happened with personal mobility devices, which saw a range of devices designed with inconsistent fire safety protocols.

LTA’s recent review of EVs and chargers is a step in the right direction. It has also formed the National Electric Vehicle Centre, which will lead efforts to review EV regulations and standards. All these measures give consumers peace of mind when buying an EV.

Additionally, a main proposition of EVs is that they are environmentally friendlier, but lithium-ion batteries are relatively hard to recycle.

Beyond having significant after-life use in stationary energy storage applications, building more specialised recycling facilities might be one way to aid the recycling of batteries.

Singapore has recently implemented a regulated e-waste management system, mandating that companies importing, manufacturing EVs and EV batteries in Singapore be responsible for the collection and recycling of batteries.

So what will it take to move the needle?

Few available models, high prices and a lack of charging stations — these are some of the key reasons that’s deterring car owners in Singapore to make the switch to EVs.

Ultimately, when the cost of buying a EV becomes more affordable in the years to come, it will help to tip the scale further.

A good move would also be for the government to extend its incentives to plug-in hybrids, which would serve as a stepping stone of sorts for consumers to make the switch, while Singapore builds up on its EV charging infrastructure.

The government also needs to beef up on its education efforts to make Singaporeans understand the benefits of EVs — they’re not noisy, low-maintenance, environmentally-friendly, among other things.

At the end of the day, the reality is that petrol cars will become obsolete 20 years down the road, and we have to learn to embrace and adapt to this change.

Electric vehicles is a key content pillar for Vulcan Post. You can find the rest of our EV coverage here.

From 1 July 2021, Vulcan Post’s premium articles will be hidden behind a paywall. Subscribers will be able to enjoy exclusive articles with a deeper level of coverage and insight on verticals that include government technology, electric vehicles, cryptocurrency and e-commerce. You can check out our premium articles here and subscribe to us here.

Featured Image Credit: SP Group

Also Read: Charging ahead towards its electric dreams: What is S’pore doing to encourage EV adoption?

S’pore firms must notify MOM of any retrenchment from Nov 1, or risk being fined up to S$2K

retrenchment singapore

Companies in Singapore with at least 10 employees will soon be mandated to notify the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) each time they retrench any staff from November 1.

This notification must be filed by employers within five working days after they provide the notice of retrenchment to the affected worker.

Currently, employers only need to notify MOM when they retrench five or more employees within a six-month period.

“The revised notification enables the tripartite partners, Workforce Singapore, the Employment and Employability Institute, as well as other agencies to better reach out to affected local employees to provide employment and job search support,” said MOM.

Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Manpower said that a better way to help jobseekers is to be “notified earlier of when there may be a risk of retrenchment” so that they can execute support measures to help them look for a new job, such as career guidance and coaching.

“By streamlining this and mandating the notification from the first employee to be retrenched … hopefully we can intervene earlier to help each and every single employee who may be facing retrenchment.”

He added that this also helps the employers, because they no longer need to track who is the fifth retrenched employee over the six-month period.

Companies can notify MOM of retrenchments by submitting relevant information via its website, such as the size of workforce before retrenchment and job designation of affected worker. The entire process takes about 10 minutes to complete.

Employers who do not comply with this regulation will receive a penalty and fined up to S$2,000.

Unemployment has been on the rise in Singapore

Singapore’s overall unemployment rate has crept higher to 2.8 per cent in July, rising 0.1 percentage points from the previous month, marking the first time unemployment rates rose in 10 months.

This reflects a dip in demand for workers as sectors like food and beverage and retail trade were impacted by Covid-19 restrictions.

Resident unemployment rate – which covers Singaporeans and Permanent Residents – rose by 0.2 percentage points to 3.7 per cent, while citizen unemployment rate climbed 0.2 percentage points to 3.9 per cent. This translates to 87,300 residents unemployed in July, as well as 77,200 citizens.

MOM has attributed the uptick in retrenchments mainly to a small increase in layoffs in the manufacturing and construction sectors.

Economists note that the situation is likely temporary, and that the jobs market is set to recover as Singapore reopens.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng assured that MOM and Workforce Singapore will continue to support jobseekers and employers to match workers to the available opportunities. Jobseekers can tap on initiatives such as the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package to be placed into jobs and skills opportunities.

Featured Image Credit: Wan Wei

Also Read: If you’ve lost your job, here’s what you need to do to get back on the career track

How e-commerce giant Shopee is sweetening its 9.9 Super Shopping Day deals with ShopeePay

shopee 9.9 jackie chan

The 9.9 sale is one of Southeast Asia’s largest shopping holidays, and it serves as the unofficial opening act for the region’s massive year-end sales. 

Singapore-based Shopee is actually the pioneering e-commerce company to introduce the first 9.9 shopping festival with its Super Shopping Day back in 2016. 

Staying true to its reputation as the pioneer, Shopee has consistently broken sales records during its 9.9 Super Shopping Day in the past years.

In 2020, Shopee witnessed strong sales growth despite Covid-19 with 700,000 items sold in a single minute at the peak of September 9. In these tough times, Shopee showed strong support to local businesses and made sure to promptly deliver necessities to its users. 

This year, Shopee is pulling out all the works to make sure that the upcoming 9.9 sale is bigger and better than the last. 

What to expect from Shopee’s 9.9 sale this year

From now until September 9, Shopee has lined up the best deals so shoppers can satisfy all their shopping needs, all in one place.

Shopee offers a wide assortment of products, from daily essentials to premium products. With millions of brands and sellers, as well as a wide network of online and offline partners, there’s bound to be something for everyone. 

Shoppers can make use of the mega shopping season to stock up on daily essentials at Shopee Supermarket. There will be exclusive vouchers and discounts on groceries and household essentials on 9.9 Super Mart Deals, which will take place on September 9. 

There will also be supersized members-exclusive deals, 50 per cent cashback vouchers, S$0.99 hourly deals, and S$9 massive markdowns. Additionally, you can maximise your savings when you collect hints at 12am, 8am, 12pm and 6pm to participate in the Mystery Voucher Drop. 

shopee mall
Image Credit: Shopee

Besides everyday products, shoppers can also expect great deals from their favourite brands on Shopee Mall. 

Since its launch five years ago, Shopee Mall has helped both international and local brands unlock new growth milestones in Southeast Asia, while creating user-centric experiences for shoppers on the platform. 

From now until September 9, you can enjoy up to 90 per cent off on over 200 brands such as Samsung, LANEIGE and more. Then on 9.9 itself, Shopee Mall will be offering best-selling brand boxes from brands such as Gin Thye, Wishtrend and The Ordinary, flash freebie giveaways, and up to 80 per cent off Shopee-exclusive brands and deals. 

Shopee has also rebranded its Million $ Discount Deals to Big Brand Discounts, so deal seekers can continue to shop for their favourite local and international brands at the lowest prices on Shopee. This essentially means you can score great prices from popular brands like Samsung, The Body Shop and Nestle with guaranteed authenticity. 

This 9.9, Shopee continues to step up its efforts to help local businesses that have been greatly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Shopee has been pushing out ‘support local’ campaigns, where users can show their support for local businesses and help boost their sales by buying from over 20,000 local sellers and businesses. 

In return, users will enjoy 12 per cent cashback and S$5 off no minimum spend vouchers from these participating sellers.

shopee comex tech singapore
Image Credit: Shopee

Alongside the 9.9 Super Shopping Day, Shopee is also hosting a COMEX Super Tech Show from September 5 to 12 in partnership with COMEX Festival. 

Through this tech online shopping festival, shoppers can find the most value-for-money products across categories like mobile, computers, home appliances, video games and more, with up to 90 per cent off. 

You can also stand a chance to win exciting electronic prizes daily such as Realme C25s worth S$229, Nintendo Switch Lite worth S$329 and more, at only S$0.10 from September 9 to 12. Additionally, up to S$100 off vouchers will be up for grabs. 

How to upsize your savings with ShopeePay and other ways

As part of 9.9 Super Shopping Day’s promotions, users can apply Shopee and brand cashback vouchers and get up to 30 per cent cashback in Shopee coins until September 9. 

To further sweeten the shopping experience, users can enjoy free shipping deals until September 9 for maximum savings. 

shopee 9.9 singapore
Image Credit: Shopee

By simply shopping on Shopee, you can stand a chance to win a Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé. Simply fill up the form here and start shopping on Shopee until September 9 to accumulate chances. 

Every dollar spent entitles you to one chance of winning; so the more you spend, the higher your chances of winning will be. Furthermore, you get double the chances when you shop on September 9. 

New users on the other hand, will get 5x chances and upsized 10x chances on September 9. 

Shopee users can also enjoy exclusive promotions and deals when they pay for their purchases with ShopeePay. What’s great is that it applies to both online and offline purchases from thousands of merchants. 

This is part of Shopee’s commitment to provide a convenient, secure and rewarding shopping experience for all users. 

shopeepay day
Image Credit: Shopee

For the first time ever, ShopeePay Day will be happening on September 7. On this day, users can enjoy vouchers as low as S$0.01 from Springleaf Prata, Tiger Sugar, Chewy Junior and more. 

There are also other F&B deals like the under-S$2 dining deal vouchers from Nam Kee Pau, Hong Kong Egglet, Proofer Bakery and more. Exclusive vouchers will also be released for first-time users of ShopeePay. 

Under ShopeePay Scan & Pay Vouchers, users can purchase S$2 off discount vouchers for just S$0.01, and use them during checkout at offline stores with ShopeePay. Some popular merchants that accept these vouchers include Jollibean, Milksha and Nam Kee Pau. 

Users can also enjoy 50 per cent upsized cashback (capped at S$2) when they pay with ShopeePay at offline stores. 

In addition, when you top up or transfer a minimum of S$9 with ShopeePay from now until September 9, you will stand a chance to win Shopee coins and vouchers worth over S$3,000.

Get entertained by Jackie Chan, TWICE 

Beyond scoring deals and discounts, Shopee users also get to experience non-stop entertainment with a line-up of the biggest superstars, exciting games, and attractive rewards. 

This year, Shopee has brought on international superstar Jackie Chan to be a part of its year-end shopping season. 

You can catch his exclusive interview on Shopee Live at 9pm, and tune in to exclusive performances by leading K-Pop groups TWICE and Secret Number — all happening on September 9. 

shopee 9.9 singapore twice
Image Credit: Shopee

Jackie Chan will also be featured in Shopee’s popular in-app games like Shopee Shake, Shopee Slice and the new Shopee Steps.

You can also stand to win prizes and vouchers through Jackie Chan-related trivia and games, as well as limited-edition autographed Jackie Chan posters when you participate in special contests and giveaways that will be announced on Shopee’s official social media channels. 

Beyond these, Shopee also seeks to entertain shoppers through its games like Shopee Farm or Shopee Candy to earn attractive rewards. 

A key highlight this year will be Shopee Collectibles, where users can stand a chance to win super-sized prizes by collecting a full set of in-game items. 

Can’t wait to join in the fun? Download the Shopee app for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play, and satisfy all your shopping needs on 9.9 Super Shopping Day!

This article was written in collaboration with Shopee.

Featured Image Credit: Shopee

Also Read: Sea co-founder Forrest Li is the newest richest man in S’pore with a net worth of US$20.2B

S’pore startup Homage raises S$40M in Series C round, led by Temasek’s Sheares Healthcare

gillian tee homage

Homegrown eldertech startup Homage announced today (September 6) that it has raised US$30 million (S$40 million) funding in a series C round led by Sheares Healthcare Group, a wholly-owned healthcare enterprise of global investment firm Temasek.

New investors that joined the round include DG Daiwa Ventures and Sagana Capital, as well as existing investors East Ventures (Growth), HealthXCapital, SeedPlus, Trihill Capital and Alternate Ventures.

The latest Series C round brings its total funding to over US$45 million (S$60 million), and will be used to further accelerate regional expansion and scale its platform.

The funding will also be used to further develop their technology platform and deepen their integration with the aged and disability care payor and provider infrastructure across the region.

According to the company, the oversubscribed round makes it one of the largest financing rounds raised by an on-demand care platform in Southeast Asia and the Oceania region.

As part of this funding round, Khoo Ee Ping, Chief Corporate Development Officer of Sheares Healthcare will be joining Homage’s board of directors.

“Homage’s mission is very aligned to the Sheares vision of building integrated healthcare ecosystems to close care gaps and deliver new innovative models of healthcare services that will ultimately help to contain healthcare costs. We are very excited to partner with Homage on its journey,” said Khoo.

Strong growth in 2021

homage singapore
Image Credit: Homage

Homage said that it experienced significant growth in 2021, with regional business (including Malaysia and Australia) growing more than 600 per cent year-over-year. The group also more than tripled its revenue in the past year.

Moving forward, it will continue to grow its presence and expand into more cities.

“Our mission is to make everyday care for older adults and the chronic-ill personalised, accessible as well as cost-effective. By combining high touch with high tech, we have been able to prove that we improve the lives, health and wellness outcomes of our care recipients and families at scale,” said Gillian Tee, founder and CEO of Homage.

To date, the company has built a regional network of more than 6,000 fully screened, trained and curated care professionals, including certified and trained caregivers, licensed nurses, care navigators and board-certified therapists and physicians.

With its holistic care teams, Homage has developed strong partnerships with both private and governmental hospitals as well as primary and community care providers to bridge the gap in the end-to-end care recipient journey, integrating across hospital health, community and home care as well as the payor ecosystem.

Homage has also been mentioned by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the 2017 National Day Rally speech, where he lauded the startup’s use of IT to match a pool of caregivers with seniors who needed help.

Featured Image Credit: Homage

Also Read: Tackling Asia’s Growing Demand For Eldercare: Gillian Tee, Homage CEO

This S’porean is nailing it with nail wraps – scored collaborations with Disney, Bvlgari, OBEY

nodspark eugenia yeo

Eugenia Ye-Yeo is a business graduate from RMIT University had worked in a local bank for a good two years before venturing to start up her own businesses.

Her first startup was called Haf Box, which she launched in 2012. She wanted to sell what she felt was lacking in the market then — practical and well-designed products for modern seniors.

It sells necklace pendants that double up as magnifying glasses and anti-slip shoes from Japan, among other things.

“Back in the day, there wasn’t any products that looked fashionable or decent for seniors. The government was talking quite a lot (about) the potential of the silver tsunami, and due to my own experience of not being able to find a gift that I was proud of for my grandmother’s birthday, it sparked the idea to start a business bringing in such products for seniors,” said Eugenia.

cane art walking cane
Cane Art walking canes designed in collaboration with Binary Styles / Image Credit: Binary Styles

The startup later created its own brand of walking canes called Cane Art to cater to the Asian sizing of walking canes. These designer walking canes are foldable, which are small enough to fit into handbags.

The business, which she runs alongside her husband, is still going strong today and since have built a steady following and referral system.

However, her bigger focus now is on her other brainchild, Nodspark, which is seeing a much higher demand.

She had no time and patience to paint her nails

Nodspark is her very own own nail wrap brand. On how she came up with the business idea, the 34-year-old simply said that it was “a moment of serendipity” that she came across nail wraps.

She was first introduced to nail wraps when she attended a trade fair, and she really enjoyed the idea of it.

“I enjoy painting nails, but back then, being a second-time mother to my young daughter, I had neither the time nor patience to go get my nails painted, let alone head out to a nail salon,” she said.

She saw the potential of the product, and felt that it would fit in seamlessly with our fast-paced society, so she started up Nodspark in 2017.

Nodspark nail wraps
Nodspark nail wraps / Image Credit: Nodspark

“Nodspark is a solution to getting nice nails without all the fuss of smudged or chipped nails, or needing to spend extra time to wait for your nails to dry, let alone even more time to get nail art on your nails.”

One consistent messaging that the brand always pushes is that beauty doesn’t need to come at a high cost of your time or money.

This appeals to time-starved customers like busy women who wear multiple hats, working professionals, or someone who simply wants to look good without sparing two hours to sit at the salon.

No one really knew what nail wraps are at the start

Eugenia refused to disclose how much she has invested into the business so far, but shared that it took her six months to break even.

Despite the seemingly good figures, she shared that the initial launch was lacklustre.

She cited the lack of experience in marketing beauty products and lack of education on nail wraps as the main contributing factors.

“As hardly anyone knew what nail stickers were, it took us a long time to educate customers on nail wraps and how they worked. For some customers who used them and had a bad experience, we took the time to re-educate and convince them to give Nodspark a try.”

Over time, she also learnt how to build a customer base from scratch.

Beyond the marketing challenge in the early days, they also faced a lot of competition that imitated their product and branding.

“We had many lookalikes duplicating our packaging, website navigation and even brand copywriting key pointers. But I feel that it’s important to know your ability — that you are the originator and you can do so much more.”

Nodspark packaging can be transformed into a box / Image Credit: Nodspark

“I kept pushing forward with brand offerings, adding value to the brand with more exclusive collaborations, re-doing our packaging to make it one-of-a-kind by making it a packaging that you can transform into a box to reuse (instead of throwing it away) as a drawer insert, amongst many others.”

Covid-19 on the other hand, served as a double-edged sword. Due to the pandemic, they were unable to hold their usual pop-up events, which form a huge part of their business.

“So that’s a loss of revenue stream, alongside our stockists being hit as well. International orders also took a much longer time to reach certain countries, so there was a lot of adjusting to do.”

“But while we were affected in some ways, other doors of opportunities as well. We were discovered by a distributor overseas in Dubai to carry our products exclusively for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region.”

More people were also buying Nodspark to send to their friends as care packages.

Additionally, due to the closure of salons during the lockdown period, people also started discovering alternative methods for nail grooming and turned to nail wraps.

Collaborations with OBEY, Bvlgari, Disney

Staying true to their tagline to be your wardrobe for nails, Nodspark offers a variety of designs that users can wear as and when for as low as S$15 per pack.

“For those who love experimenting with different styles, this is a low-commitment option and does not damage your nails the way gelish does,” said Eugenia.

The startup has a team of designers that works on the various designs for the nail wrap. It also works with collaborators and corporate partners to lend them their original artwork and designs to be applied on Nodspark’s nail wraps.

Some notable collaborations are with Kat Von D Vegan Beauty, OBEY, Bvlgari and most recently, Disney.

“Our collaboration with Disney is super special as our designs are exclusive to the Singapore and Malaysia market only. And with Disney being such a huge brand with so many amazing characters that we grew up with, it struck a chord with many customers and it was such a hit.”

nodspark nail wrap disney
Nodspark’s Disney collection / Image Credit: Nodspark

Some of the Disney designs that they offer feature Mickey Classic, Vintage, the Princess Collection and Frozen, and there will be new drops that will be released in October and November this year.

When asked what’s the turning point that helped to propel Nodspark’s growth, Eugenia said that networking definitely helped to open many doors of business opportunities.

“While there were a lot of rejections initially, there were an equal number of people who were blown away by (our) product and could connect to the Nodspark brand,” she said.

She then added that it was a “whole ecosystem” that helped to support their growth — from identifying their target market, to crafting their brand pillars, to having strong key opinion leaders who use and love their products, to collaborating with established or creative brands.

This is what keeps the brand “alive, relevant, and exciting.”

But the most important factor of all, is having a strong team. “Your grand plans can’t be executed if the core isn’t strong,” she added.

With all the challenges that has been thrown their way so far, she felt that the Nodspark team came out of it stronger than before, as they didn’t let it hinder their spirits, growth or creativity.

