Proud to be Singaporean
Phua Chu Kang is unashamedly Singaporean and we love him for that. He can bochup and speak Singlish, and he runs the best construction company in Singapore, JB, and some say Batam. But besides Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd, there are other Singaporean companies that make us proud, inventing tools used in every continent, and just being plain awesome.
This list has a whole range of Singaporean companies, from startups gaining international recognition to established companies to companies that had its heyday but are now defunct. For a country that's barely 50, we certainly have much to celebrate.
Singaporean Brands That Will Surprise You
Perhaps the most famous gaming company worldwide, it's strange how so few people know Razer was started by a Singaporean. Tan Min-Liang, the CEO and co-founder of Razer, was a law student at National University of Singapore before starting Razer with Robert Krakoff. Now in charge of Creative Design at Razer, Min-Liang is at the forefront of the global gaming industry.
Singaporeans can compete with the best.
Many Singaporeans think TWG is an atas brand from Europe - and rightly so. TWG outlets look like classy English establishments that angmohs frequent, a far cry from Yakun Kaya Toast or Kopitiam that we know are Singaporean because of how heartlander they are.
And it's not only about the price - TWG makes an effort to appear foreign too, with its French-looking motto "Grands Crus Prestige" and the prominence of "1837" on its logo, which most people assume refers to its date of establishment - if TWG was founded in 1837, then it can't be Singaporean! As it turns out, 1837 is a nod to the year the Chamber of Commerce was founded in Singapore.
But hey, with outlets in Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, China, the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, Indonesia, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Australia, I can't help but feel proud of what a Singaporean company has achieved in just 6 years of operations. Keep doing Singapore proud, good sirs!
3. Banyan Tree
Founded by Singaporean businessman Ho Kwon Ping, Banyan Tree's first resort was opened in Phuket in 1995. Since then, Banyan Tree has grown to be Asia's premier luxury hotel and resort brand. With 30 hotels and resorts in 27 countries, and with aggressive expansion plans for the future, the Banyan Tree brand is set to keep growing.
Started in 2001, Raoul has gained recognition internationally. With stores in MBS and Paragon, Raoul attracts an upmarket customer base, a trait it has carried over to America, when it opened its first in-store retail outlet at Bloomingdale's flagship outlet. Besides having a presence in America, Raoul also has outlets in Europe where both Prince William and Kate Middleton have been spotted wearing its styles!
Look, Jennifer Lawrence wears Raoul, too!
5. World Scientific Publishing Company
Book publishers tend to fly under the radar, unless you're Bloomsbury or Penguin Books. World Scientific Publishing Company publishes non-fiction books, including textbooks used by Ivy League universities like Harvard and Princeton. Counting Nobel Laureates among their regular contributors, World Scientific Publishing Company has made its mark on the world's intellectual elite. Perhaps it's time we recognized their contribution in establishing Singapore as an intellectual powerhouse.
6. Axe Oil
Leung Kai Fook Medical Company holds the unique honor of having a product that's not a household name but a household smell. We all know when Axe Oil is near - the potent smell belies its small bottle. Used for everyday maladies ranging from headaches to stomachaches, Axe Oil left an indelible mark on my childhood. My mother swears by this oil to cure everything. Considering the vintage packaging and Chinese wordings, I always thought Axe Oil was either from China or Hong Kong.
Axe oil has since expanded to cover markets including Vietnam, Myanmar, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Philippines and Turkey. The next time you go on a holiday to one of these places, look out for its distinctive smell!
7. The Patent Holder of The Thumbdrive - Trek 2000 International
You might not have heard of this company, but you would have seen one of its products in the past 24 hours. While there is some debate over who invented the thumbdrive, it is patented to Trek 2000 International, a Singaporean company that also played a huge role in getting it marketed globally in partnership with IBM. Imagine that: the word "thumbdrive", used all over the world, was first come up with in our tiny red dot!
