專訪 | “黑馬”愛力蒙特身世揭秘
Element has come under the spotlight in ceramic industry since the second half of 2021.
In 2021, we saw that a dark horse stood out of the crowd.
Yes, 2021 is the year for Element.
A series of events including the presence of Mr. Banson in the 1st Product Managers Conference in his capacity as Element chief products operation officer on July 19, Element's entry into the core areas of CCIH and CCC, as well as the signatory collaboration with HGH, Stylgraph and Chuanhe Yizhu to advance BDD framework strategically were indeed impressed.
Element was founded in 2017. But for the first three or four years, Element stayed at a low-laying working style. Chinachina.net didn't found it until this year that with the distribution platform of "Import & Superior Domestic Ceramic Tiles", Element has established over 100 outlets across China so far.
It's believed that the entry of Trend Hub—a 10million invested headquarters showroom into CCIH will help grow the fanbase of Element both in and out of the ceramic industry.
So what is this Sino-Singapore Element? What are the stories of Hafary Group behind? In the interview today, Mr. Low Kok Ann, Chairman of Hafary SGP, will tell us all about them.
Interviewer｜Liu Xiaoming, Chief Editor of Chinachina.Net
Interviewee｜Mr.Low Kok Ann, Chairman of Hafary Sgp
40 Years Dedication in Global Market
HAFARY Remains The Top Building Material Company in Singapore
Mr. Liu: Today is the first very special day since the inception of our show. We are glad to have this virtual talk with Mr. Low, Chairman of HAFARY SGP—the top building material company in Singapore. Welcome, Mr. Low.
Mr. Low: It's also my first interview (laughter).
Mr. Liu: In today's interview, we will raise some questions. First of all, Mr. Low, could you please tell us something about HAFARY, including the business, and market share in Singapore.
Mr. Low: Yes, sure. Despite that we are not that big in Singapore, but we do take up a certain share.
HAFARY was founded in 1980 mainly specializing in ceramic tiles. At present, there are six showrooms in Singapore, with a total area of about 7,000m2, and five main warehouses covering 750,000m2.
In addition, we have a marble processing factory. Next we will upgrade all the equipment. We have also recently purchased a warehouse, part of which is used as a processing factory.
Going forward, we will expand our line-up to include marble and wood.
The business focuses on three areas: retail, government engineering and private engineering. Among them, retail accounts for 65-70% and Engineering (government and private) takes up 30-35%.
As for engineering, in fact, HAFARY has also become a supplier to several major developers in Singapore's construction industry after years of robust progress. Especially in Singapore Road Construction Bureau, we take up 60% of the entire government projects.
Mr. Liu: Is HAFARY a listed company in Singapore?
Mr. Low: Yes. It has been 12 years since it was listed in 2009.
Mr. Liu: Your ceramic tiles business mainly target to the Singapore market or SEA market as a whole?
Mr. Low: we've been operating globally. As early as 2012, we started our cooperation with a partner in Vietnam which is also our best overseas market at present. Later, we successively reached out to Myanmar in 2014 and China in 2017, and established a joint venture with ELEMENT China team.
Full Engagement In Large Format / Sintered Stone
Rely On Marble Processing Plant
Mr. Liu: As a Singapore-based building materials distributor, your business model should be different from that in China. Can you tell us about your business model?
Mr. Low: there are some differences between our business model and most building materials sellers in China.
Certain condition is required to establish a building materials company, including having our own raw materials, storage and showroom.
Our business model is also very simple. Because Singapore market is not that big, we do not need to create a large distribution network like Chinese building materials manufacturers. Therefore, after opening the store, we focus on setting up exclusive departments according to different channel groups. For example, there are people who are especially responsible for government projects and private apartments, villas and other projects.
Mr. Liu: Do you also work on the experience room? Or just only material display?
Mr. Low: We also need some experience rooms. The largest showroom of our head office is designed in two floors, with the first floor taking up 22,500 square feet.
The second floor has just been decorated, and it is beautiful enough to be a big hit in Singapore. The third floors is mainly about large format tiles. At present, the largest spec is 3200x1600mm.
Mr. Liu: Are those big slabs mainly used for ground and wall paving, or will they also be used at home furnishing to make countertops or furniture plates?
Mr. Low: Yes. The house area in Singapore is not very large. Large format tiles are usually used in commercial space and large villas which is called high-quality western-style house. Only those large-area houses require big slabs.
Mr. Liu: You have a marble processing factory. Large format tile and marble are processed together, right?
Mr. Low: Yes, our marble processing plant has large-scale processing capacity, which is able to process all large format tiles, ceramic tiles and marble. At present, 3200×1600mm is our largest processing specification. With our previous experience in marble processing, we also have a stronger backing for the development of large format tile. The large format tile in our renewed showroom is used as a key display to attract more high-end customers.
Mr. Liu: Stone material company usually has strong process capability. You have any idea about building processing factory in china to deliver better big slabs and better large format tile for home decor?
Mr. Low: actually, this is what we do next. We will transfer our experience in stone processing to ELEMENT.
Sino-Singapore Alliance to Enhance Mutual Strength
Mr. Liu: Just now you mentioned the establishment of ELEMENT. Why establish ELEMENT in China? What led to this decision? How did you get acquainted with Mr Banson of ELEMENT?
Mr. Low: ELEMENT was founded in 2017.