Looking to expand their product line next

eugenia ye-yeo nodspark
Eugenia Ye-Yeo, founder of Nodspark / Image Credit: Nodspark

Sharing future business plans, Eugenia said that she wants to reach out to more overseas market as part of their expansion plans.

“We’re also expanding our product line, so that’s something we are very excited about for the rest of the year and early next year.”

Ultimately, Nodspark wants to celebrate everyday beauty and believes that looking put together should not be a stressful affair, which is why it wants to help make it easier with its nail wrap options.

Summing up the interview with a personal business mantra, Eugenia stressed that there’s no fixed template to running your own business or building a brand.

“Do what is most comfortable and makes the most sense, but be consistent and as honest as you can. Everything else will fall in place while you hustle on.”

Featured Image Credit: Nodspark

Also Read: This S’porean is betting big on keto and plant-based meals, his latest venture: Insane Meals

This S’porean is betting big on keto and plant-based meals, his latest venture: Insane Meals

insane meals

In March last year, we covered Ketomei, Singapore’s first keto meal subscription service.

Ketomei was launched in December 2019 by Constant Tong. The 53-year-old is a veteran in tech, who started out as a software engineer for Singapore Airlines in 1992.

Over the years, he has clocked a wealth of experience leading product management at companies like Internet services firm EdgeMatrix and stock trading app TradeHero. He even co-founded a fintech startup in Shanghai.

Prior to Ketomei, he most recently served as the assistant vice president for Razer Pay.

Commenting on the growth of Ketomei for the past 19 months, Constant said that customer response has been overwhelming despite the Covid-19 pandemic and last year’s circuit breaker.

He added that it has crossed over seven-digit sales in the first 10 months of operation, and delivered over 200,000 keto meals to thousands of customers since inception.

They have also since moved into a 4,500-square feet central kitchen and beefed up their team with more talented chefs.

In addition to their weekly keto meals, Ketomei has also expanded into selling keto pastries, beverages and snacks, on top of hosting workshops and coaching to educate others on the science behind Keto diet.

Venturing into keto-based fine dining

gourmei keto fine dining
Gourmei’s curated keto-based fine dining dishes / Image Credit: Gourmei

Following Ketomei, Constant went on to launch Gourmei, a keto-based fine dining online restaurant amid the pandemic.

I wanted to create a fine dining concept that offers delicious meals with a more exquisite taste, yet remaining keto-compliant. Keto food is always seen as diet food but in fact, (it) is just (like any other) food that is nutritious and delicious.

While there are many fine dining restaurants in Singapore, there is a serious lack of keto or low-carb options. It inspired me to design a ‘space’ for people to enjoy delightful food while feeling great about their bodies after a meal.

– Constant Tong, founder of Ketomei, Gourmei and Insane Meals

Gourmei essentially fuses fine dining and healthy diets, enabling diet-conscious consumers to savour a fuss-free, high-end home dining experience without compromising on the enjoyment of the food.

Their curated menu include signature dishes like Côte de Boeuf, Octopus Salad, Gravlax Salmon and Duck Leg Confit.

In this pandemic period where dining out is still restricted and work from home is on the rise, Gourmei has seen an increase in orders who want to try out keto fine dining food.

Spurred by this gradual demand, Constant said that he is considering extending Gourmei’s presence with a physical restaurant once the effect of the pandemic is over.

Entering the plant-based arena with meal subscription

Now, Constant is deepening his foray into F&B with a new plant-based meal subscription service.

Called Insane Meals, it is collaborating with some of the region’s largest plant-based companies like Impossible Foods, TiNDLE, KARANA, abillion, OmniFoods and Innovate 360 to help spread the love for food sustainability.

insane meals plant-based
Insane Meals has collaborated with multiple plant-based brands / Image Credit: Insane Meals

“With the success of Ketomei, I realised I could change people lives by providing a very specific diet plan designed for special needs — and do it in an exciting and fun way,” said Constant.

He initially wanted to launch a brand that caters more to those who are fitness- and health-conscious that follow a high protein, balanced diet. However, there were already a few existing services in the market.

Since he was intrigued with the development of plant-based products, he felt that “the time is right” to offer a plant-based meal subscription that is both “kosher” for vegans and vegetarians, but also appeal to the palate of meat eaters.

“In fact, we want to target more towards the meat eater and get them to switch to eating less meat. It’s better for them, the planet and the animals, so why not?” remarked Constant.

Constant’s partnership with the various plant-based brands dates all the way back when he first introduced some plant-based options to the Ketomei menu.

So when he later revealed to them his intention of launching Insane Meals, he was glad to find that they were all supportive of his new venture.

Insane Meals’ menu is is curated and developed by head chef Justin Seah and team, guided alongside a certified dietitian. It is refreshed every week to keep it interesting and enjoyable for its subscribers, but the startup also makes it a point to bring back popular meals more often.

Its plan options include ‘Flexi’ at six meals a week from S$108, and ‘Everyday’ at 12 meals a week from S$204. This equates to S$17 or S$18 per meal, which actually sits on the higher side of the pricing scale.

Justifying the price, Constant reasoned that they use premium ingredients that are healthy and more expensive; and it also includes the delivery fee.

Alternative proteins like Impossible and TiNDLE also cost more than real meat at this point. With the growing market for alternative protein, the price for these “meat” will drop and we will revise our price accordingly.

We will also run promotions from time to time, so people can try out (Insane Meals) at a lower introductory cost. If they like what we are serving, they can sign up for a month-long subscription to enjoy lower prices.

– Constant Tong, founder of Ketomei, Gourmei and Insane Meals

As someone who has personally tried out some of Insane Meals’ meal boxes, it was indeed very fuss-free and convenient. I didn’t have to think about where to go for lunch or what to buy, and simply need to pop it into the microwave to heat it up.

When it came to taste, it tastes decent (you honestly can’t tell that the meat are plant-based) and it’s great that each box is labelled with the necessary dietary information label so you know what exactly you’re eating, making you feel healthier.

The price however, is admittedly an off-putting factor. I’m not willing to spend over S$15 on healthy bento meals. If I wanted convenience, I’m sure I can find a similarly healthy option on food delivery platforms and spend the same amount, if not lesser.

The needle will only move for me when it gets cheaper — and this will only happen when the price of alternative protein drops.

Business challenges faced

constant tong
Constant Tong, founder of Insane Meals / Image Credit: Insane Meals

When he first started up Insane Meals, Constant recounted how he had to juggle multiple hats — from packing meals, delivering them, and handling online marketing.

“Having to manage a business that involves digital marketing, production kitchen and delivery team is not easy. It’s a bit like running a SaaS, a catering business and logistic business concurrently. As a tech entrepreneur, I have strong experience in certain areas so I have to hire to augment our core capabilities in other areas.”

Now, he has a team of about 30 staff that he can depend on to help meet these challenges. The startup has also tapped on various government schemes such as Jobs Support Scheme, Jobs Growth Incentive and SG United traineeship to help support their headcount growth.

Like any other growing startup, another challenge that he faced was cashflow.

Being 100 per cent self-funded, this is a constant struggle. With the initial success and strong sales, I managed to raise a small round of funds from a seed investors and secure some bank loan.

– Constant Tong, founder of Ketomei, Gourmei and Insane Meals

So far, slightly over S$300,000 has been invested in the business to fund the renovation of new kitchen, purchase of more equipments, as well as to ramp up headcount in marketing and production.

While some might think that Covid-19 would give them with another set of business challenges, it has actually presented them with an opportunity to create a fully online and digital subscription-based business model.

“We leverage technology not just in the ordering and subscription of our meals, but also in our operations such as routing and tracking of our deliveries. To some extent, our business is Covid-proof and our sales grew when people are working from home and became more health conscious, or want to lose some weight.”

Acknowledging that Covid-19 has dramatically impacted the F&B landscape, Constant believes that the way forward is to go digital.

According to him, this transcends beyond getting onboarded on food delivery platforms which is not cost-effective due to high commission rates, but rather, there needs to be a “shift in paradigm (to) try something new that no one has done before.”

Particularly, there are opportunities in niche healthy food trends that F&B companies can leverage and try to capture.

From there, they have to think deeper and create new business models, user experiences, and build digital capabilities to excel in the new era of social commerce. Once they have built enough order volume, they will be able to have better control over the delivery cost.

“The war is fought on the digital front these days. Merely being digital ready is not enough; successful F&B businesses need to be a master in using tech and digital marketing.”

Plant-based is not a fad, and will be the future of food

In Singapore, many plant-based startups are emerging, signalling the rise of sustainable businesses.

At the back of this trend, Constant observed that sustainability has become a major theme for many venture capitalists, and the government too has goals to turn Singapore into a global food tech hub.

But with no livestocks or land for large-scale agriculture, we have to focus on investment in alternative protein and various new deep technologies to disrupt the global food manufacturing ecosystem. … I foresee more investment and funds focusing on this space as a form of impact investment.

As a 100 per cent plant-based meal subscription service that is heavy on alternative protein, Insane Meals is positioned to take advantage of these opportunities. … As the number of plant-based eaters grow, so will Insane Meals’ subscriber base, therefore opening options for even more plant-based products.

– Constant Tong, founder of Ketomei, Gourmei and Insane Meals

Plant-based food / Image Credit: Insane Meals

According to a ResearchandMarkets report, the plant-based meat market was worth US$5.6 billion in 2020, and is expected to reach US$14.9 billion by 2027.

While it is still a relatively small number compared to the global meat market, Constant pointed out that it is growing rapidly and expressed confidence that “it may turn the tide against animal meat” at some point.

When asked what will it take for consumers to permanently switch to plant-based alternatives, he listed out three factors that are currently preventing mass adoption: marketing (most people think it’s reserved for vegans), high cost (meat is much cheaper than alternative protein), and the perception of taste (many prefer to eat the ‘real deal’).

The way to market plant-based meat/meals is important. Rather than market it as a vegan product, we are seeing and using a more diverse and inclusive messaging so as to generate demand from health-conscious consumers, flexitarians, omnitarians and vegans alike.

I (also) believe plant-based meat can taste as good as meat if prepared properly. (However), price is key. For the world to eat plant-based, the price must drop. This is a chicken and egg issue: once there is volume, plant-based meat will keep dropping in price, while the price of beef and seafood will only go up.

– Constant Tong, founder of Ketomei, Gourmei and Insane Meals

Summing it up, he believes that the plant-based trend will persist and is confident that it will become the norm in the future.

Sharing future business plans, Constant shared that they are looking to launch plant-based dessert and beverages next, and potentially their own brand of alternative protein product for less available options like mutton.

Beyond Insane Meals, he is also looking to grow the other two brands — Ketomei and Gourmei — and is eyeing to launch them outside of Singapore.

Featured Image Credit: Insane Meals

Also Read: These S’poreans turn Asian food into healthy meals – hit 7-figure annual sales in under 3 years

Sea co-founder Forrest Li is the newest richest man in S’pore with a net worth of US$20.2B

sea forrest li

About three weeks ago, business magazine Forbes released its Singapore’s Richest 2021 list, where Li Xiting took the top spot with a net worth of US$23 billion (~S$31 billion), up from the second position last year.

The Singapore citizen is also ranked 82nd on Forbes’ Billionaires 2021 list and 20th on Forbes’ China Rich List 2020.

Today, Li Xiting’s real-time net worth has dropped to US$18.7 billion. Adding on to that, Bloomberg Billionaires Index recently declared him as the second richest man in Singapore with a net worth of US$18.1 billion (as of 1 September 2021).

Instead, Sea co-founder Forrest Li, has overtaken him as Singapore’s richest with a net worth of US$20.2 billion.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index is a daily ranking of the world’s richest people. Details about the calculations are provided in the net worth analysis on each billionaire’s profile page and the figures are updated at the close of every trading day in New York.

How he became Singapore’s richest

Forrest Li co-founded Sea Ltd, and also serves as the company’s chairman and chief executive officer.

He became Singapore’s richest as his company shares surged 67 per cent this year.

Sea is now touted as Southeast Asia’s most valuable company, and has been deepening its foray in fintech beyond gaming and e-commerce.

Sea won a digital banking license in Singapore last December and is also reportedly eyeing a digital bank in Indonesia following the acquisition of Indonesia’s PT Bank Kesejahteraan Ekonomi (Bank BKE).

These moves will help expand its SeaMoney business beyond payments to include lending, insurance, wealth management and other financial services.

According to

forrest li shopee
Image Credit: Guru Gamer

It is also driven by the strong growth of its e-commerce platform, Shopee, which has become the second-most downloaded shopping app on Android and iOS globally.

In Southeast Asia, Shopee continued to rank first in the Shopping category by average monthly active users and total time spent in-app for Q2 2021, according to App Annie.

Sea’s e-commerce business also saw a 160.7 per cent increase in revenue to US$1.2 billion; and recorded gross orders totalling 1.4 billion, an increase of 127.4 per cent year-on-year.

Sea’s other founders are also billionaires

Li, who is a naturalised Singapore citizen, first joined the billionaire club more than two years ago in March 2019.

According to Sea, he now sits on the board of directors of the Economic Development Board, and serves on the board of trustees at the National University of Singapore.

(From left to right) Forrest Li, Gang Ye and David Chen / Image Credit: Sea

Sea’s two other co-founders, Gang Ye and David Chen, are also billionaires.

According to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Ye, Sea’s chief operating officer, has a net worth of US$11 billion. Meanwhile, Chen, who is Shopee’s chief product officer, has a net worth of US$3.6 billion.

The three of them, who hail from China, are also all featured on the top half of Forbes’ Singapore’s Richest 2021 list.

Featured Image Credit: Sea Ltd

Also Read: How Three Billionaire Founders Built S’pore’s First Tech Unicorn – Now Valued At US$65B

SMRT’s Strides Taxi rolls out first batch of EVs, fleet to grow to 300 by end 2021

strides taxi

Earlier in April, transport operator SMRT announced that it aims to fully electrify its entire taxi fleet within the next five years to help reduce the total carbon footprint by an estimated 20,000 tonnes per year.

SMRT Road Holdings president Tan Kian Heong had said that SMRT is “among the first point-to-point transport operators to commit to the deployment of electric taxis on a large scale.”

The first batch of 15 electric taxis was launched yesterday (August 30). A total of 300 electric vehicles operated by Strides Taxi — formerly SMRT Taxi and a subsidiary of Strides Mobility — will serve passengers by the end of the year.

Strides’ electric vehicles are called MG5 and are new to the Singapore market. It can travel for up to 300km on a full charge, and takes 40 minutes to charge a vehicle to 80 per cent capacity.

Drivers currently have access to about 140 EV charging points at 80 locations across Singapore.

“When all 300 MG5s are on the road, Strides Taxi will become the taxi operator with the largest fleet of EVs in Singapore,” said the companies in a joint media release.

“Compared to a hybrid car, the cost of charging for Strides Taxi partners is more economical. In one month, a partner driving the MG5 could save around S$300 on energy costs,” they added.

To encourage drivers to be “early adopters” of its electric taxis, Strides Taxi is offering free rental on the MG5 vehicle and unlimited charging for the first 30 days. 

It has also worked with SP Group and Shell “to provide convenience and discounts for (drivers’) charging needs”.

Electric taxis will be on the rise

This shift towards EVs in line with the government’s push for electric vehicle adoption in Singapore.

In this year’s Budget speech, Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that the government will set aside S$30 million over the next five years for EV-related initiatives, such as measures to improve charging provision at private premises.

This is meant to catalyse the partnership between the public and private sectors, and comes as Singapore is accelerating the development of its charging infrastructure.

In addition, the government aims to deploy 60,000 charging points by 2030 — more than double its initial target of 28,000. It will also narrow the cost differential between electric cars and internal combustion engine (ICE) cars to further encourage the early adoption of EVs.

hdt taxi singapore
Image Credit: HDT Singapore

Electric taxis are nothing new in Singapore though. In 2017, HDT Singapore Taxi rolled out Singapore’s first fleet of electric taxis, though the company has since ceased operations last December due to the pandemic.

In May 2018, another local taxi company ComfortDelGro added 200 new Hyundai Ioniq Hybrids to its fleet.

Shortly after, ride-hailing giant Grab also decided to electrify its fleet as it announced the addition of 200 electric vehicles in partnership with SP Group in January 2019.

As Singapore works on electrifying the cars on the roads, it’s likely that there will be more electric taxis to come.

Electric vehicles is a key content pillar for Vulcan Post. You can find the rest of our EV coverage here.

From 1 July 2021, Vulcan Post’s premium articles will be hidden behind a paywall. Subscribers will be able to enjoy exclusive articles with a deeper level of coverage and insight on verticals that include government technology, electric vehicles, cryptocurrency and e-commerce. You can check out our premium articles here and subscribe to us here.

Featured Image Credit: Strides Taxi

Also Read: SMRT-Owned Firm Bags Deal To Make And Supply Electric Motorbikes For Food Delivery, Logistics

Here are 4 S’pore firms that were mentioned by PM Lee in National Day Rally 2021 speech

national day rally 2021

After a one-year hiatus and about two weeks after this year’s National Day, PM Lee Hsien Loong finally delivered his National Day Rally 2021 speech yesterday (August 29).

The National Day Rally is generally considered the most important political speech of the year and provides a platform for the Prime Minister to address the nation and share important policy matters.

It typically outlines the challenges that faced our nation, goals that are being set to transform the country, and the strategies and policies that have been put in place to shape Singapore to what it is today.

In this year’s speech, PM Lee covered several topics: Covid-19, economic growth, supporting lower-wage workers, addressing anxieties over foreign work pass holders, and managing race and religion.

During the 1 hour and 15 minutes speech, he also highlighted several homegrown companies:

1. Carro

Carro team / Image Credit: Carro

Singapore-based Carro is an online platform that buys and sells used cars in Southeast Asia. It joined the unicorn startup club in June this year when it completed a US$360 million funding round that boosted its valuation to US$1 billion.

The fresh injection of funds will be used to add the Philippines and Vietnam to Carro’s existing presence in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

According to Carro, it is now building a strong base in Southeast Asia’s US$55 billion used car market with more than two million active users, hitting a gross merchandise value of US$1 billion in the year ended in March.

Carro’s revenue also grew more than twofold year-on-year to US$300 million, with a positive Ebitda for the second consecutive year.

To date, Carro has also pulled in more than US$400 million from the likes of the Singapore government’s investment arm EDBI, as well as B Capital, Insignia Ventures Partners, Mitsubishi and SoftBank, among others.

As Singapore companies and entrepreneurs grow, Singapore can better sustain longer-term growth, noted PM Lee.

2. Secretlab

secretlab founders
Alaric Choo (left) and Ian Ang (right), co-founders of Secretlab / Image Credit: Secretlab

Secretlab co-founder Ian Ang recently came into the spotlight with reports of him buying a multi-million dollar good class bungalow and luxury condominium penthouse.

In a March report, the company was said to have exceeded S$350 million in sales for the latest financial year. Earlier filings had revealed how Covid-19 contributed to the business’ growth, as more people bought its chairs due to work from home arrangements.

Generally, the company has seen “meteoric growth” with sales steadily increasing over the years.

It took the founders six to eight months to create the first prototype, and at least 20 iterations to finalise the design. In March 2015, they finally launched their very first gaming chair: Secretlab THRONE V1.

The first 200 units sold out within a week, and the company quickly broke even within a month. Fast forward to 2019, Secretlab sold over 200,000 chairs.

