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Passion is key for this retail player

Mthai's adaptability makes it stand out in the industry, says CEO Jagdev Singh Gill.

"We want our stores to look the best all the time." - Mr Gill.

SOME businesses find success in branching out into different sectors, but Mthai (S) found a favourable outcome by keeping its focus on one area of interest: retail.

One of this year's Enterprise 50 (E50) Awards winners, Mthai is a holding company that oversees the H&M brand in Thailand and Indonesia and is the third company in the world to become a franchise partner of the H&M Group, which usually manages its own businesses and does not appoint other companies to manage its stores worldwide.

Jagdev Singh Gill, founder and CEO of Mthai, states that the company is fully committed to the retail sector.

"We are very passionate in what we do," says Mr Gill in an interview with The Business Times. "We want our stores to look the best all the time."

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Of course, a successful company cannot just run on passion alone. It needs to instil passion in its people as well, another challenge that Mr Gill considers crucial to Mthai's sustainable growth.

Mr Gill shares that Mthai is a people-oriented organisation. It pays attention to putting the right people in the right jobs and looks at how the company can help train and groom them to build up their respective careers.

While Mthai oversees business operations in Thailand, all of its strategic, expansion and commercial teams are based in Singapore. Thus as a business with two international bases, "crossing borders" was a challenge for it.

Mr Gill says that a lot of Singaporean companies often have failed business ventures overseas as they don't have the mindset and patience, believing that everything will run as smoothly as their Singaporean businesses.

Mthai's ability to adapt to the different environments in different countries is what made it stand out from other businesses in the industry, he feels. Remaining open-minded and receptive to new technologies and lifestyle trends help ensure that Mthai keeps up with its standards of speed and quality to remain a market leader.

Besides being the owner of Mthai, Mr Gill is also the founder of Singapore-based Gill Capital, the parent company of Mthai. The 66-year-old father of two also previously owned publicly listed Royal Sporting House.

After selling Royal Sporting House to a Middle-East consortium in 2009, Mr Gill established Gill Capital soon after to explore new ventures and concepts.

As he was unable to return to the fashion business because of a three-year non-compete clause in place when he sold Royal Sporting House, he went into the confectionery sector, becoming the distributor for brands such as Candylicious and Hershey's.

An opportunity arose in 2012 when H&M sought a franchise partner for Thailand and Indonesia, which led to the establishment of Mthai to manage that business.

Given its unique background, Mthai also upholds a very special set of company values by combining the cultures of both Gill Capital and H&M. Some of these key shared values include an entrepreneurial spirit, a love for lifelong learning and leadership that inspires teamwork.

For Mthai, winning the E50 Award not only represents a recognition of the work it has done and its benefits for communities, but also encourages it to pursue its successful expansion and consider other business opportunities.

With regards to Mthai's future plans, Mr Gill believes that there is a big opportunity to grow H&M as a concept and will look at bringing in more brands from the H&M group - such as H&M HOME, Weekday and & Other stories - and expanding them.

For now, Mr Gill is not keen for Mthai to bring in other brands as he thinks that growing the brands within the H&M group is enough to keep them busy for the next few years. "I want to be very focused on what I'm doing and not spread my resources too thin."

When asked if he is seeking to replicate the business success of Royal Sporting House, Mr Gill says that he hopes to, perhaps maybe even take it to a larger scale and make it bigger than the previous businesses he had. He is also looking into expanding into other countries.

As a word of advice to young entrepreneurs, Mr Gill says that they should focus on people and customers in order to grow and succeed, and that those are the two things they need to cherish every day.

He also advises them to start businesses overseas in order to understand other countries and their people better as they cannot expect things to work out the same way as they do in Singapore.

"It is not going to be easy," adds Mr Gill. "It is a fight but you have to learn to be patient."