HOMEGROWN company Aste Global Pte Ltd, a leading regional supplier for a wide range of marine products, was incorporated in 1996. Its primary focus then was to serve ship chandlers in supplying mainly packings and jointings.
Over the years, Aste Global has increased its product range and service offerings to meet changing market demands as Singapore's port receives more and more ships from round the world.
Now the company serves almost 80 per cent of ship chandlers in Singapore and it has managed to successfully expand its services to various industrial suppliers, hardware shops, oil rigs and marine engineering companies.
With a dynamic force of 22 staff working round the clock to serve its customers, Aste Global strives to improve its services, beginning from initial quotations to the delivery of goods to site.
Aste Global Pte Ltd is a winner in the Distinguished category of the One Asia Awards 2015.
Looking back, Steven Tan Kah Kheng, managing director of the company, says that the company began in 1996 as Ewis Aste Pte Ltd, when a childhood friend approached him to start a company together in a vacant factory his father had.
"I was working as a gland packing salesman at that time and thought that this was a good business opportunity. We both needed to invest S$15,000 but I was unable to fork out that amount and had to take a loan from my partner, which I could only repay after three years. Although the partnership has since dissolved, I am sincerely appreciative of the startup capital and support from my partner," says Mr Tan.
"Today, Aste Global has evolved and grown to become the leading supplier to local ship chandlers, providing a wide range of high-quality products and top-notch services. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary this year, Aste looks forward to our global expansion. We have opened our first overseas branch in Rotterdam last year. Plans for branches in Shanghai and Dubai in the coming years are already underway. In time, we hope to become the leading supplier to ship chandlers worldwide."
Mr Tan says that his company's unwavering dedication to its customers is the reason behind the growth of the company. "They are the forefront of our business and we aim to fulfil all their needs, providing them with nothing less than the best products and services. This pursuit of excellence has earned us the trust of our clients, enabling us to become the preferred choice of ship chandlers in Singapore."
Over the years, the company has diversified its business into other aspects of the marine industry, including that of industrial supplies, hardware shops, oil rigs and marine engineering. With its experience and knowledge in the marine industry, the expansion of the scope of the business will allow the company to serve its customers better.
Mr Tan says that among the key factors for an entrepreneur to be successful is a thorough understanding of the industry. "It is an important factor that is often overlooked by many. Without such expertise, it would be difficult to provide clients with the most suitable products and best services."
Apart from knowledge of the industry, an entrepreneur must also be determined. Starting a business is never easy and there will always be challenging periods. However, it is only when one is able to persevere through these tough times would one be able to succeed, he adds.
It is also important to remember that a company can only succeed when there is a dynamic team of dedicated staff. Gratitude towards the efforts of staff members will also go a long way in the growth of a company.
Mr Tan says he has faced difficulties in his journey as an entrepreneur and has overcome them successfully.
"We are a supplier to many ship chandlers who cater to a variety of vessel types, all of which require their own unique products. In order to provide our clients with the best service, it is important for us to carry a wide range of products and also be competitively priced. However, it was difficult for us to maintain such a huge and diverse inventory, given the amount of storage space needed and the high costs involved.
"This was a challenge we faced but gradually managed to overcome through the continuous efforts of the staff. With the support of all our clients and the hard work of the staff, we have been able to expand our product range and we currently carry approximately 30 household brands, while still guaranteeing our customers low prices."
Mr Tan is confident that winning the One Asia Award will help him to grow his business. "The One Asia Award is a prestigious award and is a recognition of the efforts of our staff in the past 20 years. It strengthens our position as a leading supplier of marine products in the region and also serves as encouragement for our further development.
"The award is an acknowledgement of the high standards of our company, the promise of excellent services and quality products at competitive prices to our customers. As we venture into overseas expansion, the One Asia Award will allow us to better market ourselves as a trusted partner and supplier to ship chandlers worldwide."
On the benefits of participating in entrepreneurship-promoting awards such as the One Asia Award, Mr Tan says that apart from the recognition that the company gains, entrepreneurship awards are a learning opportunity. "The One Asia Awards recognise the top entrepreneurs in the region. It is a great chance to understand and learn from the success stories of other entrepreneurs. Every entrepreneur has a story to tell, and there is always something we can learn from one another. Through such an award, I have been able to gain insight into the experiences of other accomplished entrepreneurs and their companies, which would definitely be beneficial to me in setting the future direction for Aste."
What advice can he give to budding entrepreneurs, especially in view of the slowing global and Singapore economy?
"Bad times in an economy are only part of a normal economic cycle. While the slowing of the global economy may be discouraging to many businesses, it is important that entrepreneurs do not lose hope and continue to work hard. During difficult times, it is important that businesses maintain their good relations with their clients, for it is the continued support of one another in the industry that will allow the sector to thrive and overcome challenging periods.
"The spirit of entrepreneurship is important to the industry and the country, and it is crucial that such an attitude is continued in the next generation. To all aspiring entrepreneurs, I urge you to have confidence in yourselves, and have the courage to pursue your dreams," says Mr Tan.