Raising the Game
As it plays to be a global city, Singa pore ha s put together a winning hand.
Singaporeans love to tell the tale of how their small island at the tip of the Malayan Peninsula grew from a British colonial outpost and hardscrabble entrep ôt port into Southeast Asia ’s financial and commercial capital . Like the rise of Manhattan to the world’s richest and most cosmopolitan city after its legendary purchase by a 17thcentury Dutch businesman for just $24, the story of Singapore’s emergence as a major trading center and crosroads between East and West has captivated the imagination of visitors , investors and those around the world who sek to emulate the “Lion City.”
How could such a place achieve so much in just two generations? The familiar answer, of course, is that it took leadership — not just from visionaries such as “founding father” Lee Kuan Yew, who served as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, but also from the city’s entrepreneurs and corporate chiefs. Lee, his successors Goh Chok Tong and Lee Hsien Loong and their teams have carefully planned Singapore’s rise to success. They created business partnerships, led the way in developing the domestic market and took government-linked corporations overseas. And when economic conditions deteriorated, such as during the Asian financial crisis of 1997–1998 and the SARS virus outbreak in 2003, Singapore’s leaders quickly regrouped and retooled the economy to ensure the nation would emerge stronger and more resilient.
“Overall,” said Senior Minister Goh in a speech last year, “I would say that we are on the right track to become a truly global city, yet one that is distinct from others because it is a tropical city where the East truly blends with the West in harmony. We need to build on our strengths and make up for our weaknesses,” he said, appealing for continued focus on sustainable development and environmental and ecological preservation. He also called for a focus on Singapore’s architecture and urban design to create what he termed “a city of distinction.”
“This means more than just having a few iconic and fanciful buildings. It means treating the whole city as a piece of artwork where the buildings, roads, gardens and so on are but details on a canvas,” he said.
Singapore’s established and emerging regional and global companies and international investors are all contributing to create a true masterpiece on that large canvas. Consider the achievements of five leading Singapore companies — Pontiac Land, Eu Yan Sang, Ascott Singapore, Amara Holdings and OSIM — and the innovative work of Contact Singapore, the government agency tasked with attracting global talent to work, invest and live in Singapore. Each in its way reflects the growth and progress of the country — and each is contributing to raising Singapore’s game as it bids to become one of the world’s great global cities.
Enriching Singapore's Skyline
Pontiac Land brings artistic touches and attention to detail to its landmark developments.
For over half a century, Pontiac Land Group has contributed to transforming Singapore’s skyline into a showcase of world-class architecture. Within these beautiful, inspirational spaces are a wide range of services and awesome art that are intelligently designed to enrich lives.
The Roy Lichtenstein Sculpture Plaza in Millenia Singapore, for example, is a colorfully comical collection of six sculptures specially commissioned for the open-air plaza. “We believe that powerful works of art can connect people from diverse backgrounds,” says Martina Wong, chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch Singapore. “Having an office in Millenia Tower and being surrounded by world-class art inspires creativity and innovation and resonates very much with our corporate values.”
Among the leading architects that Pontiac Land has engaged are winners of the prestigious Pritzker Prize, architecture’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Its portfolio includes masterpieces by Kevin Roche, Lord Norman Foster, Philip Johnson, Richard Meier, John Burgee, John Portman, Kerry Hill, Paul Rudolph and UNStudio.
“Since we first experienced Millenia Singapore in 1996, over a decade ago, we know we made the right choice,” shares Piyush Gupta, head of ASEAN, Institutional Clients Group, and country officer, Singapore, for Citi, which has offices in Centennial Tower and Millenia Tower. “Being situated within the heart of the city means we have easy access to our clients and are able to serve their needs quickly. We are delighted by the panoramic views of the sea, the wide variety of restaurants, hotels and shops and the unique architecture. And we are also impressed by the professional and dedicated service of the tenant care team.” Dr. Ivor Lim, a consultant plastic surgeon of The Plastic & Hand Surgery at Camden Medical Centre adds, “You know that a lot of thought has been put into creating [these buildings]. From the physical environment — the design of the building, the art and the elegant interiors — to the housekeeping services and tenant progr ams, everything comes together to ensure an enriching experience.”