Screenshot from Kickstarter
From a company whose heyday was a decade ago, we now turn to a startup that's been making waves in recent years. In May 2013, Pirate3D launched a Kickstarter campaign, promising contributors an easy-to-use 3D printer at an affordable cost. The campaign was wildly successful, raising US$1.4 million, exceeding the $100,000 target.
Since then, Pirate3D has been working overtime to fulfill their orders which have been delayed due to overwhelming demand. Hopefully Pirate3D will kick on from this and do Singapore proud!
Source: Clive Darra
Recognize these mini capsule speakers? They're small and pretty but pack a heavy bass. The X-Mini Capsule Speakers are designed and manufactured by a Singaporean firm - Xmi Pte Ltd. Headquartered at Neil Road, Xmi Pte Ltd has distribution networks in 80 countries in North America, Latin America, Europe, Middle East, Asia Pacific and Australia. Not bad at all for an idea only conceived in 2006!
Source: Browhaus Browhaus
Eyes are the windows to one’s soul. But you never dismiss the importance of a pleasant set of eyebrows. They are acutely important in framing your face and eyes, emphasizing the delicate features unique to you. Well, that’s what I learnt after my first trip to Browhaus at the tender age of 20. I had to visit Browhaus after discovering that a guy friend had a brow grooming package with them.
Browhaus is a one-stop salon dedicated to perfect your lashes and brows. It was established in 2004, under the wings of Spa Esprit Group, making this exclusive brand 100% Singaporean. It is phenomenal how far Browhaus has gone with outlets in New York City, London, Shanghai, as well as others in the South East Asian region.
The packages here are on the pricier side but at least you know you’re in good hands at Browhaus because they know what they’re doing. I wouldn't entrust my brows to the hands of those working in nondescript heartland “beauty salons”.
OSIM, a behemoth that capitalizes on improving one’s well-being by introducing massage chairs, devices to improve and promote healthy lifestyles, is through and through homegrown. Founder Ron Sim, is prouder than ever having watched OSIM grow since its inception in 1993 with over 850 outlets scattered across more than 111 cities globally over the years.
With superstars like Andy Lau and Lee Min Ho fronting OSIM’s commercials, it is only natural that everyone acknowledges this well-loved global brand to be top tier. After all, OSIM is probably the first brand that pops into your head whenever you think of luxurious massage chairs.
12. Thai Express
Source: Thai Express
Besides heading down to Golden Mile Complex, a.k.a. Singapore’s Little Thailand, for your Thai food fix, you have the option of strutting into one of the many Thai Express outlets that have sprung up all over Singapore. It’s all about convenience these days when everyone is rushing for time. And, of course, decent food that won’t burn a hole in your pocket.
This Singaporean contemporary Thai casual restaurant chain impressively helms the title to the world’s “Largest Chain of Modern Thai Restaurants” in less than a decade since its establishment. Cheers to their sweet success, for not charging exorbitantly even though they could have, and for insisting on serving up only authentic Thai dishes for her diners.
With a name like Akira, you would have been forgiven if you thought it’s Japanese. Akira sounds Singaporean to you meh? All I knew was that their products are priced more competitively than those from “premium” Japanese brands like Toshiba and Mitsubishi Electric. I wouldn't have guessed this homegrown brand’s been around longer than I have been - Akira was founded in 1990!
Akira caters quality yet affordable electrical appliances for the mass-market. Knowing that the people behind the brand considered the fact that not every household out there can afford quality electronic appliances warms my heart.
Source: Jan Loves to Eat
Take your pick from chocolate cakes, cheese cakes, fruit cakes, flans, macarons and even mooncakes! Bakerzin, a French patisserie, has been in the industry since 1998. Fans of Bakerzin can order online through their website now. That added convenience is a bonus for all.
Constantly reinventing themselves and conjuring up new desserts and pastries, they’ve grown from dealing with wholesale restaurant and hotel orders to opening nine outlets within Singapore and five in Indonesia. That’s quite a feat considering the number of independent cafes and bakeries that have sprung up in Singapore in recent years.