That same year, Secretlab also secured an undisclosed amount of funding from Temasek subsidiary Heliconia Capital, raising the company’s valuation to between S$200 million and S$300 million.

Then in 2020, Secretlab reportedly manufactures more than 500,000 chairs a year and has made its mark in over 60 countries. Its biggest market is North America with over 50 per cent of sales, while Singapore only accounts for about five per cent of its total sales each year.

3. Carousell

carousell founders
Quek Siu Rui (left), Marcus Tan (middle), and Lucas Ngoo (right), co-founders of Carousell / Image Credit: Carousell

Carousell has undoubtedly become a favourite app among Singaporeans in recent years.

It’s also not an overstatement to say that it has revolutionised the mobile marketplace, reimagining the way people buy and sell online.

NUS alumni trio – Quek Siu Rui, Marcus Tan and Lucas Ngoo – worked on developing the Carousell mobile app after a year-long stint in Silicon Valley, putting the skills they acquired to good use by envisioning a peer-to-peer marketplace where NUS students could sell things to each other.

What started out in school has now grown to become a widely-used marketplace app worldwide, reaching millions of buyers and sellers each day.

Since its launch in 2012, Carousell has expanded to more than 20 major cities, including Hong Kong, the Philippines and Australia.

Most recently, they also made headlines for its potential United States listing via a merger with a blank-cheque company, which could value the company at as much as S$2 billion.

Carro, Secretlab and Carousell are just some examples of Singapore companies that have made their mark in the new economy as cited by PM Lee.

They have grown to become global names and he stressed that Enterprise Singapore is “supporting more entrepreneurs to follow in their footsteps, go out into the world, seize new opportunities and grow their businesses.”

4. Hegen

hegen yvon bock
Yvon Bock, founder of Hegen / Image Credit: Hegen

Yvon Bock is the founder of Hegen, a company that specialises in baby-feeding bottles and equipment.

Launched in 2015, it was created based on Yvon’s own personal pain points with breastfeeding.

“From too many parts to assemble and clean to noisy bulky pumps, and teats that cause nipple confusion, I wanted to modernise the entire system while making it simple, practical and innovative,” said Yvon.

However, trying to enter an already saturated market and competing with internationally-renowned brands that have decades-long legacies was tough for them.

Moreover, Singapore is a tough market because “Singaporeans are making too few babies,” remarked PM Lee.

So from the start, Yvon expanded into other markets and Hegen products are now popular in China, Korea, and even Israel.

When Covid-19 hit, many of Hegen’s physical retail channels shut down so she shifted to marketing online. She improved her websites, conducted livestreams in multiple languages, and hired more staff to fulfil orders. Now, Hegen’s main engine of growth is online sales, noted PM Lee.

“The government will create the conditions for entrepreneurs like Yvon to start and grow their companies. But subsidies and grants only go so far. Ultimately, it is their own resolve and resourcefulness which will secure their success,” he added.

We can overcome Covid-19 together

At the end of the day, PM Lee stressed that Singapore is more than just a place to live, work and play.

“Our greatest strength is our people — united and resilient, steadfast and resourceful, in good times and bad,” he said.

He lauded the different ways Singaporeans have stepped up to support one another in times of crisis.

“Covid-19 will not be our last crisis. We will surely encounter more trials on the road ahead. We will be tested again, sometimes severely.”

“Each generation will wonder, as their parents did: Will we survive? Will Singapore prevail? Will Singaporeans stay together as one people? My answer: We have done it before. We will do it again.”

Featured Image Credit: Carousell / Secretlab / Hegen / Carro

Also Read: PM Lee-approved: 15 S’pore firms and entrepreneurs mentioned in past National Day speeches

PayPal S’pore to offer 150 new jobs in next 3 years, expanding its local workforce by 25%

paypal singapore

Fintech company PayPal has partnered the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to grow its Singapore workforce by 25 per cent.

PayPal will be creating 150 new jobs at its Singapore headquarters in the next three years, reserved for Singaporeans and permanent residents who have attended training under IMDA’s TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) programme.

TeSa offers various programmes to support current information and communications technology (ICT) professionals and non-professionals to upgrade and acquire new skills and domain knowledge that are in demand, and to stay competitive and meet challenges of a fast-moving digital landscape.

PayPal’s expansion will create many new job opportunities for Singaporeans in areas such as product management, software engineering, cybersecurity, and data science.

PayPal latest tech firm to partner IMDA

New hires will join PayPal’s diverse local and global team at its Singapore-based international headquarters to collaborate on solutions that serve the company’s more than 400 million consumers and merchants worldwide.

According to a media statement by IMDA, these projects include:

  • Enabling PayPal solutions to facilitate the digitalisation process for small to medium-sized businesses in Singapore, which encompasses improving business operations and the ability to expand beyond domestic borders.
  • Strengthening the PayPal wallet experience for consumers and optimising the PayPal Commerce Platform, a comprehensive solution for businesses with powerful and flexible payment processing capabilities.
  • Supporting enterprise-wide projects to enhance risk, compliance, trust and security of PayPal’s platform.

Singapore is also home to the PayPal Innovation Lab, which is one of only three worldwide and the first outside of the United States. To date, the teams in Singapore have successfully contributed to almost 140 patents in areas including advanced communications security, data science and artificial intelligence.

“PayPal is determined to support Singapore’s continued digital transformation into a global technology and fintech hub. Our diverse workforce is our biggest competitive advantage, and PayPal’s employees in Singapore have a unique opportunity to participate in projects and initiatives that have an impact in the more than 200 markets in which we operate in,” said Aaron Wong, Chief Executive Officer of PayPal Pte Ltd.

Lew Chuen Hong, Chief Executive of IMDA added that Covid-19 has accelerated the demand for digital services and innovation across the economy, helping to create “good jobs for Singaporeans in areas like product development.”

Since July 2020, IMDA has created more than 5,500 training and job opportunities with the industry under TeSa, and they are looking to do more of such partnerships with companies.

Previously, IMDA has also struck partnerships with other firms like Google, Microsoft, Grab and Sea to create tech jobs and training opportunities in Singapore.

Featured Image Credit: PayPal via Glassdoor

Also Read: Binance CEO worked at McDonald’s, now he’s a crypto billionaire and one of S’pore’s richest

Binance CEO worked at McDonald’s, now he’s a crypto billionaire and one of S’pore’s richest

zhao changpeng binance

Most recently, Binance founder and CEO Zhao Changpeng (also known as “CZ”) was a new entrant to Forbes’ Singapore’s 50 Richest 2021 list, where he took the 22nd spot.

The 45-year-old amassed a net worth of US$1.9 billion (as of 10 August 2021), thanks in part to an estimated 30 per cent stake in his company.

He is also ranked fifth on Forbes’ Crypto Rich 2021 list and 1664th on Forbes’ Billionaires 2021 list. He was also listed in Forbes’ China Rich List in 2018, but later dropped off in 2019.

Here’s a look at how Zhao grew Binance over the years to accumulate his current wealth.

Flipping burgers to running world’s largest crypto exchange

Zhao Changpeng grew up in Jiangsu, China and both of his parents were educators. His father in particular was a professor, but he was labelled a “pro-bourgeois intellect” and temporarily exiled shortly after Zhao was born.

When he was a teenager, he flipped burgers at McDonald’s and worked overnight shifts at a gas station.

After graduating from his computer science studies at Montreal’s McGill University, he spent time in both Tokyo and New York to develop trading systems for the Tokyo Stock Exchange and Bloomberg’s Tradebook.

He did well at the company and was in fact promoted thrice in less than two years, but he ended up quitting the job in 2005. He then moved to Shanghai to start up his own trading system company, Fusion Systems.

He later founded Binance in 2017, which is now a major player in the crypto-verse.

The platform allows users to trade currency, offering a wide range of options for cryptocurrencies to invest in. Binance also provides a crypto wallet for its traders, where users can store, send and receive their electronic funds.

binance coin
Image Credit: Corporate Finance Institute

The Binance platform also has its own coin, BNB, which users can buy, sell and hold. Today, it is the third-largest cryptocurrency worldwide with a market capitalisation of nearly US$54 billion.

In July 2017, Zhao raised US$15 million in initial coin offerings just when the market was getting hot and within six months, it became the largest crypto exchange in the world.

The following year, it attained six million users.

The dramatic rise in bank balance and rapid success brought lots of publicity, the peak being the front cover of Forbes magazine. It was a remarkable rise from flipping burgers to being a crypto billionaire.

Fast forward to 2020, Binance has booked more than US$800 million in revenue and reached US$2 trillion in total trading volume.

Last year, Binance also acquired CoinMarketCap in April and launched their own cryptocurrency debit card.

As Binance expands its business in different areas, Zhao admits that the Binance Card is actually losing money for the company but he doesn’t mind it because he wanted to get that product out.

“We’re doing a number of new businesses that are burning money. It’s still too early to say what our profits or revenues will be this year,” he told Bloomberg Markets.

How he got started on Bitcoin

binance ceo zhao changpeng
Image Credit: Forbes

Zhao is so devoted to Binance that that he actually sports a tattoo of the company’s logo on his arm.

He also believes in cryptocurrency so much that he has probably invested “close to 100 per cent” of his net worth in crypto coins.

I don’t own any fiat — the physical stuff that I own is probably negligible in terms of my net worth. So this is a concept shift. I’m not using crypto to buy fiat, I’m not using crypto to buy houses.

I just want to keep crypto. And I don’t plan to convert my crypto into cash in the future.

– Binance founder and CEO, Zhao Changpeng in an interview with Bloomberg Markets

A separate 2018 Forbes interview also revealed that although Zhao is crypto rich, he doesn’t own any cars, yachts or fancy watches. Instead, he often splurges on laptops — the most he bought was five or six laptops at a time — simply because he “destroys (them) pretty quickly.”

Zhao, who currently resides in Singapore, first learnt about Bitcoin from Bobby Lee, who was the CEO of BTC China and his investor at a poker game.

They advised him to convert 10 per cent of his net worth into bitcoin, saying that there’s a high chance that it will multiply 10-fold, which essentially means doubling his net worth.

That piqued his interest, but because there was a lack of educational content on Bitcoin back then, he researched on it by downloading a white paper online and scrolling through the forum

Having come from a tech background, he understood the concept fairly quickly and liked the idea of Bitcoin because it is borderless and maintained by the network.

“You can transfer money from any country to any other country, not limited by any person or intermediaries. Having lived in a lot of different countries, every time I had to convert money, I would lose a lot,” he said.

He then sold his apartment in Shanghai for US$1 million and used the money for bitcoin.

He later began bouncing around prominent crypto projects and joined as the third member of the cryptocurrency wallet’s team.

He also worked at OKCoin as chief technology officer for less than a year, a platform for spot trading between fiat and digital assets.

Binance is currently facing regulatory scrutiny

binance crypto clampdown
Image Credit: Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Despite Binance’s strong growth, regulations in China have somewhat stifled its progress after the government banned trading in 2017. Yet, Binance responded by moving overseas and expanding to varying locations around the world. 

However, Binance has come under intense regulatory scrutiny lately as authorities around the world seek to clamp down on the fast-growing crypto industry.

In the U.K., the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) banned Binance’s British unit from undertaking any regulated activity. According to the FCA, Binance was one of many crypto firms that withdrew their applications to the U.K.’s temporary licensing regime due to failing to meet anti-money laundering requirements.

Regulators in Japan, Canada and Italy have also clamped down on the firm, warning that it is not authorised to operate in the countries.

Following this string of clampdowns, Zhao expressed his intention to cooperate with global regulators and be “fully compliant” to protect its users and the crypto industry.

“We need to be a licensed financial institution everywhere that we operate,” Zhao said during a press conference held in July.

He added that if regulators expect Binance to have a headquarters, then Binance will establish regional headquarters around the world. This will give them a “very easy to understand structure.”

However, he revealed that Binance has not decided on specific locations yet.

We’ve taken a very strong pivot now. For the last four years, we are a technology startup. From now on, we’re going to be a financial institution … I think that mindset is a very strong shift.

– Binance founder and CEO, Zhao Changpeng in a July 2017 press conference

What’s next for Binance?

In an interview with CNBC, Zhao also said he’s willing to step down from his CEO role as the company seeks to become a regulated financial institution.

While he has no immediate plans to give up his role, he revealed that Binance has a succession plan in place.

“We’re going to pivot to be a fully regulated financial institution going forward,” said Zhao, adding that he would be “very open” to finding a replacement CEO with more regulatory experience during the pivot.

Screenshot of Zhao Changpeng’s Twitter thread

CEO contingency planning starts on Day 0, same as (with) any other role. I feel CEOs should not stay for more than ten years, ideally around five years. We live in a dynamic world. We need new thinking. Presidents only serve for four years.

I don’t need to be a CEO, and I am not leaving. I will always find ways to contribute to the community behind the logo tattooed to my forearm. I am proud to be a member of the #binance ecosystem. Let’s keep growing it.

– Binance founder and CEO, Zhao Changpeng said in a Twitter thread

For now, Binance aims to set up a number of regional headquarters around the world and will seek licenses wherever they are available.

Most recently, Binance also announced that they are embarking on a hiring spree to add compliance teams to beef up its 1,600 to 1,700-strong company. Zhao stressed that his top priority is to hire people with compliance and regulatory experience.

Binance is also ramping up hiring in Singapore, with more than 50 job openings ranging from business development to finance and operations, available on its career page.

And while crypto companies like Coinbase are exploring IPOs, Zhao remains firm that they are not looking to go down that same route.

“We are cash-­sufficient, so we’re able to grow ourselves. We don’t need a huge amount of money, we are profitable, and we are growing,” he said.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology is a key content pillar for Vulcan Post. Follow our coverage on the space here.

Featured Image Credit: Binance

Also Read: How Covid-19 helped Li Xiting become S’pore’s richest man with a net worth of US$23 billion

How Covid-19 helped Li Xiting become S’pore’s richest man with a net worth of US$23 billion

li xiting

Last week, business magazine Forbes released its Singapore’s Richest 2021 list and Li Xiting took the top spot with a net worth of US$23 billion (~S$31 billion), up from the second position last year.

The Singapore citizen is also ranked 82nd on Forbes’ Billionaires 2021 list and 20th on Forbes’ China Rich List 2020.

Li Xiting’s net worth from 2018 to 2021 / Image Credit: Forbes

His net worth has steadily increased over the years — from US$2.1 billion in March 2018, to US$5.5 billion in March 2019, to US$11.6 billion in April 2020, to US$21.5 billion in April 2021.

Li, who is the founder of ventilator maker Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics, rode a wave of surging demand for medical equipment, to be crowned the richest person in Singapore today.

Meet the man behind Mindray

Li Xiting, co-founder of Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics
Li Xiting, co-founder of Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics / Image Credit: Mindray via Facebook

Li founded Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics in 1991, along with Xu Hang (who is also a billionaire) and Cheng Minghe.

The Shenzhen-headquartered company makes health monitoring systems, ventilators, defibrillators, anaesthesia machines and infusion systems, and was the first Chinese medical equipment company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

In 2019, the company reported a revenue of 16.6 billion yuan (~S$3 billion).

Boasting its global presence, Mindray stated on its website that it has 39 subsidiaries, and are serving over 190 countries and regions around the world.

It currently employs over 10,000 employees from 30 countries, and a quarter of them are R&D experts who explore the most advanced medical technology. It added that top-tier medical institutes recognise their performance beyond China, including Europe and the US.

Li, who is now 70, emigrated to Singapore in 2012. He also holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Science and Technology of China.

Covid-19 propelled his wealth

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, Mindray has been at the forefront of this battle. The virus has unfortunately flooded hospitals worldwide with patients struggling to breathe and exposed a global shortage of ventilators.

Ventilators — a medical device that helps patients breathe — are critical to treating COVID-19 patients whose lungs are assailed by the respiratory illness.

Unlike the highly competitive nature of producing masks, it’s a small market since building ventilators is technical and highly specialised.

This prompted the company to ramp up production capacity, supplying much-needed medical equipment to the hardest-hit areas in China and abroad.

We are doing our best to ramp up manufacturing capacity. Our medical products, including patient monitors, ventilators and ultrasound devices, are crucial in the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Facing a soaring demand from healthcare providers around the world and a disruption of the global supply chain, we have been cooperating with governments and suppliers to mitigate shortages and safeguard the production line. Our employees at the manufacturing center cancelled official holidays and thanks to their hard work, we have multiplied manufacturing capacity.

– Li Xiting, chairman of Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics in a company media statement

mindray ventilators
Mindray ventilators produced at its Shenzhen factory / Image Credit: Xinhua

Mindray’s board secretary Li Wenmei told Bloomberg that global demand is at least 10 times more than what’s available at hospitals.

When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic in March 2020, Li received countless calls from ambassadors and diplomatic missions in China to supply them with medical devices.

Until late March 2020, Mindray’s ventilators didn’t have approvals in the US market but the Food and Drug Administration authorised their use under an emergency rule designed to help ease the shortage.

That move has also boosted the prospects of Mindray, which makes 3,000 ventilators a month. According to an earnings report filed in April 2020, Mindray said orders from Europe increased dramatically.

A company spokesperson revealed that about 100 countries placed orders then, including Italy which purchased the first batch of almost 10,000 pieces of equipment including ventilators and monitors.

Supplying ventilators and other medical equipment at a time when the world badly needed them boosted Mindray’s share price, adding an extra US$5.2 billion to his fortune and taking him up from second place in the 2020 list.

The surge in demand for ventilators has caused the company’s shares to climb 40 per cent amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Since listing in October 2018, the company’s stock has surged by about 320 per cent.

The pandemic turned out to be a watershed moment for the company. Mindray’s shares have doubled since March last year, turning the 30-year-old company into the biggest among China’s 17 publicly listed medical equipment companies.

Mindray’s market value has also grown by US$3.8 billion a month in the past year amid demand for its ventilators.

In April 2020, it was also reported that Mindray has a market capitalisation of US$44 billion.

While Mindray and Li’s net worth has significantly grown during the Covid-19 pandemic, the ventilator boom won’t last forever.

As more societies age, demand will grow for breathing-support devices, but not to match the scale seen during this crisis. That said, sales are bound to drop after the outbreak.

However, it’s worth noting that Mindray isn’t out to just make money off the pandemic. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Mindray donated US$4.6 million worth of medical devices to hospitals in hard-hit areas like Wuhan and northern Italy.

Moving forward, Mindray plans to build more factories especially in China and increase M&A for acquiring advanced technologies in developed countries.

In an interview with South China Morning Post, Li also said that he aims to direct the US$91 billion giant to top three in the global market in the longer term.

Featured Image Credit: South China Morning Post

Also Read: Only in their 20s, these brothers earned S$15M revenue in 6 months with their luxury watch biz

S’pore’s first robot barista to be deployed at 30 MRT stations – can serve up to 200 cups/hour

ella the robotic barista

Crown Digital — the subsidiary of homegrown retail tech startup Crown Technologies — has partnered with Stellar Lifestyle to bring robot baristas serving gourmet coffee to 30 MRT stations across Singapore by the end of 2022.

Formerly called SMRT Commercial, Stellar Lifestyle specialises in property and retail management, media and digital advertising solutions.

Stellar Lifestyle is an existing investor of Crown Digital, participating in its pre-Series A fundraising round.

This newly-inked collaboration is a key part of Stellar Lifestyle’s plans to enhance lifestyle experiences through innovation and the use of technology in the public transport network spaces and beyond.

