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“No day and no night”

Perseverance and ambition are the hallmarks of Lam Kee’s success

Managing director of Lam Kee Mr Chew Kim Koon, surrounded by staff, outside Lam Kee’s premises in Hougang.

Some of Lam Kee’s frozen salmon. Lam Kee distributes its products to 40 countries worldwide.

Lam Kee supplies high-end seafood like lobsters to clients such as SATS Ltd and Marina Bay Sands.

By Joshua Wong

LAM Kee Fisheries, importer, distributor, and exporter of frozen seafood, has successfully reeled in one of this year’s Enterprise 50 (E50) Awards.

This is the first time that the company applied for the award. It found out about the E50 competition through one of its business partners, and decided to give it a shot. Lam Kee is excited about its win. Sam Tan, Deputy General Manager, believes that the award highlights the strength and versatility of the company.

The story of Lam Kee begins in the 1950s. Chew Lam Kee, the company’s founder, was a fisherman in Yishun with 10 children. To make ends meet, he started to fish as well as to farm seafood. His children had to help out in the family business: Chew Kim Koon, the youngest son of Lam Kee and current managing director of the eponymous company, recalls putting out to sea at midnight to fish for prawns and fish when he was in primary school.

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Mr Chew vividly remembers a saying from his father in Teochew: “Life is like fishing: Refine your skills, explore unchartered waters, and lay out your net. Possibly, you will find opportunities that others won’t.”

“We had to work hard,” says Mr Chew. “It was like there was no day and no night.” 

Mr Chew started out fishing and farming crabs with his father, but later transitioned to selling frozen seafood. Photo: Lam Kee Fisheries

Keeping his father’s advice in mind, Mr Chew and his brothers built up the business into what it is today. While the company started out selling live seafood—such as those which can be found in some Chinese restaurants—the management decided to diversify into fresh and frozen seafood as well. In 1974 the company abandoned live seafood altogether and focused its efforts on capturing the frozen seafood market.

The years from the 1950s to the 1990s were fondly known as the “golden era”, in which Lam Kee went from strength to strength and built a solid reputation for itself in the industry. As consumer tastes began to change rapidly at the end of the millennium, Lam Kee stayed ahead of market trends and thereby further cemented its position as a market leader.

Chilean sea bass, or cod fish, one of Lam Kee’s signature premium products. Photo: Lam Kee Fisheries

Lam Kee currently focuses on selling premium seafood products to customers of the likes of SATS Ltd and Marina Bay Sands. Its products include lobsters of various kinds and Chilean sea bass, or cod fish.

“We’re very selective,” says Mr Chew. “Our products are all high-end, high-value.”

With help from SPRING Singapore and International Enterprise Singapore, Lam Kee successfully forged partnerships with foreign companies. It now conducts business in 40 countries worldwide, including China, India, most other Asian countries, and the United States.

Under the astute leadership of Mr Chew, Lam Kee can look forward to reaching ever greater heights in the years ahead.