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Celebrating journeys

The Business Times has, over the years, established a special working relationship with SMEs highlighting their struggles and wins. As we mark our 40th anniversary, we also celebrate the journey taken by these companies.


SMALL and medium-sized enterprises are, in many ways, the lifeblood of Singapore’s economy. They make up 99 per cent of all businesses in Singapore, employ 70 per cent of the country’s total workforce and contribute to nearly half of our gross domestic product (GDP).

This series of BT Salutes Enterprise, which will be rolled out over the next three days, is a celebration of their contributions and growth. We bring you interviews with leaders from a wide range of enterprises from all industries ranging from architecture to food and beverage (F&B), and from travel to law firms.

Most of the businesses we speak to in this first instalment of BT Salutes Enterprise are from the property-related fields of architecture, construction, and interior design. But we also speak with jewellery retailer Soo Kee Group, bottled gas distributor Union Energy, and Select Group.

A common theme among companies, whichever stage of growth they are at, is reinvention and entrepreneurship. Whether they are looking to innovation to expand their range of products and services or to geographical expansion to grow their business, these leaders have continued to strive in spite of market conditions.

OCBC Bank, our partner for this series, has also been championing the growth of SMEs. Over 40 per cent of SMEs in Singapore have a banking relationship with OCBC, and more than 50 per cent of new businesses formed every year establish their banking relationship with the bank.

Says Linus Goh, head of global commercial banking at OCBC Bank: "We have been in the business of serving SMEs for over 80 years.

Today, SMEs remain a strategically important focus for OCBC in all of our core markets in Asia. As their banker, many of our SME customers see us as their trusted adviser, partnering them in their entrepreneurial journey and helping them achieve their ambitions at key milestones across the stages of their business life cycle.

"Over the years, we too have tapped our customers as partners to innovate and redefine the services that we offer the SME community so as to remain relevant to their evolving needs, as they build successful and sustainable businesses."

An example of a firm that is succeeding despite today’s volatile market is interior design firm Grandwork Interior. It has been busy expanding in the region - Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines. While they acknowledge that retailers are holding back in Singapore, the brands they have associated with are growing aggressively overseas, and taking Grandwork with them.

The homegrown interior fit-out and furnishing firm’s loyal customers include top designer labels such as Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, and Giorgio Armani. They have also fitted out the interiors of international hotel brands including Four Seasons, Le Meridien, and Crowne Plaza. It is, according to founder and managing director Jay Chiu, focused on the Vietnamese market this year and the Philippines after. The dream says Mr Chiu, is to make Grandwork known in every corner of the globe.

Within these pages, and over the next three days, we will bring you more of such inspiring stories of businesses looking beyond the challenges of the here and now to carve a niche for themselves.

Cover design: Gareth Chung Illustrations: Simon Ang Sub-editor: Lee Kim Siang Photographers: Don Wong, Joseph Nair Advertising sales: Lam Wy-ning 9368-5685; Stella Yeo 9799-9001; Calista Ang 8188-1471; Jonathan Kee 9835-5400; Veronica Chong 8127-8929