“We plan to enhance commuters’ experience by enlivening and transforming Singapore’s public transport network spaces with innovative and new-to-network concepts. ELLA is an example of the kind of lifestyle concepts we are actively looking for at MRT stations across the island,” said Tony Heng, president of Stellar Lifestyle.

You can soon order coffee from a robot barista

ella robotic barista
Image Credit: asymmetric via Hardwarezone

Founded in 2018 by former wealth manager and coffee enthusiast Keith Tan, Crown Digital is the company that conceptualised and created ELLA, Singapore’s first robotic barista.

With a retail footprint of less than five square metres, ELLA has a safe, cashless and contactless interface, and is able to serve up to 200 cups of gourmet coffee per hour to commuters.

Commuters can also order their beverages ahead of time via the Crown Digital app and collect the drinks immediately upon arrival at the MRT station.

ELLA’s deployment at the 30 MRT stations is Crown Digital’s second collaboration in a rail network.

In December 2020, Crown Digital secured a major strategic cross-border investment with East Japan Railway Company (JRE), in which ELLA signed an agreement to deploy ELLA for test marketing at JR East’s train stations in Japan.

This collaboration also brought the company to an initial valuation of S$33 million.

“I am particularly proud to be working with Stellar Lifestyle on a second commuter-focused partnership that validates our larger business and vision, bringing high-quality coffee to Singaporeans on the go,” said Keith Tan, CEO of Crown Digital.

“With this strategic investment, Crown Digital has a target addressable market of 1.4 million ridership daily right here in Singapore. We are working to commercialise this unique solution globally and employ high-tech talent locally.”

Featured Image Credit: Crown Digital

Also Read: Crown Technologies’ Robot Barista To Serve Coffee At Japan’s Train Stations – Now Worth S$33M

Only in their 20s, these brothers earned S$15M revenue in 6 months with their luxury watch biz

watch capital jarod joses ng

At the tender ages of 18 and 19, Joses and Jarod Ng started dabbling in the luxury watch industry respectively.

They eventually co-founded Watch Capital, which is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of private investment firm Pallarian Holdings.

Over the past few months since entering the retail segment of the market, Watch Capital has grown rapidly with revenue surpassing S$15 million.

In this interview, the Ng brothers shared with us how they grew the business — which was once a Carousell side hustle — into a seven-figure luxury watch business.

They became bosses in their 20s

After graduating from Raffles Institution, Jarod and Joses both pursued their studies overseas. They went to Concord College in the United Kingdom, and moved on to studying law in Durham University.

Jarod, now 24, has graduated with a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) degree from Durham University, while 22-year-old Joses is still in his final year at the law school.

Jarod now assumes the role of executive chairman and CEO of Pallarian Holdings, in which he is responsible for ensuring the growth of the company.

On the other hand, Joses is serving as the executive director and president of Pallarian Holdings, who oversees the future expansion of the company.

“It all started when we were young. Our dad would bring us along to various watch boutiques and share with us the passion he had for watches. The passion for watches was eventually passed to us,” said Joses.

The brothers pumped in S$50,000 of their savings to kickstart their own luxury watch business, with their dad investing more than S$1 million.

watch capital luxury watch
Watch Capital offers luxury watches from brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe / Image Credit: Millionaire Asia

Founded in September 2020, Watch Capital is the culmination of a shared passion for luxury watches. It specialises in the full spectrum of buying, selling and trading of luxury timepieces, including valuation and polishing services.

Particularly, it sells “rare watches that are hard to get at retail stores.”

Watch Capital stocks a diverse range of luxury watches from over 11 different brands like Rolex, Cartier and Patek Philippe, with prices ranging from S$5,000 to S$149,000.

Going from online to offline

Watch Capital had very humble beginnings as a small-time business on Carousell back in 2018, earning a monthly average revenue of S$80,000.

Platforms such as Carousell and Facebook marketplace or groups enabled us to enter a place whereby individuals are able to conveniently connect and liaise with each other — be it to buy, sell or trade.

The early struggles on trading on these platforms are trust and credibility, as not many individuals are willing to buy such expensive goods off these platforms. Therefore, it took quite some time for our good reviews to build up on Carousell and Facebook.

– Joses Ng, co-founder of Watch Capital

Another problem about dealing online is that they often encounter buyers who ‘ghosted’ on them, or buyers who failed to show up at the stipulated meet-up time and place. They also found it risky to transact watches worth large amounts of money in public.

These prompted them to go from online to offline, and set up a physical showroom. They contemplated hard on it, given the uncertainty of the Covid-19 situation, but “took a leap of faith” anyway.

They ended up opening their first showroom at 111 Somerset at Orchard Road in February 2021.

Watch Capital showroom at Orchard / Image Credit: Millionaire Asia

We decided to open a physical store to better serve our customers so that they would have a proper place and environment to view our watches. We also wanted to take Watch Capital to the next level by opening up a showroom so that we could grow the brand and increase our sales.

Despite launching our showroom in the middle of the pandemic, we were not as worried given our strong clientele base (and digital marketing) prior to the opening, and the increase in individuals buying luxury watches.

– Joses Ng, co-founder of Watch Capital

They refused to disclose where they source their luxury watches from, but shared that they also accept buy-ins and trade-ins.

Watch Capital is now fully profitable and has generated over S$10.5 million in revenue within the first four months of the showroom’s opening.

At the six-month mark, they “managed to reach a revenue of S$15 million”, with about 70 to 80 watches sold a month.

Customers are king

watch capital jarod joses ng
Joses Ng (left) and Jarod Ng (right), co-founders of Watch Capital / Image Credit: Millionaire Asia

Given the impact of Covid-19 on the retail industry, it emphasises the importance of having an online store. However, I still believe that retail stores are something the society is used to having today.

Customers are not only paying for the goods, but the retail experience and customer service, especially when purchasing luxury goods.

– Joses Ng, co-founder of Watch Capital

He added that they place a premium on customer service, and always maintain a “non-judgmental approach” when serving customers.

Investing in a luxury watch is a risky affair, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the choices available, which is why Watch Capital offers personalised consultations.

Moreover, the brothers’ extensive experience as watch enthusiasts and dealers themselves have given them that extra knack for matching unique tastes with the perfect watch.

“Customer service plays a very important role in sustaining a business long term, hence professionalism and service is of utmost priority,” stressed Joses.

With such a strong customer philosophy, it’s no wonder that they have racked up a huge customer base. On Instagram alone, they have gained 13,000 followers (and counting).

Sharing future plans, he revealed that they plan to set up a head office next year and another two showrooms in the coming years to better serve their customers.

Startup feature stories is a key content pillar for Vulcan Post. You can follow our coverage on startups here.

From 1 July 2021, Vulcan Post’s premium articles will be hidden behind a paywall. Subscribers will be able to enjoy exclusive articles with a deeper level of coverage and insight on verticals that include government technology, electric vehicles, cryptocurrency and e-commerce. You can check out our premium articles here and subscribe to us here.

Featured Image Credit: Millionaire Asia

Also Read: 2nd-gen boss: How this 28-year-old helped turn her parents’ shoe biz into a regional brand

Fully vaccinated? How you can ‘notarise’ a digital Covid-19 test certificate for travel

covid-19 travel

Together with the Ministry of Health (MOH), GovTech has developed HealthCerts, a globally interoperable standard for Pre-Departure Test (PDT) results and vaccination certificates to facilitate the safe resumption of travel.

“Not everyone needs to get a HealthCert at this point,” said Barry Lim, Principal Delivery Manager, Agile Consulting and Engineering, Government Digital Services, GovTech.

“It is fundamentally applicable for those who need to travel and have completed their vaccination regime or taken a PDT, for example a Polymerase Chain Reaction, Antigen Rapid, or Serology test.”

Those who need to travel can get their PDT endorsed or get their vaccination certificate issued, prior to travel, through a few simple steps on the HealthCerts is an open-source framework for issuing digital COVID-19 test results certificates that are in line with international standards and the Singapore government’s requirements.

A HealthCert contains a snapshot of one’s medical record. It could either be test result, or a vaccination record.

– Barry Lim, Principal Delivery Manager, Agile Consulting and Engineering, Government Digital Services, GovTech

For the PDTs, they contain information of the type of COVID-19 test that was performed, the medical facility which conducted the test, and the results from the test.

Sample of PDT HealthCert

Vaccination records, as the name suggests, documents the dates, as well as the types of vaccination that had been administered.

Sample of Vaccination HealthCert

How does it work?

Image Credit: GovTech

The use of HealthCerts for digital PDT certificates enables an interoperable, verifiable and tamper-proof solution which will smoothen and expedite check-in processing and customs clearance at foreign and local immigration checkpoints.

Travellers will need to notarise the digital Covid-19 test certificate — which means having the document certified by the Ministry of Health — so it can be recognised at local and overseas airports.

The certificate must be uploaded on .

After successfully getting their HealthCert, the traveller can present it to the relevant authority whenever required, either as a softcopy from their mobile device or a hardcopy print-out, with the QR image clearly displayed.

– Barry Lim, Principal Delivery Manager, Agile Consulting and Engineering, Government Digital Services, GovTech

verify govtech
Screenshot from Verify

Airline and immigration officials can scan the QR code to check the authenticity of the PDT certificate using a tool called Verify, also developed by GovTech.

The platform will be able to check whether the digital certificate was tampered with and whether the certificate has been notarised by MOH.

Both digital PDT and vaccination certificates use the HealthCerts standard, which is secure and tamper-proof. The digital vaccination certificate is intended to be used for travel purposes, but its acceptance is subject to the prevailing entry requirements of the destination country.

Travellers are encouraged to check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MFA) website for the latest travel advisories to other countries/regions, as well as the immigration authority or embassy of the destination country/region on the relevant health requirements imposed on travellers from Singapore.

– Barry Lim, Principal Delivery Manager, Agile Consulting and Engineering, Government Digital Services, GovTech

Your data will remain safe and secure

According to the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO), the individual’s data remains private with the digital test certificate.

Only a hash, or digital fingerprint, of the digital PDT certificate is needed to check the authenticity and validity of the digital PDT certificate.

Only the recipient of the QR code, otherwise known as the requestor, has access to the data and the means to decrypt its contents. Anyone else who has been shared a copy of the QR, may also then verify and view the HealthCert contents.

All electronic storage and transmission of personally identifiable information is secured with appropriate security technologies. Reasonable steps will be taken to securely purge or permanently de-identify the user’s information when it is no longer needed.

– Barry Lim, Principal Delivery Manager, Agile Consulting and Engineering, Government Digital Services, GovTech

In a blog post, he further assured that an individual’s HealthCert data is only shared to the verification party for purposes of verification.

“No third party has access to your personal and medical data,” he added.

Private sector partnerships

“GovTech has open-sourced the HealthCerts standard and technology for other countries to adopt and we have ongoing engagement with several countries,” said Barry.

“It is built on the same framework used for issuance of digital academic certificates in Singapore, known as OpenCerts, which enables cryptographically trustworthy documents that are tamper-proof, thus making them a secure solution for issuance, authentication and verification of certificates without the need for proprietary software or equipment.”

It has also teamed up with private sector partners to develop interoperable solutions.

Any business entity can issue digital certificates compliant with the HealthCerts standard and schema defined by GovTech. The private sector can also integrate HealthCerts into their verification solutions. For example, Affinidi’s Unifier app can verify certificates issued according to the HealthCerts standard.

– Barry Lim, Principal Delivery Manager, Agile Consulting and Engineering, Government Digital Services, GovTech

GovTech is essentially supporting businesses which are interested to hold HealthCerts in their mobile apps. Recipients of HealthCerts are then able to choose the app of choice that best fits their travel needs.

Currently, there are 12 companies authorised to work with clinics to issue certificates following the HealthCerts standard. They are:

  1. 1Pass
  2. 3DCerts
  3. Accredify
  4. AOKpass
  5. Collinson Assistance Service Ltd
  6. Jebhealth
  7. JEDTrade
  8. Kiyo
  9. Knowledge Catalyst
  10. NextID
  11. Riverr
  12. Trybe.ID

Cross-border verification of Covid-19

Following the fairly recent extension to digital vaccination certificates, GovTech is exploring other use cases that support the need for digital authentication and endorsement in tandem with the landscape, and could even be extended beyond the existing medical-related use cases.

Government-to-government agreements need to happen prior to the mutual recognition of digital health documents. The agreements are an indication of the ability to read, trust and recognise the contents of the digital health document.

The Singapore government is closely monitoring international developments on the use of digital vaccination certifications for travel and is in discussions with the International Civil Aviation Organisation and various countries on the mutual recognition of such certifications.

– Barry Lim, Principal Delivery Manager, Agile Consulting and Engineering, Government Digital Services, GovTech

To help more countries with safe travel, GovTech has designed HealthCerts to allow any medical institution to issue it; allow any digital passport to store, view and share HealthCerts; and be verifiable on any platform.

It has also open-sourced the codebase of all components to maximise reach and global interoperability.

To date, over 241,000 PDT and 180,000 vaccination digital certifications have been endorsed and issued respectively.

Featured Image Credit: Getty Images

Also Read: Digital Health Passports Will Allow S’poreans To Travel Safely, But It Comes With Challenges

2nd-gen boss: How this 28-year-old helped turn her parents’ shoe biz into a regional brand

dmk footwear singapore

Homegrown label DMK which specialises in women’s footwear and accessories, first started out as a humble brick-and-mortar store in 2000.

Over the years, it expanded its footprint in Singapore to seven outlets, and has branched out overseas to several markets across Asia.

Today, DMK’s 2nd-generation owners — Eileen and Sophia Goh — have taken over the business to help bring it to greater heights.

On why their parents started a footwear business, Eileen said that her mother developed a bunion when she was 30 years old, and she had trouble finding stylish shoes that were suitable for her wide feet.

“Back then, shoes were either aesthetically pleasing or comfortable — there were no combination of both,” explained Eileen, who is now the company’s Chief Creative Officer.

“As my parents already had experience in the ladies’ footwear industry, they started DMK with the mission to design shoes to help women find fashionable shoes (that are) suitable for wide feet.”

Beyond making it stylish and comfortable, they also wanted to make sure that it’s affordable so it’s “accessible to most women”. This is especially important to Eileen’s mother, who grew up in a poor family.

Today, DMK is focused on creating value for women through two key areas: products and communication.

“We emphasise on designing shoes that are suitable for women, including women with wide feet, without compromising on style. Through two decades’ worth of experience, we have refined our production and design process to ensure that we are consistently able to provide women with shoes that look and feel good, staying true to our brand’s mission.”

“We (also) share and educate our community on many topics ranging from what makes shoes feel comfortable, to how to look and feel good in one’s own skin. We believe that the concept of looking and feeling good should transcend beyond our products and into the entire lifestyle of a woman.”

Joining the family business

Before the Goh sisters joined the business, their parents had actually received an acquisition offer for DMK.

The figure of the acquisition deal was enough to allow them to “retire very comfortably very early on”, but they turned it down because they wanted to pass on the business to their daughters.

Right after graduating university, Eileen made it a point to quickly learn the ropes of the business, but she also had her own personal reasons for wanting to join the business.

Firstly, it’s the sense of responsibility towards what my parents had built for (the past) two decades, and towards the team members who had been part of the brand-building process. We have staff who have been with us for more than a decade, and I wanted to see how I could help to elevate the business and the brand.

Secondly, as a woman myself, I see the value in the products my parents had created. I believe in what the brand represents, which is a revolution of the fashion footwear industry. I believe that a woman deserves to look and feel good in even the most stylish pair of heels, and the idea that “you have to go through pain to look beautiful” for shoes is something that should be changed.

– Eileen Goh, 2nd-generation owner and Chief Creative Officer of DMK

The 28-year-old added that her parents had prepped her to take over the family business from a young age, which was what propelled her to pursue a business degree at the Singapore Management University (SMU).

“The funny thing was, although I majored in marketing and operations at SMU, I first started out learning the ropes of DMK in the design department,” said Eileen, who always had a knack for creativity.

“While (doing that), I also started looking into how we could market the brand through different online platforms beyond just word-of-mouth, which was done previously.”

She shared that one pressing problem they faced in the early days was the lack of brand awareness. Although there was limited competition back then, their advertising options were also limited.

While traditional media like print or television was an option, advertising costs were high and they don’t have advertising results that they could tap on. For instance, the audiences captured were not as defined and were hard to track.

Another way for them to increase brand awareness was to increase store presence regionally, which also required high capital costs.

As such, they strongly leveraged on word-of-mouth advertising, which allowed them to capture more customers at a lower cost.

Thankfully, the brand grew quickly through word-of-mouth because many women who tried the products really liked them and would share them with (fellow women). Hence, despite the high capital costs from expanding our retail stores very quickly within the first few years, it took only about three years to break even.

– Eileen Goh, 2nd-generation owner and Chief Creative Officer of DMK

In 2000, DMK opened their very first boutique at Marina Square and within that same year, it expanded to three boutiques across Singapore. In just three years, they expanded further into five boutiques islandwide.

dmk footwear singapore
DMK boutique in Singapore / Image Credit: DMK

Franchisees soon started approaching them, which led them to branch out into Brunei shortly after. Today, DMK has 12 boutiques across Singapore, Myanmar, Nepal and Brunei.

“The interesting thing is, all our franchisees were actually our customers. They were women who had purchased our shoes, and believe in our products and what the brand represents. Because of their belief in the brand, they reached out to us to be our franchisees for their home country,” shared Eileen.

To date, DMK has also served 2.5 million local customers.

Embarking on a digitalisation journey

When the sisters formally joined the company, the very first thing they did was to embark on business digitalisation.

DMK's e-commerce store
Screenshot of DMK’s e-commerce store / Image Credit: DMK

This includes setting up DMK’s e-commerce platform, revamping their social media pages, and improving on the business efficiencies through digital automations.

The company also went through another phase of rebranding last year.

When Covid-19 hit Singapore last year, DMK was forced to close all of its retail stores during the circuit breaker period. A pause button of sorts had been hit, and Eileen took this downtime to embark on a personal search on the “meaning behind life”.

She spoke to many people to understand how they stayed passionate and found a deeper meaning to their lives.

“For those who are highly passionate, I found a similarity in their stories — their passion was fuelled by their purpose, which always involved some form of giving back to the community. It went beyond the self,” said Eileen.

“Those conversations gave me clarity in finding the meaning in my life, and made me think about how I could add value and give back to the community.”

This prompted her to redefine the brand’s purpose and values during the circuit breaker.

DMK’s main purpose has always been to help women look and feel good — to create a balance in their life, and fashion is just a platform for us to do so. When you think about it, our shoes focus on balancing between the aesthetics and the comfort levels for women.

However, we also wanted to go beyond that and see how the brand can serve as pillars of support for women. This led us to realise that the nature of our products, shoes, are what people wear to support their journey whenever they go out, regardless of every milestone – such as the first job, first interview, first date, first wedding, and even in daily life. What DMK is meant to do is to help women create products that support their roles and milestones.

– Eileen Goh, 2nd-generation owner and Chief Creative Officer of DMK

As they realise that their products must be aligned with a women’s journey every step of the way, DMK now places a stronger focus on other product categories and is delving deeper into product diversification.

Giving back to the women community

Eileen also wanted to see how she could place a focus of their contributions back to the women community to add a deeper meaning behind the brand and in life.