The connection with Banson and the establishment of ELEMENT China are also based on many considerations. On one hand, Banson is very experienced in ceramic distribution. The other is, after a long time of contact and communication, we all believe that Banson is a responsible idealist. We share the same ideas. Moreover, Banson's team is very efficient in product development. Backed by our own brand, we joined hands to create a company, which is a strong alliance that will goes from strength to strength for each other.
For example, if Singapore needs any new product, Banson's team work on it and tend to the projects we entrust them in China.
Mr. Liu: Do you mean that some products developed by ELEMENT team are delivered to Singapore?
Mr. Low: Yes. Of course, our sales team will also give feedback to ELEMENT based on the needs of the Singapore market, so that they can head towards the right direction combined with the information given. We also share with ELEMENT team on the trendy products in Italy.
Mr. Liu: Will you hand over the project you take in China to ELEMENT?
Mr. Low: Hap Seng Consolidated Berhad, our shareholder based in Malaysia is a reputational listed enterprise with six core businesses spanning from planting, real estate investment and development, finance and credit to automobile, trade and building materials. Lei Shing Hong Limited is one of its brands. And many of its property projects in China will be gradually taken over by ELEMENT. So there is a large market to be developed.
Mr. Liu: Right now ELEMENT adopts a business framework of imported ceramics platform + domestic products. Is that true?
Mr. Low: Yes, it's a distribution platform of imported + high-quality domestic ceramic tiles. One of our directors are well-informed the trends in Italy. Thanks to our connections with factories, we are able to provide ELEMENT with whatever supply chains and resources it requires. Many Italian factories have agreed to make products for us exclusively. So, from this perspective, Italian factories provide robust strength.
Mr. Liu: Such strength is very important. A brand with abundant resources globally will be much stronger than others.
Based On Chinese Market
Globalize Our Esthetically Quality Products
Mr. Liu: what do you expect from ELEMENT in next phase after its progress made in these years? Or what brand you want to build ELEMENT into while making your market strategies in China?
Mr. Low: in recent years, ELEMENT grow strongly in both sales and branding. At present, there are nearly 100 sales terminal outlets, which build up its reputation in ceramic industry.
In the long run, ELEMENT will continue to deliver esthetically quality products for our consumers based on its development capacity provided by the team. So it's our original aspiration and vision of moving forward from Chinese market to high-quality and even global market that drive our cooperation and branding.
Mr. Liu: So you mean that ELEMENT will target to both china and other countries, right?
Mr. Low: Yes, the Chinese market is our foundation. Our next step is to find ways into global market by well-positioned strategies.
Mr. Liu: This international brand mainly sells Chinese ceramic tiles?
Mr. Low: Yes, and it focuses on high-end product distribution. I believe selling products at a lower price than other is meaningless. To sustain our business, we must focus on something with high added value. This is what Banson and I are working on.
Mr. Liu: When it comes to products, Banson is an excellent product manager in my impression. He knows everything about products. He has managed to find his niche in Chinese market and make his name in terms of product/market life cycle control to development /quality assurance. And ELEMENT remains dedicated to high-end market.
Mr. Low: Yes. The most important thing for the progress of a company is talent. Years of communication and cooperation allow us to witness the dedication and solidarity of our youthful ELEMENT team. We believe Banson will help ELEMENT to move forward along its scheduled plan.
Mr. Liu: The pandemic has wreaked havoc for 2 years. What's your expectation on Chinese market? Have your ever changed your perception about the market especially in recent 2 years?
Mr. Low: of course, there will be changes in post-pandemic era. It's a matter of life and death for many businesses. But still some enterprises seize the opportunities and grow bigger and stronger. In fact, in the final analysis, this is the so-called "survival of the fittest".
I am still very optimistic about the Chinese market and our cooperative company ELEMENT. After all, China has a huge population and resilient domestic market.
Mr. Liu: Therefore, you should amplify the ability of HAFARY in Chinese market to further enhance your capacity in global market for the long run.
Mr. Low: We are very optimistic about the Chinese market.
Mr. Liu: Finally, can you introduce your engagemet in building materials in the past 40 years?
Mr. Low: I started my career in the building materials industry in the 1980s. It can be said that I have witnessed the history of how modern ceramic tiles gain their popularity. For example, in 1980s, Italian small format tiles were the dominating trend; in 1990s, Spanish market was the mainstream. China didn't take up much market share until the year of 2000, especially after 2003. This is also an important opportunity for us to occupy the Chinese market.
However, at that time, Chinese ceramic tiles were still in its infancy and the quality was not guaranteed. Back then, in order to find some high-quality manufacturers, we came to China for investigation and selection for many times. Finally, we selected some better factories and carried out long-term cooperation.
Most products sold now in Singapore are made in China.
Mr. Liu: Were you born, raised and studied in Singapore?
Mr. Low: I was born and raised in China. I came to Singapore in 1959 when I was about 10 years old.
Mr. Liu: When were you born?
Mr. Low: It's a secret. Sorry that I can't tell you (laugh). When people raised that question, I would say:" well, I'm 50 years old." That's it, anyway.
Mr. Liu: Staying young at heart in very important. Do you usually communicate with customers? Will you go to the terminal market to connect with consumers in Singapore?
Mr. Low: Now I mainly stay contact with some old consumers and friends. Our teams will manage the match-making issues with others. Nowadays ceramics are iterating at fast pace. Younger generations are better at coping with those changes and operations.
Mr. Liu: It takes times to build a brand or develop a youth team. Your 40-year experience will definitely empower and sustain the development of HAFARY-ELEMENT alliance. That's all for today's interview. Thank you, Mr. Low!