Pontiac Land is also venturing to Sentosa, Singapore’s premier resort island. The company is developing Capella Singapore, which will be the Asian flagship property of Capella Hotels & Resorts when it opens in the first quarter of 2009. Designed by Foster + Partners, the 111-room ultra luxury hotel ingeniously unifies two 1880 colonial bungalows, which the British military used for grand galas, with stunning modern architecture and world-class sculpture gardens. Capella Singapore will raise the bar of luxury, thoughtful design and warm hospitality in Asia.
Getting The Creative Juices Flowing
Strong leadership and an open culture have turned OSIM into an innovat ive global player.
A visitor entering the headquarters of OSIM International Ltd, located in an industrial district of Singapore, immediately notices its spaciousness. Only about 200 employees work in the modern eight-story building with another 200 manning shops around the island. That is by design. OSIM, the global leader in healthy lifestyle products from massage chairs to weight scales, provides its staff with a range of facilities few other companies do, including a gym and sports center, a cafeteria, a billiards room and a karaoke studio.
“The space we have here is very luxurious,” says Founder and Chief Executive Officer Ron Sim. “You want to build an environment for people to mingle. That’s important if you want to foster openness.” Sim believes that openness is critical to promoting creativity and imagination. “To keep the company innovative and develop leadership within, you have to have a certain corporate culture. You need to get the creative juices of the business going.”
Sim’s prescription for the long-term success of his company mirrors exactly the path that Singapore as a whole is trying to take. Indeed, Sim credits Singapore’s strong government leadership with creating the right platform for businesses like OSIM to prosper. Singapore developed the infrastructure — the airport, seaport and telecommunications network — necessary to stimulate enterprise. “The government has been very proactive in getting the fundamentals right,” he says. “If you have the right government, a lot of things can be planned and executed. That’s a key advantage.”
OSIM is proof that, with the right platform, a nimble, innovative player can conquer the world. The company has 1,100-plus outlets in more than 360 cities across 31 countries. It has made significant inroads in North America, acquiring the GNC and Brookstone retail operations. Like Singapore, OSIM is focusing on building its global brand name. One survey identified OSIM as Asia’s number-one healthy lifestyle brand and most preferred brand of massage chair.
“Building your own brand is an important way to drive new growth,” Sim explains. “But you have to be competitive and productive. It’s not just about chasing new growth. A company has to be lean and efficient.” Sim believes that finding the right talent to drive OSIM’s global ambitions and keep the business agile will be the company’s main challenge in the future.
That will be Singapore’s key to success too. “Singapore is a small country, no threat to anybody,” Sim concludes. “But being a small, young nation has its advantages. Everything can be redefined, restrategized. We can create new platforms.” As OSIM has shown, combining innovation, openness and agility can turn a local lifestyle products company into a world-class brand-name enterprise that is a leader in its niche.
Special Service with the Singapore Soul
Amara Holdings aims to bring its unique brand of top-class hospita lity to the world.
The story of Amara Holdings is essentially the story of Singapore and its blossoming from a rundown port to a multifaceted financial and commercial hub. Started as a building company, Amara eventually branched out into hotels and restaurants and has further extended beyond its contemporary architecture, the Amara Sanctuary offers guests seclusion and special service that few hotels so close to a central business district can match. “We want to evoke a sense of belonging,” Teo explains. “Our brand promise is to deliver an individual experience that is so personal. It really is a big step forward from just being a pure provider of lodging.”
In the various restaurants Amara operates, Teo and his team are also delivering unique experiences to each guest. At the acclaimed Silk Road Restaurant in the group’s flagship Amara Singapore hotel just off Shenton Way, diners sip exotic herbal teas poured with panache by a balletic server. And they can sample authentically spiced traditional dishes from the Silk Road region of China, presented with style in a cool contemporary setting. “What we have created is something fantastic that guests in Singapore have never before discovered,” Teo remarks. “We are constantly looking to introduce new things to the market.”
With the Amara Sanctuary in Sentosa and future hotels in Asia that Amara plans to develop under the brand, Teo is seeking to capture the essence of Singapore — the blending of East and West, the traditional and contemporary — in a natural setting that evokes the local culture. Possible target markets include Japan, China, Vietnam, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
“We are presenting a sophisticated Asian twist to the hospitality business,” says Teo. “We are bringing our Asian hospitality standards — what we excel at doing — to the world stage. Yet we want to create something that has a soul, the soul of Singapore.” Indeed, what Amara’s and Singapore’s other emerging global brands aim to do is precisely what Singapore in general is striving to achieve: marshalling its key competitive advantages and its unique capabilities to carve a lucrative niche in the global market.
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