For the first and biggest campaign since their rebranding, they wanted to dive deeper into this idea of “feeling good” and chose to focus on International Women’s Month in March with a ‘self-esteem’ theme, which is one important aspect of looking and feeling good.

Eileen shared that she struggled with self-esteem issues growing up, which even led to self-harm, so this was a campaign that personally resonated to her.

The other highlight of this campaign was to increase awareness about domestic violence and The Star Shelter, a safe haven that supports domestic abuse survivors, including women and children.

To support the cause, DMK donated 38 per cent of the proceeds from the #feelgoodDMK collection for the month of March to The Star Shelter.

“The reason why we wanted to contribute to this cause was because firstly, there was a 22 per cent increase in reported cases of domestic violence during the circuit breaker period,” said Eileen.

“Secondly, when speaking with the personnel at Star Shelter, she mentioned that due to safe distancing measures now, the shelter is looking to expand their space because of a lack of capacity, and they would require funds to do so. We hope that by using our brand as a platform, we can help them to achieve their expansion plans sooner.”

However, they mentioned that it is not a sustainable strategy to keep expanding the shelter. Instead, the ideal scenario is for women to leave domestically violent relationships when they can. Therefore, this campaign hopes to inspire women to strengthen their self-esteem and to walk away from harmful situations.

“This campaign is the first step of the many we will be taking to give back to the women community, that we hope that through utilising our brand as a platform, we will be able to contribute more moving forward.”

Coping with Covid-19 challenges

According to Eileen, one of the key business challenges that they faced during Covid-19 was the fact that their product lines were predominantly focused on workwear.

This means that as people started to work from home, their workwear lines became less relevant.

However, with the new branding and renewed focus on supporting women at every milestone, they managed to quickly pivot their product lines by working directly with their factories.

dmk footwear singapore
DMK shoppers at its boutique / Image Credit: IMDA

Another challenge faced was that prior to Covid-19, DMK primarily focused on brick-and-mortar stores. When the lockdown happened and even during the recent Phase 2 Heightened Alert, it impacted the footfall across all their retail boutiques.

Thankfully, they were able to quickly shift focus to their online store to continue serving customers from the comfort of their homes.

During the circuit breaker period last year, DMK’s online sales increased by five times compared to the same period in the previous year.

Beyond that, during Chinese New Year period in 2021, our online sales tripled compared to the pre-Covid period last year. Covid-19 has accelerated the shift in consumers’ shopping habits, and more people are gradually getting used to making purchases online.

– Eileen Goh, 2nd-generation owner and Chief Creative Officer of DMK

As they witness an e-commerce boom, DMK plans to expand further into the digital space to reach out to more women internationally.

During the pandemic, DMK has also been actively providing complimentary virtual styling workshops for women, which are focused on helping them to create a versatile and functional wardrobe without breaking the bank.

“Although we are a ladies’ fashion footwear brand, we actually research on apparel trends as well because we believe that shoes are meant to be pillars of support to compliment an outfit. Hence, during the styling workshops, we also share apparel tips, on top of (ways on) how to style shoes and understand whether the shoes would feel comfortable for the wearer.”

Additionally, DMK’s expansion plans with their franchisees have been inevitably shelved due to the ever-changing Covid-19 situation.

“I think regardless of the business challenges, the key is the ability to pivot, change and/or adapt quickly to mitigate the challenge,” said Eileen optimistically.

How to stand out in the competitive retail space

When asked to share her thoughts on Singapore’s retail landscape, Eileen shared that she foresees the creation of more brands moving forward, especially with the advent of technology as the barriers to entry become significantly lower.

In order to stand out from the crowd, it’s important to understand what the brand represents in the minds of consumers, and even more important to deliver exceptional value consistently to consumers. Having a consistent, well-thought omni-channel experience is going to be very crucial.

– Eileen Goh, 2nd-generation owner and Chief Creative Officer of DMK

To succeed, technology would have to be at the forefront. However, she stresses on the importance to understand if the technology that’s being adopted will provide actual value for the stakeholders involved.

Hence, understanding the user experience will be very important – not just externally with customers, but internally with the team members who will be adopting the technology.

“AR, VR, and gamification would be some of the key areas to look into for disruption opportunities as well, but it’s very important to do enough research about the consumers to understand the adoption rate and value that will be provided before diving straight into it,” she added.

Many times, as a brand, what we think customers would need might not be what the customers would even want. At the end of the day, customers will have to be at the heart of any technological disruption game plan.

– Eileen Goh, 2nd-generation owner and Chief Creative Officer of DMK

dmk footwear singapore
Image Credit: @aglimpseofrach via DMK’s Facebook page

For now, DMK is focused on revamping their online site to ensure that the look-good-feel-good factor transcends beyond the products and into customers’ experience as well.

“In line with the government’s direction, it will incorporate smarter technology to eliminate pain points when customers make a purchase from our site, while ensuring we are able to keep our workforce lean by improving productivity and efficiency.”

“Some of the solutions we are looking to improve on involve the biggest pain points, such as sizing issues when purchasing shoes, how to automate most processes to reduce reliance on manpower for logistics, and how to improve on the customer experience for a better omni-channel experience.”

She is confident that these solutions will help them take their next step to move into the international market digitally.

Startup feature stories is a key content pillar for Vulcan Post. You can follow our coverage on startups here.

From 1 July 2021, Vulcan Post’s premium articles will be hidden behind a paywall. Subscribers will be able to enjoy exclusive articles with a deeper level of coverage and insight on verticals that include government technology, electric vehicles, cryptocurrency and e-commerce. You can check out our premium articles here and subscribe to us here.

Featured Image Credit: M Malls / DMK

Also Read: Game over in just about two years: What led to the discontinuation of Razer Pay and Card?

Game over in just about two years: What led to the discontinuation of Razer Pay and Card?

razer pay tan min liang

Homegrown gaming tech company Razer announced last Friday that it will be discontinuing its e-wallet service Razer Pay and Razer Card.

All Razer Card beta users will not be able to use the card and payment functionalities from 31 August 2021.

Additionally, Razer Pay’s beta will end on 30 September 2021, after which, all wallet top-up, payment and transfer features will no longer be made available. The Razer Pay app will also be inaccessible from 1 October 2021.

This discontinuation comes as quite a shock, as Razer’s e-payment venture is quite short-lived. Razer Pay launched in Singapore for beta testing in March 2019 (it launched in Malaysia first six months prior), while Razer Card launched in Singapore for beta testing in October 2020.

So what exactly led to the downfall of Razer Pay and Card in just about two years?

Does it appeal to “youth and millennials”?

razer pay
Razer Pay, the e-wallet for youth and millennials / Image Credit: Razer

According to Razer, Razer Pay is an e-wallet app “designed for youth and millennials,” which also makes up their target gaming consumer segment.

With Razer Pay, you can go cashless with an e-wallet that lets you make payment to merchants across the region. You can basically “pay everywhere, transfer funds quickly, and top up cash easily with a single dedicated app,” said Razer.

Razer Card, on the other hand, is the first-ever prepaid card under the Razer brand. All Razer cardholders get to enjoy year-long cashback features for online and physical purchases.

You can use the Razer Card to spend your Razer Pay e-wallet balance at any merchant that accepts VISA, earn rewards and cashback, and track your spending via the Razer Pay app.

You can also use Razer Card to pay for transit rides and pay for purchases overseas with Razer Pay balance, which apparently offers “one of the most competitive exchange rates”.

Users can receive one per cent for purchases made across categories, or up to five per cent on RazerStore and Gold purchases. There is no minimum spend and no capped limit for cashback.

There is also a gamified rewards system on the Razer Pay app. Unlike traditional cards’ loyalty programmes, users can complete tasks, level up, and stand to redeem up to S$2,000 worth of Razer gear and free card upgrades.

The Razer Card benefits are actually quite average, and there’s nothing significant that can help convert users, particularly youths and millennials.

For instance, there are no cashback benefits at F&B and/or entertainment outlets. The one per cent cashback is also a lot less than what other credit cards are offering.

Razer Card 1% cashback for all spend, up to 5% on RazerStore and Gold purchases
Citi SMRT Card 4.7% cashback for groceries and food
HSBC Advance 1.5% cashback on all local spend, up to 3.5% cashback with min spend of $2,000
AMEX True Cashback 3% cashback first 6 months, then 1.5% on all local spend
CIMB World 1.5% to 2% cashback on all local spend
SCB Unlimited 1.5% cashback on all local spend
Singapore cashback credit card comparison

Instead, the Razer Card appeals more to Razer fans due to the increased cashback and rewards for Razer products. It is also not surprising that Razer fans see the card as a physical symbol of their allegiance towards the brand.

Razer Card
Razer Card / Image Credit: Razer

Additionally, we also can’t deny the fact that the Razer Card actually looks good with a minimalist, matte-black aesthetic. The upgraded Standard card in particular, is the world’s first card that lights up on payment.

Razer Pay was “one of the largest e-wallets in Malaysia”

When Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong tweeted about the need for a single e-payment system in Singapore during his 2017 National Day Rally speech, Razer CEO and co-founder Min-Liang Tan gamely took him on.

PM Lee had lamented that while Singapore do have e-payments in place, there are “too many schemes and systems (that make it) inconvenient for consumers and costly for businesses.”

Tan then responded to his tweet, saying that he can get such an “e-payment system rolled out nationwide in 18 months.”

razer pm lee tweet
Screenshot of Min-Liang Tan responding to PM Lee’s tweet

PM Lee then urged him to submit a proposal, which he will study seriously.

And exactly 14 days later, on 7 September 2017, Tan made true on his word and released a snippet of the proposal.

His solution is two-pronged. The first is to provide “ongoing feedback, development and advisory support for a Common E-Payment Framework (CEF)”.

The second is to “spearhead support for an e-payment solution” — either for an existing system such as Alipay, or its new RazerPay.

Razer Pay would essentially be a cloud-based e-wallet using existing Razer Pay technologies, and can take on different forms from a Stored Value Facilities (SVF) card (like an EZ-link) to a mobile wallet app and more.

In order to achieve this, Razer announced its commitment to invest S$10 million as a seed funding for the RazerPay initiative and intended to roll out Razer Pay within 18 months (deadline 1 May 2019) with at least one million e-wallets signed up.

razer pay proposal tweet
Screenshot of Min-Liang Tan’s tweet on the Razer Pay proposal

“We believe [Singapore] will be a phenomenal springboard for the rest of the region’s e-payment evolution,” said Tan.

“To this end, we envisage Singaporeans being able to travel to various countries with SEA and use their e-wallets seamlessly. Imagine not just a cashless Singapore but a cashless world for Singaporeans.”

While Razer strongly harped on its “For Singaporeans, by Singaporeans” vision with an ambition for the e-payment advisory board to be 100 per cent Singaporeans and sought support from the local government, it actually launched Razer Pay in Malaysia first as part of a joint partnership with Berjaya Corporation Berhad.

Within just eight days after launch, Razer Pay acquired over 600,000 sign-ups with 300,000 transactions, on top of being the top free app on both Apple App Store and Google Play Store in Malaysia.

Razer Pay is also accepted as a payment mode online and at over 6,000 major retail and F&B outlets in Malaysia, including Starbucks and 7-Eleven.

razer pay malaysia
Image Credit: Razer

According to the company’s investor presentation interim results 2018, Razer revealed that Razer Pay “handled over US$728 million of total payment value” for the first half of the year.

Then in 2019, Tan said that “Razer Pay is already one of the largest e-wallets in Malaysia and we plan to provide for inter-operability across the border to Singapore in the future.”

Different factors contributed to its downfall

In Singapore, Razer Pay faces strong competition from other players. There are a multitude of e-wallet options here, which generally fall into three categories: bank-owned wallets, non-bank wallets, and multi-currency mobile wallet (such as YouTrip and Revolut).

top e-wallet apps singapore
Image Credit: App Annie, iPrice Group

According to a study by iPrice Group and App Annie Intelligence, the top e-wallet app in Singapore was GrabPay.

Since the fourth quarter of 2017, GrabPay has been dubbed the most commonly used e-wallet app in Singapore. In fact, data by App Annie revealed that Grab consistently obtained the highest monthly active users from 2017 to 2019.

According to Grab’s social impact report, 77 per cent of overall transactions on Grab’s platform was conducted via GrabPay.

Meanwhile, DBS PayLah! app was ranked the second most actively used e-wallet app in Singapore, while Fave — one of the pioneers in the digital payment app sector — was ranked third.

As Singapore pushes forward with cashless payments as a key part of its Smart Nation vision, the local e-wallet landscape has become more saturated as players vie for a slice of the pie, leaving little to no room for new entrants. This makes it harder for Razer Pay to capture market share, which is already dominated by superapp Grab.

Furthermore, Razer Pay sees low usage in Singapore because its e-wallet is not accepted at most, if not all, major merchants.

In March 2019, Razer had named mobile payment company FOMO Pay as its official merchant acquirer.

FOMO Pay, which provides merchants with the technology to accept payment from multiple e-wallets with a single QR code, will accept Razer Pay on its network of 4,000 payment points in Singapore, while helping to add more merchants to the platform.

There’s no information on the entire list of partnering merchants in Singapore, but some of them include Dunkin’ Donuts and Buzz convenience stores.

Meanwhile, GrabPay has onboarded over 4,000 merchants in Singapore, spanning across F&B outlets, fashion retailers, specialised services and more. This includes BreadTalk, LiHo, Subway, Decathlon and Innisfree.

To add on, there is no actual incentive for Razer Pay users to actively use the e-wallet. For GrabPay, users are rewarded with GrabRewards Points, which can be redeemed for vouchers from GrabRewards catalogue or to offset payment for deliveries and in-store purchases.

In contrast, Razer has not done much to push the adoption of Razer Pay. One instance however, is Razer’s national giveaway of five million masks for Singapore residents aged 16 and above.

Scan QR code to redeem Razer mask / Image Credit: Razer

Those who would like to redeem the masks would have to use Razer Pay to verify their identity. The move met with some public criticism, with Tan defending that “it’s not a ploy to get user base.” He further justified the use of Razer Pay as necessary for preventing fraudulent claims of free masks.

Best to fail fast and move on

At the end of the day, it’s definitely a tough choice for Tan to decide to pull the plug at the end of the beta period.

Particularly, its Razer Card has 1,337 beta users and with the “valuable feedback” that these users have provided to Razer, the company said that it looks forward to “innovating the product further for the future.”

It’s unclear if this means Razer will make a comeback with a better product, but what’s clear is that for now, Razer knows it has failed, and they fail fast to move on.

There’s really no point in pumping in more money to scale a venture that has failed to take off.

Razer’s failure to capture its target “youth and millennials” consumer segment, unattractive cashback benefits, stiff competition from other e-wallet players, lack of major merchants, as well as lack of incentive to use their e-payment services are just some of the key factors that has contributed to the sudden shutdown of Razer Pay and Razer Card.

razer fy2020 financial report
Snippet of Razer’s FY2020 financial report / Image Credit: Razer

In its latest financial report for FY2020, Razer announced that it has crossed US$1 billion in revenue and turned profitable.

It is also a cash-rich company, with over US$500 million in its bank. With so much cash on hand, Razer can afford to experiment and dabble in new ventures in an effort to achieve both profitability and growth.

For now, Razer has confirmed that it will be focusing on its B2B business and it’s not giving up on its plan to roll out Razer Youth Bank, despite its failure to win the bid for a digital banking license in Singapore.

Instead, it will be targeting millennials in countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines. Razer Fintech CEO also said that they are also looking at other markets like Europe, the Middle East or Latin America, where regulators are more supportive.

On that note, it’s likely that the gaming giant will continue to grow its financial presence worldwide as it reduces its reliance on revenue from hardware peripherals.

Featured Image Credit: Razer

Also Read: Razer discontinues Razer Pay e-wallet and Card, all payments to be suspended after August 31

PM Lee-approved: 15 S’pore firms and entrepreneurs mentioned in past National Day speeches

national day rally companies entrepreneurs

For the first time since 1966, a National Day Rally (NDR) speech was not given last year due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The NDR is generally considered the most important political speech of the year and provides a platform for the Prime Minister to address the nation and share important policy matters.

It typically outlines the challenges that faced our nation, goals that are being set to transform the country, and the strategies and policies that have been put in place to shape Singapore to what it is today.

Ahead of this year’s speech that will be taking place on August 29, we take a look at NDR speeches over the past five years to recognise some of the local firms and entrepreneurs that have received an honourable mention by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

1. DBS (2019)

dbs bank
Image Credit:

DBS Bank was commended for making great efforts to modernise itself and to adopt technology. For instance, it has introduced video teller machines (VTMs) to allow 24/7 self-assisted banking services.

PM Lee also lauded DBS Bank for being named the best bank in the world. It took the top honour in Global Finance’s World’s Best Banks 2020 awards because it was able to adapt to the sharp rise in demand for digital banking services during the pandemic.

DBS was also Global Finance’s pick for ‘Best Bank in the World’ in 2018, and was named ‘Global Bank of the Year’ by Financial Times publication The Banker in the same year. In 2019, DBS was named ‘World’s Best Bank’ by leading financial publication Euromoney.

The 2020 Global Finance title makes it the third consecutive year that DBS has been honoured with a global Best Bank accolade.

“Most importantly, DBS has been working very hard to retrain its employees. It has shown care and concern for its people, even as it transforms itself. In fact, if they did not share care and concern for its people, it could not have become the best bank in the world. This is the right approach, and I encourage other companies to emulate DBS’ example,” he said.

Over the past decade, the bank has invested heavily in all things digital and created an inclusive and efficient banking culture. These investments are paying off at a time of economic uncertainty and increased credit risks, strengthening the bank’s resilience and helping it step up at a time of heightened customer need.

2. Mencast Marine (2019)

mencast marine
Image Credit: Mencast

It’s not just big companies like DBS that can retrain and upgrade workers; SMEs are doing the same too.

Mencast Marine makes and repairs ship propellers. One of its employees who is in his 60s, has been in the marine industry for over 30 years.

“He used to make ship propellers by hand. First, he crafts a mould out of sand, to create a prototype propeller. He uses this aluminium prototype to make a second mould. Finally, he casts the bronze propeller itself. It is hard work, and requires experience and skill,” said PM Lee.

“Mencast decided to increase productivity by using 3D printers to manufacture the propeller prototypes, but they still valued the experienced eye of their older workers to ensure the quality of the work.”

As such, they are training some of its employees — who are all over 60 years old — to operate the 3D printers.

With the introduction of 3D printers, their work will become safer and easier, and production time will be made faster by a third.

“It’s a win-win-win for the workers, company and the customers too — and that is the way it should be. … I hope more companies will (also) help their older workers remain employable well into their 60s.”

3. Farah Sanwari, founder of Repair Kopitiam (2019)

farah sanwari repair kopitiam
Image Credit: Youth.SG via Twitter

PM Lee talked about mitigating climate change in his 2019 National Day Rally speech.

He noted that Singapore generates a huge amount of waste and to dispose these waste, they often have to be incinerated. This generates more carbon dioxide, so he outlined the need to find a sustainable solution.

That said, he singled out Farah Sanwari, who is passionate about sustainability.

“Farah co-founded Repair Kopitiam a few years ago to teach others how to repair damaged electronic appliances, furniture, toys and clothing. So these items can gain a new lease of life and you can use them longer, instead of being thrown away prematurely,” said PM Lee.

“We need more young Singaporeans to be like Farah — to be problem solvers, innovators, scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs.”