15. Skinny Pizza
Source: Gourmet Estorie
Those who love their pizzas but loathe the carbs that come with thick crusts would be familiar with Skinny Pizza. Skinny Pizza is one of the brands under the Spa Esprit Group. Their famous biscuit-thin crisp crust is inspired from a local delicacy - the paper prata. Besides boasting tummy-friendly crusts, they are known for their wide variety of unique toppings like squid ink and truffle mushroom.
Neatly compartmentalized according to their vivid colours are premium quality paper products, notebooks, diaries and stationeries that are wholly lovingly designed and handmade in Singapore. Love their concept of stocking Scandinavian-style products that are pretty, functional, and chic!
Despite having only two outlets in Singapore, Prints has been successful in venturing into overseas markets in Hong Kong, Japan and United Kingdom. Extra brownie points for this amazing company that champions sustainability and eco-friendliness.
Source: Closet Domestic Bunny
It’s been 14 years since the first Breadtalk outlet appeared in Singapore and you’ve had your fair share of their famous Flosss (yes, it's spelled that way) buns that come in both spicy and non-spicy variants. These golden pillows are heaven on earth - you can admit you gobble them up too quickly, disregarding the film of grease that coats your lips each time you sink your teeth into the soft, sweet bun!
Breadtalk’s been on a roll locally and overseas - Singaporean founder George Quek would thank you for being such loyal customers of his massive chain of Japanese-inspired boutique bakeries.
18. Creative Technology
Creative is the most famous Singapore company to have made it to date, absolutely revolutionising the computer audio industry worldwide. Before Creative started marketing its computer soundcards, most computers could only make beeping noises - those of us who played computer games in that era would know what I mean. The fact that we are able to listen to music on our computers today is very much thanks to Creative.
But more than that, it also made its mark in the global scene for its digital entertainment products. Since its inception in 1981, it has produced digital products ranging from soundcards to premium portable media devices, wireless speakers, and earphones.
My first “big ticket” item was a MP3 player from Creative that drained $300 from my savings account! It will always hold a special place in my heart.
19. Charles & Keith
Source: Charles & Keith
Brothers Charles and Keith Wong sure understand women's fetish for shoes and handbags. Give any girl one of these - or better yet both - and you're guaranteed a smile plastered on her face.
Leveraging on women's incessant desire to own stylish shoes and accessories, Charles and Keith opened their first store in 1996 and has more than 350 stores worldwide. This fast fashion brand is famous for stocking chic pieces and updating 20-30 contemporary designs in their stores weekly. For shopaholics more comfortable with shopping in the cyber world, you can browse their catalogue on their official website for added convenience.
Source: Daily Male Models
Slightly more upmarket than Charles & Keith, Pedro stocks timeless footwear and accessories for men and women. I love the minimalist and sophisticated pieces they design! Pedro is a spin-off from Charles & Keith, so that makes this Italian-sounding brand 100% Singaporean. Like its parent company, it has established itself successfully in both local and overseas markets, boasting a total of 75 stores - some as faraway as Morocco and United Arab Emirates!
BONUS: Chin Han
US-based Chin Han is making his name in Hollywood, starring in the $100+ million Netflix production Marco Polo. But for those of us with long memories will remember that before he was Lau in The Dark Knight, Chin Han graced our screens in Masters of the Sea, Singapore's first English drama. That was in 1994 though, and we should be proud that a Singaporean has successfully broken into Hollywood.
Singapore might be only 50, but we've made waves in every major industry - tech, media, fashion, education to name a few. Other countries might think we lack a "proper" culture, but being so young only means that we have incredible potential to grow! There's a #supportlocalsg hashtag going around on Twitter, and it's one you should follow to learn more about our growing culture.
You might find new musicians, fashion labels, or artists with this method. Some might be polished, and others might not, but everyone's gotta start from somewhere - who knows, the unknown label you buy today might be worn by Kate Middleton in 5 years!
Update: Thanks to all the readers who have commented, we added 4 more items to this list.
I can read minds. You will also like:
Co-written by Denise Bay and Chris Soh