Speech by SMS Chee Hong Tat at the SFIC Annual Chinese New Year Luncheon

Speech by SMS Chee Hong Tat at the SFIC Annual Chinese New Year Luncheon

Mr Mark Yong, President of the Singapore Furniture Industries Council,

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

1. Good afternoon and happy new year everyone! 新年快乐! Thank you for inviting me to join your annual CNY Luncheon. 


2. The furniture industry is an integral part of Singapore’s retail scene. Many businesses and consumers today have a good appreciation of how the furniture industry can benefit from the use of technology and design to enhance product quality and customer experience. 

3. Beyond Singapore, I am happy to know that our local furniture players have expanded your global footprint to more than 80 countries. Over the last decade , Asia’s share of global expenditure on furniture has doubled, driven largely by the increasing urbanisation and rising affluence. The global furniture industry is expected to continue growing by 5% annually1.  The question for us is this: How can our companies and workers benefit from this growth? 

Capitalising on growth opportunities 

4. As most of the growth is happening in our region, our companies do need to go overseas to be nearer your markets and customers. I have some thoughts to share on internationalisation. First, we need to think beyond what is “made in Singapore”, as it is not possible to be competitive if we do everything here. Riding on our trusted Singapore brand name, companies can extend beyond “made in Singapore” to “made by Singapore” by having part of your operations overseas while keeping your management control and key functions here. 

5. Our companies can also benefit from collaborations with overseas partners, who can offer their unique design and production expertise and help ease the process of entering new markets.  So this is another internationalisation strategy we can adopt, from “Made in Singapore” to “Made by Singapore” and also “Made with Singapore”. 

6. A key success factor to support these strategies is our reputation for being trustworthy and reliable partners, and producing high quality products consistently.  We must continue to protect our hard-earned reputation as it is a valuable asset for Singapore in an increasingly uncertain global environment.  

7. When I visited home-grown furniture company Star International in December last year, I saw how it had put the 3-prong strategy of “Made in Singapore”, “Made by Singapore” and “Made with Singapore” into action. 

8. Through its design capabilities, Star International has built up a reputation for “Made in Singapore” products with modern designs. In particular, it has developed two distinct furniture brands, JotterGoods and Aarticle, in collaboration with local designers and partners offering unique brand propositions to different customer segments in Singapore. 

9. From its design centre and headquarters in Singapore, Star International manufacture its line of products in China and Malaysia. By building strategic partnerships with in-market franchise partners overseas, it has set up stores in China and Malaysia to retail its furniture and furnishing products, complementing its extensive export base of over 35 countries worldwide.

10. I congratulate Mr Richard Koh, Mr Kenny Koh and their team at Star International for their achievements.  More importantly, the company is not resting on its laurels.  Together with their younger generation of management and staff, the company is actively looking for ways to further enhance its productivity and competitiveness, and to increase its overseas presence.  I am sure there are other local companies who are also making such efforts, I wish all of you success in your endeavours and hope you can continue to fly the Singapore flag high when you go overseas.   

SFIC has done good work in advancing its vision for Singapore’s furniture industry

11. SFIC has been a strong and good partner in complementing the Government’s efforts to drive transformation in the furniture industry. In 2017, SFIC embarked on an Industry 2021 Roadmap Exercise to chart its vision for Singapore’s furniture industry “To Be the Asian Hub Influencing Tomorrow’s Urban Living”. 

12. SFIC has worked together with partners such as the DesignSingapore Council to focus on product design and innovation, particularly for urban living products. This will help to develop more local brands which have their own IP to go global. I am pleased that SFIC will be helping more companies build design capabilities through its new Design Innovation Programme, supported through Enterprise Singapore’s Local Enterprise and Association Development (LEAD) Programme. Such collaborations with designers can help our furniture companies to differentiate yourselves from the competition overseas, by having your own local flavour designs. I encourage interested members to discuss with SFIC to find out more. 

13. SFIC has also been proactive in bringing its members together for overseas trade fairs and business missions in ASEAN, China, and Europe. SFIC’s annual International Furniture Fair Singapore helps to anchor Singapore as Asia’s furniture hub by bringing leading international players to Singapore to network and showcase their ideas. The upcoming 2019 edition, with the theme of ‘URBANASIA – the future of urban living’, also underscores the global and forward-looking outlook of the furniture industry here.

Launch of the Service Experience Technology Roadmap

14. Beyond product design, there is also scope for innovation in enhancing customer experiences. As one of the pilot companies for the Retail Job Redesign initiative, Star International has adopted digital systems to improve the efficiency of work processes and upskilling its staff to take on more value added tasks. This is an ongoing journey, as the rapid advancement of digital technologies will continue to create many opportunities for our businesses.

15. Following the Retail Industry Digital Plan (IDP) launched in 2017, IMDA has been working closely with SFIC and other industry stakeholders to develop a digital technology roadmap specifically for furniture retailers. 

16. Today, I am pleased to announce that we are launching this Service Experience Technology Roadmap for the furniture industry! The roadmap offers a range of solutions aimed at improving the online and offline experiences of customers throughout the entire sales process. Furniture retailers can pick and choose the solutions they need to streamline their business processes and enhance their customer service. 

17. To help industry members make the most of the roadmap, SFIC will be conducting workshops to guide industry members on how to use it to plan their digital transformation journeys. This could include making use of data analytics, and helping workers adopt digital solutions.


18. Let me conclude by wishing everyone a prosperous and abundant Year of the Pig!  May the new year bring you good fortune, good health and good business! 恭喜发财,生意兴隆! 
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