4. Mark Ong, founder of SBTG (2018)

mark ong sbtg
Image Credit: SBTG

In 2018, the National Geographic magazine published a special issue on Singapore: City of Tomorrow, which celebrates ordinary Singaporeans doing extraordinary things and taking the path less traveled, excelling in their own fields.

One of them is Mark Ong, an artist who designs customised sneakers for celebrities and shoe companies under his own brand name SBTG, pronounced “sabotage”.

He has always loved drawing since he was a child, and his journey to being a sneaker artist started when he won an online competition in 2003.

According to PM Lee, he received an order for 72 pairs of sneakers overnight and sold those first pairs for US$300 each. Today, his earlier works sell for thousands of dollars.

5. Darius Cheng, co-founder of and Roshni Mahtani, founder of (2018)

darius cheng and roshni mahtani theAsianparent
Image Credit:

PM Lee dubs this husband-and-wife duo as “digital entrepreneurs”, who run their own respective online businesses.

Darius co-founded property tech firm that connects agents, buyers and sellers not only in Singapore, but in Indonesia too.

Meanwhile, Roshni founded a media company that operates, a website popular among many Singaporean parents with young children.

He cited this couple as one of the many Singaporeans who are “pursuing dreams, breaking new ground and flying our flag high”, proving that passion can indeed be made possible.

6. Michael Ker, third-generation owner of Kway Guan Huat Joo Chiat Popiah (2018)

Michael Ker, third-generation owner of Kway Guan Huat Joo Chiat Popiah
Image Credit: National Heritage Board

Michael Ker gave up his career as a pharmacist to take over his father’s popiah business and carry on his 83-year-old family legacy.

Kway Guan Huat Joo Chiat Popiah has been based in Joo Chiat for more than eight decades, having been started by the third-generation owner’s grandfather as a pushcart hawker business.

Even as Kway Guan Huat is known for its traditional methods and traditional tastes, Michael has innovated to sustain the business, including introducing pandan-flavoured popiah skins and roast duck fillings.

According to PM Lee, Michael traveled the world that year to introduce his popiah and promote Singapore food.

He has collaborated with the Singapore Tourism Board and other corporations to showcase the popiah craft at food festivals worldwide, including in New York, Copenhagen and Dubai.

8. NTUC FairPrice (2017)

ntuc fairprice
Image Credit: FairPrice

PM Lee noted that although e-commerce has been on the rise, retail stores will not disappear if traditional stores and businesses adapt and reinvent themselves.

“Use technology to offer customers more efficient, more convenient service,” he urged.

Businesses have actually been responding to this digitisation shift. In fact, supermarkets have had self-service counters for some time now, but he felt that FairPrice has gone a step further.

“They have opened an unmanned, cashless Cheers store at Nanyang Polytechnic. There is no cashier in this convenience store, no staff at all,” said PM Lee.

“There is a back-end system which tracks the inventory and automatically restocks when the stocks run down. It saves manpower and costs for Cheers, offers convenience and savings for customers.”

He understands that Cheers will be launching more of such stores in Singapore.

8. Syafiq Yussoff, founder of Riverwood (2017)

Syafiq Yussoff, founder of Riverwood
Image Credit: Glints

In his 2017 National Day Rally speech, PM Lee cited Syafiq Yussoff as an example of the “success stories of the Malay community in our new economy.”

Syafiq was a school dropout. He did not finish school and after serving National Service, he worked as a personal trainer. He went on to start up logistics company Riverwood in 2010 with only two vans and four employees.

“Syafiq is aware that the competition in the field is great. But he was determined, worked hard and equally went down the field making deliveries like his employees,” said PM Lee.

“By leveraging technology, Syafiq upgraded his operations. Under his leadership, Riverwood thrived. When Amazon Prime Now started operations in Singapore, Riverwood was selected as its logistics partner.”

That year, Riverwood employs 120 workers and has been growing to date.

9. Gillian Tee, co-founder of Homage (2017)

gillian tee homage
Image Credit: Homage

PM Lee recounted his 2016 trip to San Francisco, where he met some Singaporeans working in the IT industry there.

Many of them were young, and had studied in the United States. After graduating, they started their own businesses or worked in big IT firms in the US. He then shared with them his plans to make Singapore a Smart Nation, and asked them to return to help make it happen.

One of them is Gillian Tee, who is the co-founder of eldertech firm Homage, which provides on-demand caregiving services for seniors.

She had been overseas for 15 years and established a successful startup in San Francisco, but returned to Singapore to help take care of her ageing mother.

“Gillian noticed that there were many seniors like her mother in Singapore, who needed to be taken care of, so (she) co-founded a company (called) Homage,” said PM Lee.

“The company made use of IT to match a pool of caregivers with seniors who needed help. Just as taxi or car apps match drivers with passengers, Homage’s website and app match caregivers who are available with seniors who need their services.”

Essentially, the startup uses IT to match demand with supply, and PM Lee hopes that more companies and government agencies will learn from Homage in using IT to improve lives.

10. Grab (2016)

Image Credit: Bloomberg

Although ride-hailing firm Grab disrupted the taxi industry, commuters are benefiting from it. It offers better service, is more responsive, and is also faster, he noted.

“You open an app, it matches you with the nearest car. The car comes, you can see it coming on your map, picks you up where you are, takes you where you need to go. You tap on the app again, you rate the driver, the driver rates you and you pay. No need to book a cab by phone, no need to hail a cruising cab along the street.”

PM went on to further explain how it works: “They grab data from users. They analyse the travel patters, they adjust the charging to match supply and demand. So if there are lots of people wanting rides, (there are) not enough cars, fares goes up, (and) more drivers turn up.”

He understands that taxi drivers might feel threatened, and in other parts of the word, some drivers have staged protests and blockades. They want the governments to block the new services to protect their existing ways of doing business, but he asserts that this is not the way to go.

If Singapore impose restrictions to protect the old ways, “we will be left behind and out commuters will lose out and our economy will suffer,” he warned.

“Let the commuters enjoy better service, but help the incumbents and especially help the taxi drivers to adapt to the changes. That is what we are doing.”

He added that as the government adjusts the rules to foster fair competition and level the playing field, companies on both sides will have to adapt.

11. Ascent Solutions (2016)

ascent solutions ispot
Image Credit: Ascent Solutions

PM Lee cited logistics firm Ascent Solutions as one small and medium enterprise (SME) that is “doing interesting things in the digital space.”

“In the logistics business, there are two major problems. One, delays in customs clearance because when you go from border to border, somebody wants to look inside your box. And secondly, theft. That means pilferage or maybe the whole container disappears,” he said.

To combat this, Ascent Solutions have come up with a digital solution. They were backed by SPRING and have developed a tracking device and lock called iSpot.

The iSpot is a lock on the container which has a Global Positioning System (GPS) inside. It is secure, tamper-proof and you can be sure that what is inside stays inside and what is outside does not get inside.

This also means that there is no need for the customs officers to inspect the box over and over again. Moreover, the owner can track the box location anytime.

With IE Singapore’s support, Ascent has taken to East Africa and there are more 10,000 iSpots in East Africa.

“From Kenya to Uganda, it used to take 20 days to travel because there are 10 checkpoints to clear along the way. Each time, you wait and may have to grease palms. But now, (there’s) no need to clear customs over and over again because of the tamper-proof lock. In two days, you get there. It is a game-changer.”

12. Luzerne (2016)

luzerne tableware
Image Credit: Luzerne Global

Luzerne is a fine example of a traditional business that have transformed itself and successfully expanded overseas.

This local brand is started by Hiap Huat Holdings. It establishes itself as a trading company importing housewares from primarily China, Japan and Czechoslovakia, growing through export development in nerby regional markets.

The company established Luzerne in 2004, which specialises in designing bespoke tableware. This attracts higher-end clients, leading to increased profits.

“Their clients now include the world’s leading restaurants, hotels and celebrity chefs,” said PM Lee.

13. Fragrance Bak Kwa (2016)

Fragrance Bak Kwa
Image Credit: Fragrance Bak Kwa

Besides overseas expansion, using technology to innovate is also another way to transform a business.

For instance, Fragrance Foodstuff Group is a long-established brand that started in 1969.

“To increase its productivity, it automated part of its production process. Workers used to arrange the marinated meat on bamboo trays, but they now use machines to do so,” said PM Lee.

“But the machines cannot do everything. The bak kwa still needs to be barbecued over charcoal for the best taste.”

Fragrance has also ventured into doing e-commerce and selling their bak kwa online so customers can order if from anywhere in the world, anytime.

“This shows how businesses can use technology to innovate and grow their market,” he summed up.

14. HOPE Technik (2016)

hope technik
Image Credit: HOPE Technik

A company that has been around more than 10 years, HOPE Technik is a homegrown engineering firm that has been making a name for itself.

Some of the things that they have developed include Red Rhinos and Hazmat Control Vehicles for Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). They also make drones and specialised industrial and commercial equipment.

Back in 2012, HOPE Technik actually won a tender by Airbus, beating top engineering firms in the world. Their job was to build a scale model of a spaceplane (a combination of a spaceship and an airplane) for Airbus’ civilian spacecraft programme.

They helped built it, loaded it with sensors, tested it successfully, took it high up in the air, and flew down instrumentally. When spaceplanes eventually become a reality, we can say that a Singaporean firm helped to make this happen, said PM Lee.

Today, HOPE Technik is building autonomous robots used in different settings, including semiconductor plants, logistics warehouses, and hospitals. These robots can navigate themselves, open doors, go around obstacles, and avoid bumping into people.

“HOPE Technik focuses sharply on engineering, which it applies to niche areas. It is able to create opportunities for itself, it is able to find new markets, and it is able to create new jobs for Singaporeans. We must build this sort of new, deep capabilities in every sector, engineering, food manufacturing, logistics, and the government will support companies to do so.”

15. Pranoti Nagarkar and Rishi Israni, co-founders of Zimplistic (2016)

zimplistic rotimatic
Image Credit: Zimplistic

Founded by husband-and-wife team Pranoti Nagarkar and Rishi Israni, Zimplistic is a company that was born out of the original Block 71 startup incubator.

It makes the Rotimatic, the world’s first automatic chapati and roti maker. All you need to do is put in the flour, oil and water; and with a touch of a button, fresh hot chapati and roti will be dispensed one per minute.

This automation helps to remove the laborious, manual work that goes into making chapati.

The Rotimatic was developed by Pranoti, who is a mechanical engineer by training, while Rishi handles the software aspect.

According to PM Lee, the company brought the machine to market with SPRING’s help, which has generated a lot of interest internationally.

Featured Image Credit: SBTG / Bloomberg / Fragrance Bak Kwa / Homage

Also Read: Tackling Asia’s growing demand for eldercare: Gillian Tee, Homage CEO

S’pore startups take almost 7 years on average to grow into unicorns: who are they?

singapore unicorn

Singapore has ranked fourth in the world for how fast its startups turned into unicorns, according to a global ranking by British price comparison website

Singapore currently has six unicorns, and they took an average of six years and 11 months to cross US$1 billion in valuation.

It shares the fourth spot together with United States, which has 378 unicorn companies, and Australia with six unicorn companies.

China tops the list, as 155 of its companies took an average of just five years and 10 months to hit the unicorn status.

Coming in second place is Hong Kong, where they took an average of six years and one month, followed by Japan with six years and three months.

startup to unicorn
Image Credit: Vulcan Post

According to, there are currently only 750 unicorns in the world. also noted that the top-performing sector when it comes to time taken to reach a US$1 billion valuation was auto and transportation, whose 31 unicorns took an average of four years and five months.

Meanwhile, fintech produced the most unicorns with 131 such start-ups, followed by e-commerce and direct-to-consumer firms with 82 unicorns.

Who are S’pore’s unicorns?

singapore unicorns
Image Credit:

Although stated that Singapore is home to six unicorns, listed seven unicorns in Singapore instead.

Out of Singapore’s unicorns, Grab — the leading “super app” in Southeast Asia — has the biggest valuation at US$14.3 billion.

Founded by Harvard graduates Anthony Tan and Tan Hooi-Ling, it has gone beyond being just a ride-hailing app. It now offers various services under its umbrella including food, grocery and parcel delivery, hotel and attractions bookings, as well as financial services like loans, insurance and investment. 

Singapore’s second unicorn is Hyalroute. Founded by Xinglong Huang, it operates a multi-fiber universal connection point that provides the highest values of international network coverage, redundancy, and continuity.

Meanwhile, Trax’s marketing solution enables retailers to increase sales, manage costs and invent new experiences for their customers at all phases of the purchase journey.

The remaining four companies on the list has a joint US$1 billion valuation, and were freshly minted as ‘unicorns’ this year.

Fintech firm NIUM is the latest addition after it raised more than US$200 million in a Series D round led by United States-based Riverwood Capital.

Other notable backers included Temasek, Visa, Vertex Ventures, Beacon Venture Capital and Rocket Capital. Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC also joined the round.

From 1 July 2021, Vulcan Post’s premium articles will be hidden behind a paywall. Subscribers will be able to enjoy exclusive articles with a deeper level of coverage and insight on verticals that include government technology, electric vehicles, cryptocurrency and e-commerce. You can check out our premium articles here and subscribe to us here.

Featured Image Credit: Reuters / PatSnap / Carro / The Economic Times

Also Read: Potential Unicorns: These 5 S’pore-Based Startups Are On Track To A US$1B Valuation In 2021

Chye Seng Huat Hardware founder’s coffee tech firm raises US$1.27M in pre-Series A led by Razer

morning coffee machine

Coffee technology company Morning has recently closed its pre-Series A funding round at US$1.27 million led by zVentures, the corporate venture arm of Razer.

Other notable investors include Singapore-based F&B group The Lo & Behold Group as well as founders of Zendesk-acquired award-winning chat widget, Zopim.

According to the company, this new injection of funds will go towards strengthening its international expansion.

“We’re very excited to have Razer onboard. Both Morning and Razer share a vision for using technology to enable and elevate experiences, and a deep respect for sustainability and environment. We endeavour to draw from Razer’s expertise in hardware and technology to refine and perfect the Morning Machine and ecosystem for our customers,” said Leon Foo, co-founder of Morning.

“zVentures identifies early- stage startups that lend value to the Razer ecosystem and helps nurture them into brands that our customers will appreciate. Coffee is a big part of our everyday lives and we believe that Morning raises the bar for home coffee appreciation through the strategic application of technology,” added Cho Weihao, Investment Director at Razer.

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A successful Kickstarter project

Leon Foo and Andre Chanco, co-founders of Morning
Leon Foo (left) and Andre Chanco (right), co-founders of Morning / Image Credit: Morning

Morning was founded by Leon Foo and Andre Chanco back in 2018.

Prior to Morning, Foo is already a veteran in the coffee industry and has been running his own coffee empire. He is the man behind cafes like Chye Seng Huat Hardware and Papa Palheta, and his company also purveys, roasts and distributes coffee in Singapore and Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Chanco kickstarted his journey with coffee by learning the ropes at Papa Palheta. He returned to Manila in 2013 to open pioneering specialty roaster called Yardstick Coffee.

The duo came together and wanted to turn the spotlight on the coffee capsule landscape to prove that convenience and quality can coexist.

They went on to launch an online marketplace featuring coffee capsules from the world’s most celebrated specialty coffee roasters.

The market demand for coffee capsules is expected to grow beyond US$41 billion by 2021. Alongside a boom in artisanal coffee, we noticed that specialty coffee roasters are increasingly putting their coffees into capsules.

While roasters usually specialise in selling beans to cafes in a B2B forma, capsules — which follows a B2C retail model — are a very different market. It can be logistically challenging for coffee lovers to locate and purchase these elusive capsules. Hence, we saw the opportunity to create the Morning Marketplace to aggregate capsules in one place.

– Andre Chanco, co-founder of Morning

Foo added that capsules are also much easier to work with compared to whole bean coffee. They travel better, have a much longer shelf life, and they also allow roasters to have control over parameters such as grind size and grammage.

They later created the Morning Machine, which is a specialty coffee capsule machine that uses precision-brewing technology and IoT capabilities to elevate the home brewing experience.

Control settings on Morning’s app / Image Credit: Morning

This means that partner roasters can easily set precise recipes and brew ratios.

Morning Machine was first introduced on Kickstarter last year, which quickly reached its fundraising targets in 48 hours.

It subsequently sold out its first production run of 1,000 units within six months and have accumulated another 1,300 units in back orders for their second production run arriving in August. 

In addition, they have also secured distributors in countries like Hong Kong, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Morning’s future plans

The founders said that their long-term vision for Morning is for it to become the go-to brand for all things home coffee brewing.

“Whether it is to shop for the latest coffees and accessories or to learn how to make better coffee at home, Morning should be the trusted brand or resource.”

They also have plans to develop additional hardware or peripherals to complement the Morning ecosystem, as well as existing users and roasters.

Capsule selection on Morning Marketplace / Image Credit: Morning

They are also looking at beefing up their curated selection of coffees and roasters on the Morning Marketplace, and exploring collaborations with bigger lifestyle and hospitality brands.

Ultimately, they also want to venture into retail distribution across the world.

Featured Image Credit: Morning

Also Read: From Papa Palheta To Chye Seng Huat – How This S’porean Built A Coffee Empire From Age 26

Crazy over crystals: How this new-age trend led to the rise of online crystal bizs in S’pore

crystal trend singapore

The use of crystals in human civilisations have been recorded as far back as the ancient Egyptian, Greek and Chinese cultures for protection or repelling evil spirits and nightmares.

However, crystals have greatly evolved over the years, and are now better known to help boost clarity of mind and balance out your inner energy.

Crystals have also become more mainstream as celebrities like Miranda Kerr and Kylie Jenner laud their healing properties, and they are also finding their way into women’s skincare and wellness routines now.

This new-age trend has recently crystallised in Singapore (pun intended) as many crystal businesses emerge online. We spoke to some members of the local crystal community to find out more about this crystal craze.

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Young entrepreneurs are cashing on this crystal craze

Despite the height of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, Shanice Sa decided to venture into starting up her own crystal business in July last year.

Called Soleil Co, it sells all kinds of crystals — from raw forms to towers, spheres, carvings and even accessories.

Soleil Co's crystal collection
Some of Soleil Co’s crystal collection / Image Credit: @shopsoleilco via Instagram

The 23-year-old previously worked at a social media agency while pursuing a degree in communications, but soon quit her job and studies to focus on the business.

Since young, I’ve always had a curious nature, especially in spirituality and energies — things that were beyond this universe. Knowing that crystals have been around for millions of years, and the fact that Mother Nature is able to create something so beautiful blew my mind.

– Shanice Sa, founder of Soleil Co

This sparked an interest for her to learn more about crystals and crystal healing. However, she deems herself to be a rather new crystal enthusiast, as she bought her first crystal only early last year.

She had bought it online because she felt “a little intimidated to step into the (crystal) stores.”

“(Back then), there weren’t many online crystal shops to choose from, so I decided to set up an online store myself to share my joy with like-minded souls and allow them to purchase (crystals) at the comfort of their homes,” she said, cheekily adding that running her own crystal business also meant that she could grow her own collection.

Starting up the business required “a lot of experimenting” for Shanice.

“The main struggle at that point was to find trustable and reputable suppliers. It was like shopping for crystals, but on a larger scale,” she lamented.

Eventually, she managed to source for unique crystals from all over the world, mainly in Brazil, Madagascar, India, Peru and China, which helped kickstart a successful launch for Soleil Co.

She had invested “a low four-figure”, and quickly broke even shortly after the release of their first collection.

“Despite having to balance the need for inventory, logistics and marketing spend, I was truly taken aback by the overwhelming support from the crystal community.”

Jamaine Lim is another young entrepreneur who has jumped onto the crystal trend.

The 22-year-old is a final-year accounting student from the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), and started her own business during her second year of university.

Jamaine Lim, founder of Jam.Stones
Jamaine Lim, founder of Jam.Stones / Image Credit: Jam.Stones

Her mother used to run a crystal retail shop called NewAge FSG together with Jamaine’s cousin back in 2006 at Dhoby Ghaut, and she was inspired to follow in her mum’s footsteps.

“During the circuit breaker (period) in April 2020, the retail business strategy changed drastically and I saw an opportunity to branch out into e-commerce,” said Jamaine.

Describing crystals as “gifts from Mother Nature”, Jamaine started online business Jam.Stones, which specialises in crystal jewellery.

She taps on her family’s network of reliable suppliers to help source for crystals from all over the world.

I feel that crystal jewellery is really unique and meaningful as crystals are formed by Mother Nature and have natural healing properties. The idea of wearing crystals from different parts of the world on your wrist also tells a story,

Crystals have been used since ancient times for their beauty and also for their healing properties. There is an increasing awareness of the benefits of crystals now, and more younger people are harnessing their benefits through incorporating them in their jewellery.

– Jamaine Lim, founder of Jam.Stones

She mainly makes bracelets, earrings and pendants out of traditional crystals, but also added a modern twist by incorporating charms.

Her pool of customers consist mostly of young working adults and young mothers, and she has sold “thousands” of bracelets to date.

Covid-19 serves as both a threat and opportunity

jam.Stones' crystal jewellery
Some of Jam.Stones’ crystal jewellery / Image Credit: @jam.stones via Instagram

Jamaine’s very first product was a half crystal bracelet design.

“A jewellery gift from my boyfriend inspired me to modify full crystal bracelets into half crystal bracelets with modern charms. I was really nervous when I first launched my collection as it was something new in the market. Fortunately, the response was really good and I just kept making more,” she said.

Although the pandemic posed as a challenge for most businesses, Jamaine felt that it gave her fledgling business a boost.

During the circuit breaker, most of us could only shop online. I suppose during that time, many people were looking for solutions to stress and anxieties, or simply looking to improve their careers and relationships, so I’m very thankful for the good start.

When I first started Jam.Stones, I was basically a one-man team overseeing the entire operation. Studying full-time while managing the business was very challenging but rewarding at the same time.

Jamaine Lim, founder of Jam.Stones

Jamaine started out with a very small capital of S$1,000 (savings from her internship salary), and the business quickly broke even in the same year. She added that she has earned an average six-figure revenue from Jam.Stones since inception.

“When I first started, most of my customers were family and friends. Through social media, I was able to reach out to a larger audience and eventually, I was able to set up my own website after three months of running Jam.Stones purely via Instagram.”

“Within four months, we had our very own office and expanded (our) team. Within a year, we had our very own studio where we hold crystal-related workshops.”

Crystal workshop / Image Credit: Jam.Stones

Jamaine explained that she had received multiple crystal bracelet customisation requests, which led to the idea of setting up a studio to conduct crystal-related workshops.

“The studio where we conduct our crystal beading workshops is a platform for participants to view and feel the crystals, while using their creativity to create meaningful crystal jewellery. It’s also a space for me to form personal connections with our customers.”

“Our workshop’s take-up rate is high. Many participants join us to pick up a new skill or hobby during this pandemic but changes in the Covid-19 rules affected our capacity as we had to split the classes into smaller sizes. We run our workshops according to strict rules to ensure the safety of our participants.”

With the recent heightened measures, Jamaine said that her workshops has been seeing a “dip in attendance”, but maintained that their regular customers have remained supportive.

“The business is always changing, but we have to be nimble to adapt to these changes,” she said.

Merging crystals and essential oils

For Venessa Chua, she contracted an autoimmune condition in 2016 and was worried how it would change her life.

“Due to the special nature of auto immune attacks, traditional immune boosters or traditional Chinese medicine are not helpful to me. Hence, I began my own research to understand a little more about how other natural methods can help me alongside my doctor’s treatment plans, which would be a lifelong journey for me.”

“This sparked my interest (in crystals) as I understood healing powers a little better,” said the 33-year-old.

The banker wanted to share her passion for crystals on a small scale, and went on to co-run a side business in 2019. Called Crystal Apothecary, it offers a line of metaphysical products that harness the healing powers of crystals, botanicals and essential oils.

Crystal diffuser and botanical blends / Image Credit: Crystal Apothecary

They started up with about S$5,000 and managed to break even in a year or so, but it was a “very slow start”, she said.

They sold to their circle of family and friends first, before setting up an e-commerce platform on Shopify. When selling online, visually-pleasing product photos are important but she had issues taking nice photographs with the right lighting.

She also needed to ensure that their essential oils were of quality, yet not overspend on them so that customers won’t have to end up paying a hefty price tag. Marketing also had to be consistent, which was a bit of challenge as she was juggling a full-time job and taking care of a newborn.

Heart guasha / Image Credit: Crystal Apothecary

Overcoming the various challenges, they eventually registered Crystal Apothecary as a private company in mid-June 2020 and have also set up an Instagram page to boost their online presence.

“We started to really meticulously account for every single expense when we were preparing for the registration of the company. We are not that into making huge profits, but really to share what we love and we are really happy when we are able to inject positive energy into our customers’ lives.”

From crystal bracelets to display crystals

Celine Ho was formerly a media planner in the advertising industry for the past three years, and have recently made the leap to quit her job last month to focus on her online crystal business.

Called Crystal Mojo, it sells a wide variety of natural and quality crystals, ranging from unique fun shapes (carvings) to spheres, towers, hearts, palm stones and even plates.

Crystal Mojo's crystal collection
Some of Crystal Mojo’s crystal collection / Image Credit: @crystalmojo via Instagram

“At Crystal Mojo, we focus on the authenticity and quality of the crystals we curate. We strive to deliver and educate the beneficial properties of crystals to the masses,” said the 28-year-old.

Back in December 2019, my mom gifted me my first crystals — a rose quartz heart and a garden quartz bracelet. She attended ‘feng shui’ talks at the time and that piqued my interest, so I followed her to some of her classes to learn more about ‘feng shui’ and the benefits of crystals.

I was going through a difficult period at the time, and I honestly felt that crystals helped me through the tough times.

Celine Ho, founder of Crystal Mojo

She added that the crystal trend in Singapore was picking up at the time, so it served as an opportune timing. Moreover, she noted that there wasn’t as much variety compared to what’s available today.

Therefore, she wanted to source for “fun-shaped crystals” herself, which she ended up realising that it was a fun process and wanted to share this joy with others.

Celine sourced for crystals from all over the world, including Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Mexico, Madagascar, India, Peru and South Africa.

“My very first launch was actually a bracelet launch, as I was very interested in DIY-ing my own crystal bracelets. Initial response was slow, with only one to two orders per week,” she said.

“I slowly started to do more customised bracelet orders in the next few months and it built my confidence to branch out into display crystals, which have always been my goal. Working with display crystals was a very different ball game altogether; it required more attention and detail to ensure that every launch was smooth.”

Starting out, Celine spent S$500 on crystal beads alone. Fortunately, the capital required for crystal bracelets was lower and it took her two months to have enough to expand and purchase her first batch of display crystal stocks.

“I started to have more frequent, small launches for display crystals, while taking in two to three bracelet customisation orders per week.”

Instagram is becoming a preferred platform to hawk crystals

Being a Gen Z entrepreneur, it’s not surprising that Shanice taps on social media platforms to create a stronger brand presence online. She uses TikTok to engage with the community, and conducts weekly live sales on Instagram every Monday to showcase their wide array of crystals.

According to Shanice, the amount of money she makes in a month is highly dependent on the number of live sales conducted, how many crystals are being featured in each live sale, and how many actually get sold.

She refused to disclose specific figures, but hinted that it’s a “comfortable amount”, which is why she’s able to pursue it full-time.

Celine also makes use of Instagram Live to boost sales. She conducts a live sale every Sunday night, which gets a modest number of about 40 viewers on average.

Crystal Mojo's customised fortune cat
Crystal Mojo’s customised fortune cat / Image Credit: Crystal Mojo

She added that many customers start out with crystals that can bring prosperity, good fortune and financial abundance, which makes Crystal Mojo’s natural citrine and customised smiley-eyed fortune cat one of their best-selling products.

One spends up to S$150 a week on crystals

Shermane Wong, 26, first started gaining an interest in crystals when she chanced upon an ad on Instagram that featured beautiful pink amethyst towers.

That random ad became a catalyst for her to embark on her crystal collection journey, and has since been on the search for rocks and crystals to dispel negative energy.

crystal collection
Her small crystal collection / Image Credit: Shermane Wong

Each crystal has its own healing properties. For example, black tourmaline and obsidian are known to protect you from negative energy, rose quartz is for all forms of love including self-love, and citrine is for wealth and creativity.

I read somewhere that their molecular vibrations give us good energy when we hold it, so I guess that’s why crystals are claimed to ‘heal’ you. Regardless of whether you believe in its benefits or not, just by looking and holding it, it’ll remind you of the properties and you will act on it accordingly, much like a placebo effect.

For me, crystals are pretty pieces of Earth that I can keep, and its healing properties are a bonus.

– Shermane Wong, crystal collector

Her parents bought her first crystals from a physical store, but the shop owner always converses in Mandarin. The product description and benefits of the crystals are also written in Mandarin, but she wasn’t proficient in that language.

This particular gap made her turn to online avenues, and she now buys the bulk of her crystals from Instagram. She often makes her purchase after browsing a brand’s feed or its Instagram Story/Highlights section.

The social media manager has also joined several crystal livestreams, which typically take place on Friday nights or weekends.

“Livestream sales is pretty fun. You can choose to interact with fellow crystal hobbyists, and you can see the crystals on live feed. You can also request for a free closeup of crystal, the measurements, and discuss with other buyers if the sales item is a good buy,” she said.

I buy a few every week, spending between S$30 and S$150 every week, depending on what’s available. I’m considered a conservative crystal hobbyist — there are people who spend S$150 on just one crystal!

– Shermane Wong, crystal collector

She has spent about S$300 on crystals so far, with her most expensive single purchase costing S$150 to S$160.

crystal collection
A snippet of her dad’s crystal collection / Image Credit: Shermane Wong

Her 54-year-old dad on the other hand, is more “hardcore”. Shermane revealed that her dad also used to bid for crystals at pasar malams (night markets) and that he had started collecting crystals since when he was a kid. He has stopped buying crystals now, but buys crystal accessories like bracelets instead.

“His crystals are not only bigger, but also heavier than my collection,” she joked.

“I think more people are buying crystals because of its accessibility in terms of the platform, and also the language. I’m not sure if more people are buying now because of Covid-19, but I’m starting to see many crystal Instagram shops and hobbyists emerging when the pandemic blew up last year.”

Why do people collect crystals?

crystal soleil co
Different types of crystals / Image Credit: Soleil Co

“Crystal healing has been raved about internationally for quite some time, but it’s only slowly gaining popularity locally as of late. Crystals have personally brought me peace and joy and I’m glad more people are experiencing it too,” said Shanice.

I think people collect crystals for different reasons. Some like them for their aesthetics, and others swear by their healing properties. Especially in this day and age, more than just having a “lucky” crystal, people are looking out for alternative healing methods to cope with their lives.

I believe this stems from the younger generation being more in touch with their emotional needs. Each crystal serves a different purpose or benefit, but they’re all powered by intentions.

– Shanice Sa, founder of Soleil Co

While she’s unsure if this trend will sustain well into the future, she is certain that crystal healing has increasingly become a bigger part of people’s lives.

On the other hand, Venessa is confident that that crystal will be a growing trend as more people have an increased interest to enhance their state of wellbeing, especially due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Crystal Apothecary believes that the right essential oils can help to elevate the crystal’s energy, and their most popular pairing to date are Amethyst and Lavender, as well as Rose Quartz and Geranium. They have also “sold hundreds” of their Poupre Lava Diffuser with Lavender and Peppermint.

Living in a stressful country like Singapore, sometimes we do need a little break and some natural help to keep our spirits up.

I believe there is a huge fan base of crystal collectors that love the energy and have experienced the cleansing power and elevation of energy to improve their lives. For those who are a little skeptical on this, crystals are still gorgeous pieces that could brighten up your desk or home.

– Venessa Chua, co-founder of Crystal Apothecary

Jamaine also agrees that there has been an increased interest in crystals especially during this pandemic, as many people seek solutions to help get them through stress and enhance various aspects of their lives.

“I feel that this interest will continue as many would want to bring balance to their body, mind and spirit and to improve their lives through natural and holistic ways.”

Celine also observed that the popularity of crystals and its properties started booming in Singapore early last year when the Covid-19 situation escalated, and it has been growing ever since.

“The interest and belief in crystals that people have will always be there, and I believe crystals are not just a trend, but a lifestyle or hobby. Coupled with the recent increase in awareness and exposure, the crystal community will continue to grow.”

From 1 July 2021, Vulcan Post’s premium articles will be hidden behind a paywall. Subscribers will be able to enjoy exclusive articles with a deeper level of coverage and insight on verticals that include government technology, electric vehicles, cryptocurrency and e-commerce. You can check out our premium articles here and subscribe to us here.

Featured Image Credit: Jamaine Lim / Crystal Mojo

Also Read: This S’porean invested $500 to start a handcrafted soap business, broke even in just 2 months

TikTok’s S’porean CEO reportedly buying a good class bungalow for S$86M

tiktok ceo gcb

Chinese tech giant TikTok recently appointed Singaporean Chew Shou Zi as its new chief executive officer earlier in May, taking over Kevin Mayer who left the position last year.

Today (July 30), it is reported that he is in the early stage of buying a Good Class Bungalow (GCB) for S$86 million.

He will be redeveloping an existing property on Queen Astrid Park that spans over 31,800 sq ft, which works out to about S$2,700 per sq ft.

This news follows a recent spate of GCB buys from other startup founders. Last month, Ian Ang, the CEO and co-founder of gaming chair manufacturer Secretlab bought two luxury properties in a week worth S$51 million.

The 28-year-old had splashed the cash on a GCB at 27 Olive Road in the Caldecott Hill Estate for S$36 million, and a 7,007 square feet five-bedroom triplex penthouse at Leedon Residence for S$15 million.

Meanwhile, Grab CEO Anthony Tan’s family ‘grabbed’ a good class bungalow near Holland Village for S$40 million and Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan is reported to be in the early stages of buying a GCB in the Bin Tong Park area for S$40 million.[0]=AZXWEfqp0KqHyI1OHvQkkPotMYMrHPDZs3ID_EQwiFcqnC3vodPmJcLyvsdeQJIoeqxuEscnVxx8Y-R9h08ztI4adjykE0qjFYk0opeTKrl-XcFCNPRKHHDK13dF0LegdVwGVkLhLcqi8KgZlb04WtWsQrsy56W3uBPBr7ZaGa6Ybg&__tn__=%2CO*F

These recent property sprees have cemented their status as “ultra high net worth individuals“.

New TikTok CEO has an illustrious career

Image Credit: RTE

The Harvard graduate joined TikTok at a crucial point, which is at the peak of its popularity with about 689 million users globally.

However, he has to manage the political tensions between China and the United States who have growing concerns about data privacy on the app, which gets its popularity largely from being able to predict what users want to see next using its powerful algorithm. 

Chew also has a very illustrious career. One of his first full-time roles was in investment banking at Goldman Sachs. He was there from 2006 to 2008, before joining DST Investment Management, where he was a partner from 2010 to 2015. 

Prior to joining TikTok, he was the chief financial officer (CFO) of Bytedance, TikTok’s parent company, though he served for only three months.

He was also appointed as the CFO of Xiaomi — one of the biggest Chinese smartphone companies — in 2015. He held his role for four years before moving on to being the president of the company’s international business.

During his time, he was able to secure financing from investors and played a huge part in seeing Xiaomi get listed.

Featured Image Credit: Chew Shou Zi via Twitter / Google Map

Also Read: Grab, Razer, Secretlab CEOs’ recent property buys reveal their ultra high net worth standings

S’pore gov’t to work closer with private sector to drive EV ambition: Who is involved?

ev charging

Singapore is charging ahead towards its electric dreams and have rolled out several initiatives and grants to work towards the national plan of phasing out Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles by 2040.

The country’s end goal is to have all vehicles run on cleaner engine in the next two decades.

The key strategies that the government has put in place to support EV transformation included areas like vehicle costs, charging infrastructure and regulations.

It has introduced a slew of grants to incentivise the adoption of EVs for private and commercial vehicles.

Most recently, it introduced an EV Common Charger Grant (ECCG) for existing non-landed private residences to kickstart the expansion of shared charging infrastructure.

The ECCG will co-fund half the installation costs of 2,000 chargers between July 2021 and December 2023, with an overall cap of S$4,000 for each charger.

Beefing up EV charging infrastructure

Under the Singapore Green Plan 2030 (SGP30), the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has laid out a comprehensive EV Roadmap to ramp up efforts for EV adoption.

As prices of EVs become more attractive over the years, the accessibility of charging infrastructure is vital for encouraging EV adoption.

In the EV Roadmap, the government has set a target of 60,000 EV charging points — 40,000 in public carparks and 20,000 in private premises — by 2030, up from the initial 28,000 charging points.

The government is working together with the private sector to achieve this goal.

In fact, LTA has recently concluded a Request For Information (RFI) exercise and is studying the views from industry players on the market structure for developing and operating charging infrastructure. 

Earlier in April, it sought written replies from players in the market on how best to structure electric vehicle charging point tenders. This will affect public carpark charging points, covering critical issues like the pricing of charges to consumers and how charging points will be installed.

It will also take into account the charging points’ operation and the upgrading of infrastructure needed to support them, such as substations and switch rooms.

27 different companies, as seen below, have submitted their responses to LTA.

request for information electric vehicle charging
27 companies participated in the government’s RFI / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

Zooming in on EV providers in Singapore

The EV landscape in Singapore is still quite unsaturated.

Although car-sharing players are abundant in Singapore, BlueSG remains the only leading player for electric car-sharing. However, Singapore startup QIQ Global announced last year that it plans to launch electric microcars for rent.

qiq pods
Rendering of QIQ Pods / Image Credit: QIQ Global

Called the QIQ Pods, they are only 2.4 metres long and 1 metre wide. Currently, the firm already runs e-bike and e-scooter services in Hanoi.

As of August last year, the QIQ Pod has yet to be approved by LTA but the startup plans to roll out 300 to 600 microcars in Punggol.

Electric motorbikes are also still quite niche. Scorpio Electric is Singapore’s first Singapore-built electric motorcycle.

It is the EV brand of Catalist-listed luxury car distributor EuroSports Global, which raised US$6.3 million funding last November.

The startup said that it will use the fresh capital for software and hardware development of its first electric motorcycle, which is slated to be launched this year.

This will include prototypes and pre-production builds that will undergo rigorous quality testing and checks to ensure they adhere to international standards, said Scorpio Electric in a press statement.

Part of the proceeds will also go into completing its headquarters and 3,600 square metre assembly plant at Teban Gardens in Jurong East. This plant is expected to produce up to 8,000 electric motorcycles each year, according to the startup.

Meanwhile, SMRT-owned Strides Transportation signed a one-year partnership with electric motorcycle maker EuroSports Technologies in April 2021 to develop, market and supply smart electric motorbikes.

Under this partnership, Strides will be the sole distributor of commercial electric motorcycles in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific region.

ev players singapore
Map of EV players in Singapore / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

Electric bicycles and scooters on the other hand, have gotten a lot of flak following an increasing number of accidents involving such personal mobility devices (PMDs).

This has led the government to enforce a regulation in which e-scooter and electric bicycle riders have to take mandatory theory tests.

Regardless, there are way more players in this segment compared to electric cars and bikes.

E-scooter startup Beam Mobility recently raised US$26 million in a Series A funding round in June to propel its expansion in the Asia Pacific.

It currently has the largest mobility fleet across the region, with presence in Korea, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Taiwan.

Neuron Mobility is also ramping up its overseas expansion plans. In March, it expanded to Korea with the launch of its e-scooter rental services.

In Australia and New Zealand, the company has already secured new contracts to operate in Canberra and Townsville in Australia, and Dunedin in New Zealand. In the UK, it has also secured contracts in Slough, Newcastle and Sunderland.

Neuron Mobility’s overseas expansion follows a round of fundraising last September, which brought its total Series A funding to US$30.5 million.

Companies from different verticals are battling for a slice of the EV pie

Singapore’s push for EVs has also lured companies from different industries to jump onto the EV bandwagon.

For instance, homegrown electricity retailer iSwitch Energy has acquired up to 12 existing charging stations from Finnish tech firm PlugIT in April, marking its entry into the local EV charging market.

Ultimately, it aims to be a “one-stop green shop” across solar, battery storage and EV charging points

French oil giant TotalEnergies has also recently signed an agreement with French conglomerate Bollore Group to acquire homegrown electric car-sharing firm BlueSG’s EV charging network.

Image Credit: LTA

Called Bluecharge, it is currently Singapore’s largest EV charging network, with 1,500 charging points making up around 85 per cent of the island’s charging points.

This move is in line with oil companies venturing into the EV charging space. In Singapore, both Shell and Caltex offer charging points at selected stations.

Solar energy firm Sunseap has also set up a green mobility business called Charge+. With this new arm, it plans to install 10,000 electric vehicle (EV) charging points islandwide by 2030.

In line with this target, Charge+ aims to install 4,000 EV charging points across 1,200 Singapore condominiums.

According to Charge+ CEO, they have received “overwhelmingly positive response” from the management and residents of many condominiums. Its first partnership is with Sky@Eleven condominium, with six charging points slated to be installed within the premises.

EV drivers living in condominiums that opt to use Charge+’s charging service will pay a fixed monthly fee on a subscription basis, which is a “first-of-its-kind” for EV charging in Singapore.

Under this subscription model, users will be given a certain threshold of energy per month for a monthly fee — this is similar to a telco package with a set number of mobile data capacity per month.

They will benefit from the cost savings from using this service since the monthly charging fee will be about half of what a driver driving a conventional vehicle will typically spend on petrol on a monthly basis.

– Goh Chee Kiong, CEO of Charge+

There’s a need to regulate the EV landscape

LTA will take over the regulation of electric vehicle chargers from the Energy Market Authority, under a new law passed in Parliament on May 11.

This move will see the LTA regulate both EVs and charging infrastructure, which Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Baey Yam Keng said will help push adoption of EVs.

Explaining the change, Mr Baey said: “The current situation is not optimal because while LTA is in charge of developing the charging infrastructure, it does not have oversight of the regulations governing proper installation.”

“Furthermore, no government agency oversees the regulation of non-fixed charging solutions, like battery swapping.”

Under the new law, LTA will lead efforts to review the technical standards and safety precautions relating to EVs. It will set EV charging standards moving forward. Licensed electrical workers will install fixed chargers in compliance with these standards.

Mr Baey said the government is studying other legislative measures like requiring chargers to be installed for new buildings.

National Electric Vehicle Centre
National Electric Vehicle Centre/ Image Credit: LTA

LTA has also set up a National Electric Vehicle Centre (NEVC), which will spearhead the drive to promote wider EV adoption.

In addition to planning for the expansion of the nationwide EV charging infrastructure, NEVC will also lead efforts to review EV regulations and standards and develop a robust EV ecosystem in Singapore.

NEVC will work closely with relevant Government agencies, industry stakeholders and unions to equip our workforce with new capabilities, anchor new EV-related activities in Singapore, and facilitate the safe and innovative development of new EV-related technologies.

A nationwide electric vehicle (EV) charging standard TR25:2016 has also been established for the EV charging system in Singapore.

LTA and EDB, which co-chair the Electro-Mobility Singapore (EMS) taskforce, announced that Type 2 AC and Combo-2 DC charging systems would be adopted as the National Public Charging Standards (NPCS).

In March 2020, as part of Government’s commitment to create a sustainable transport system, LTA and EMA jointly announced the addition of CHAdeMO charging systems as an Optional Public Charging Standards (OPCS) for EV.

This enables providers of EV chargers to bring in a larger range of public charging options for EV users and supports the wider adoption of EVs in Singapore.

Electric vehicles is a key content pillar for Vulcan Post. You can find the rest of our EV coverage here.

From 1 July 2021, Vulcan Post’s premium articles will be hidden behind a paywall. Subscribers will be able to enjoy exclusive articles with a deeper level of coverage and insight on verticals that include government technology, electric vehicles, cryptocurrency and e-commerce. You can check out our premium articles here and subscribe to us here.

Featured Image Credit: Jefferson Tan via Facebook

Also Read: Charging ahead towards its electric dreams: What is S’pore doing to encourage EV adoption?

French oil giant TotalEnergies to acquire BlueSG’s EV charging network for an undisclosed sum

totalenergies bluesg

French oil giant TotalEnergies, which was previously known as Total, will be acquiring homegrown electric car-sharing firm BlueSG’s electric vehicle (EV) charging network for an undisclosed sum.

TotalEnergies said in a media release that it had signed an agreement with French conglomerate Bollore Group — BlueSG’s parent company — to acquire Bluecharge, which it would manage and operate “upon approval of the relevant authorities”.

Bluecharge is currently Singapore’s largest EV charging network, with 1,500 charging points making up around 85 per cent of the island’s charging points.

Following the acquisition, these charging points will be rebranded to TotalEnergies.

TotalEnergies is already installing and operating its EV charge points in several other cities, including Paris, Amsterdam, London and Brussels.

“TotalEnergies is excited to enter the Singapore market to contribute towards the development of cleaner and reliable mobility solutions in the country,” added TotalEnergies’ Asia Pacific and Middle East president of marketing and services.

This marks BlueSG’s second buyover this year

Image Credit: Edgar Su via Reuters

This announcement comes after local transport and engineering firm Goldbell Group announced that it is acquiring BlueSG earlier in February this year.

The acquisition, which is expected to be completed before August 2021, will accelerate BlueSG’s development through its next phase of growth.

It will also further Goldbell’s commitment to fulfilling its vision of becoming a leader in the future mobility landscape for smart cities, according to the company.

BlueSG’s network of EV charging points were subsequently rebranded to Bluecharge in May. 

With the BlueSG acquisition, Goldbell plans to expand its business and technical capabilities with investments of more than S$70 million over the next five years to help turn the company around.

According to the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, BlueSG incurred net losses of S$3.4 million in 2017, S$7.3 million in 2018 and S$9.3 million in 2019.

The investments will include injecting new vehicles into the fleet, the establishment of an R&D centre with a full-fledged BlueSG technology team and the development of new mobility algorithms, analytics and technologies.

Electric vehicles is a key content pillar for Vulcan Post. You can find the rest of our EV coverage here.

From 1 July 2021, Vulcan Post’s premium articles will be hidden behind a paywall. Subscribers will be able to enjoy exclusive articles with a deeper level of coverage and insight on verticals that include government technology, electric vehicles, cryptocurrency and e-commerce. You can check out our premium articles here and subscribe to us here.

Featured Image Credit: TotalEnergies / LTA

Also Read: Racing To The Top: How BlueSG Became The World’s Second Largest Electric Car Sharing Service

Charging ahead towards its electric dreams: What is S’pore doing to encourage EV adoption?

electric vehicle singapore

Singapore has expressed its ambition to phase out internal combustion engine (ICE) cars by 2040 in consecutive Budget announcements last year and this year.

To achieve this goal, the government announced a wide range of measures to accelerate the rate of adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in Singapore.

For starters, the government has nearly tripled its original target of setting up 28,000 charging points to 60,000 by 2030. Out of this figure, 40,000 will be installed in public carparks, and 20,000 in private premises.

To put these numbers into context, there are only about 1,800 public EV chargers as of December 2020. This means that Singapore’s EV charging infrastructure will undergo a massive 30-fold increase within the next decade.

ev ready town singapore
EV-ready towns in Singapore / Image Credit: LTA

In line with this, Singapore is looking to establish eight EV-ready towns in Singapore by 2025. They will be located at Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Choa Chu Kang, Jurong West, Punggol, Queenstown, Sembawang and Tengah.

These eight towns will be fitted with EV chargers, and other towns will also progressively be EV-ready by the 2030s.

Grants to incentivise EV adoption

The government has also rolled out a slew of grants and incentives to increase the adoption of EVs.

Most recently, it introduced an EV Common Charger Grant (ECCG) for existing non-landed private residences to kickstart the expansion of shared charging infrastructure.

The ECCG will co-fund half the installation costs of 2,000 chargers between July 2021 and December 2023, with an overall cap of S$4,000 for each charger.

There are also plenty of other grants for private vehicles and commercial vehicles:

  1. EV Early Adoption Incentive (EEAI)

To encourage the adoption of EVs, the government has launched the EEAI for the next three years, from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2023.

Owners who register fully electric cars will receive a rebate of 45 per cent off the Additional Registration Fees (ARF), with a cap at S$20,000.

This scheme will apply to both individual and fleet vehicle owners, such as taxi and car rental companies.

In Budget 2021, Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that the minimum ARF for electric cars will be lowered from S$5,000 to zero from January 2022 to December 2023.

The EEAI will lower the upfront cost of an EV by an average of 11 per cent and narrow the upfront cost gap between electric and ICE vehicles.

2. Revised road taxes

From 1 January 2022, the road tax brackets of 30-90kW and 90-230kW will be merged and subjected to the road tax formula of the 30-90kW bracket.

This will lead to a reduction of up to 34 per cent in road tax for EVs in the 90-230kW bracket. These changes will also apply to PHEVs that currently pay road tax based on their maximum electric power rating.

3. Vehicle Emissions Scheme (VES)

To promote the adoption of cleaner vehicles and discourage the purchase of more pollutive models, the current VES for new cars, taxis, and imported used cars, will be enhanced with increased rebates and higher surcharges.

The enhanced scheme has taken effect on 1 January 2021, and will last until 31 December 2022.

Vehicle Emissions Scheme
Vehicle Emissions Scheme / Image Credit: One Motoring

From 1 January 2021, the rebates for vehicles in both Bands A1 and A2 will be increased by S$5,000 for cars, S$7,500 for taxis. This means a car in Band A1 will enjoy a S$25,000 rebate instead of S$20,000, and a car in Band A2 will enjoy a S$15,000 rebate instead of S$10,000.

With the enhanced VES, coupled with the EEAI, buyers will be able to enjoy combined cost savings of up to S$45,000 when they purchase a new fully electric car, and up to S$57,500 for a new fully electric taxi.

The higher savings will encourage EV adoption by further narrowing the upfront cost gap between electric cars and their ICE equivalents.

4. Commercial Vehicle Emissions Scheme (CVES)

Band A vehicle owners receive a S$30,000 incentive disbursed annually in equal payment over three years. Meanwhile, Band B vehicle owners will receive an upfront S$10,000 incentive upon vehicle registration.

5. Enhanced Early Turnover Scheme (ETS)

Existing Euro 2/3/4 Cat C diesel vehicle owners will receive both the ETS and CVES incentives if they replace their vehicles with a Euro 6 (or equivalent) LGV classified in Band A or B of the CVEs.

A BEV-based LGV classified in Band A or B of the CVEs will qualify for both the ETS and CVES incentives.

To encourage the shift to cleaner alternatives, owners of HGVs can enjoy the highest incentives if they turn over their existing Cat C diesel vehicle to an HGV that zero tailpipe emissions.

The gov’t is leading by example

sembcorp electric vehicle
Sembcorp’s EV charging hub opening ceremony / Image Credit: S. Iswaran via Facebook

“Over the next two decades, the shift to electric vehicles will gather significant momentum as prices fall, and as a greater variety of models become available. The entire value chain must adapt to this transition – from vehicle sales and engineering, to charging infrastructure and user behaviour,” said Minister for Transport, S. Iswaran at the opening ceremony of Sembwaste’s electric vehicle charging hub last week.

He added that the government has laid out key strategies to support the EV transformation, in areas such as vehicle costs, charging infrastructure and regulations.

The government has vested the Land Transport Authority (LTA) with new statutory functions governing EVs and EV charging, including the setting of technical standards for chargers. These will take effect on 29 July 2021.

A newly-formed National Electric Vehicle Centre (NEVC) will spearhead the drive to promote wider EV adoption.

In addition to planning for the expansion of the nationwide EV charging infrastructure, NEVC will also lead efforts to review EV regulations and standards and develop a robust EV ecosystem in Singapore.

NEVC will work closely with relevant government agencies, industry stakeholders and unions to equip the local workforce with new capabilities, anchor new EV-related activities, and facilitate the safe and innovative development of new EV-related technologies.

The government is also leading by example. Under the GreenGov.SG effort that was recently announced, all new cars procured by the government will be cleaner energy models from 2023 — seven years ahead of the national policy for all new car and taxi registrations to be of cleaner energy models from 2030.

All government cars will also run on cleaner energy by 2035, which is five years ahead of the national EV vehicle by 2040.

Partnership with private sector is key

Minister S. Iswaran stressed that the private sector is a key stakeholder and essential partner in driving EV adoption and expanding the charging network. As such, the government launched last week two new initiatives that will support and partner the private sector to spur EV adoption.

The first is an EV charger regulatory sandbox that will help to foster a pro-innovation regulatory environment.

With the global shift to EVs, the progress of charging technology has accelerated. New charging solutions have emerged, and many fall outside the scope of our national charging standard, which is known as Technical Reference 25 (TR25). 

LTA is leading a comprehensive review of TR25 in partnership with industry players and technical experts, which will be concluded by the end of the year. It will study the potential introduction of standards for newer fixed charging systems, such as high-powered chargers and swappable batteries for electric motorcycles.

“The updated TR25 will help us develop our charging network on a safe and future-ready foundation. Meanwhile, many companies are already making plans to introduce novel charging technologies,” he said.

“Therefore, earlier this month, LTA launched an EV charger regulatory sandbox to accommodate novel technologies that are on track to be included in TR25.”

LTA has been engaging companies to submit specific sandbox applications for case-by-case assessment, and to work out the detailed operating conditions. 

tesla ev charger orchard central
Tesla’s supercharger at Orchard Central / Image Credit: Paul Tan

One example is Tesla’s V3 supercharger, which would be a unique service offering for Tesla owners. With these new superchargers, Tesla expects charging times to drop to around 15 minutes.

The sandbox for Tesla launched last week with three charging points in Orchard Central, and more to come in the next few months.

Secondly, the government will launch a grant scheme to spur the growth of Singapore’s EV charging network. In fact, work on the charging network in public carparks is already underway.

In the coming weeks, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and LTA expect to announce the results of the November 2020 pilot tender for the first 600 or so charging points. 

LTA has also just concluded a Request for Information exercise and is studying the views from industry players on the market structure for developing and operating charging infrastructure. 

Earlier in April, it sought written replies from players in the market on how best to structure electric vehicle charging point tenders. This will affect public carpark charging points, covering critical issues like the pricing of charges to consumers and how charging points will be installed.

It will also take into account the charging points’ operation and the upgrading of infrastructure needed to support them, such as substations and switch rooms.

“As we shift gears and transit into an electrified vehicle landscape, there will be many economic opportunities for our companies and workers,” he said.

“From the incentives announced earlier this year, to the regulatory sandbox for charging solutions and ECCG, we will continue to work in close partnership with businesses on this electrification journey, and bring about a cleaner, greener transport system for the benefit of all Singaporeans.”

Electric vehicles is a key content pillar for Vulcan Post. You can find the rest of our EV coverage here.

From 1 July 2021, Vulcan Post’s premium articles will be hidden behind a paywall. Subscribers will be able to enjoy exclusive articles with a deeper level of coverage and insight on verticals that include government technology, electric vehicles, cryptocurrency and e-commerce. You can check out our premium articles here and subscribe to us here.

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S’pore startup Ninja Van may pursue an IPO in the US next year, at “almost break-even” now

ninja van lai chang wen

Homegrown e-commerce logistics startup Ninja Van might be going public in the United States next year.

Ninja Van CEO Lai Chang Wen told the Financial Times (FT) on Sunday (July 25) that the startup is “a year away” from an initial public offering (IPO).

According to the report, two sources familiar with the matter revealed that the company had approached advisers to start discussions on a listing, most likely in the US.

Ninja Van did not disclose its valuation but one of them claimed that they had passed a US$1 billion (S$1.36 billion) valuation following its US$279 million funding round last year.

The seven-year-old startup is at an almost break-even rate and is targeting profitability in 2022. According to VentureCap data, it posted a US$84.1 million loss in 2019, on the back of US$149.3 million in revenue.

Backed by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s B Capital, Ninja Van’s growth in revenue and orders has surged thanks to an e-commerce boom fuelled by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Its daily shipments has grown from 1 million in May 2020, to 1.7 million in July 2021.

Battling for a slice of the logistics pie

ninja van co-founders
(L-R) Tan Bo Xian, Lai Chang Wen and Shaun Chong, co-founders of Ninja Van / Image Credit: Ninja Van

Founded in 2014, Ninja Van is headquartered in Singapore and is operational in five other regional markets: Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Its IPO plans come as another logistics startup, Lalamove, filed for a US listing in June, but is now said to be weighing an IPO in Hong Kong instead.

The logistics market is getting more saturated as many other companies in the region are making their way into this space, including ride-hailing companies Gojek and Grab, as well as Malaysian airlines AirAsia.

E-commerce companies such as Shopee and Lazada are also ramping up their investments to build their own logistics.

Ninja Van hopes to set itself apart through its extensive delivery networks. Lai said the company’s couriers can deliver to Southeast Asia’s most remote regions, which most competitors cannot access on a large scale. It has used motorcycles, boats, and even water buffaloes to deliver its parcels.

In a past interview with Vulcan Post, Lai placed an emphasis in continuing to finetune their operations through technology in order to always stay one step ahead.

Some of the irons in Ninja Van’s fire include helping current offline-only retailers to increase their online presence, and virtually connecting sales personnel with their customers.

From 1 July 2021, Vulcan Post’s premium articles will be hidden behind a paywall. Subscribers will be able to enjoy exclusive articles with a deeper level of coverage and insight on verticals that include government technology, electric vehicles, cryptocurrency and e-commerce. You can check out our premium articles here and subscribe to us here.

Featured Image Credit: HRM Asia

Also Read: Ninja Van CEO “Worked Like A Dog” To Overcome His Lack Of Experience – Now Dominates SEA