Third-gen entrepreneur Edward Quek
revitalises Khong Lieng Trading
8 May 2018 | Singapore | OSEA2018 Industry Insights
The third-gen entrepreneur spearheaded the expansion of his family’s gasket business, which now serves the marine, offshore, oil and gas, refineries and power verticals.
Established in 1967 by Mr Quek H. L, gasket specialist and long-time OSEA exhibitor Khong Lieng has been serving its customers for more than five decades. Today, the thriving business is helmed by his grandson, Edward Quek, an entrepreneurial 31-year-old with a can-do spirit. Here, he tells OSEA how he revitalised Khong Lieng with his astute business acumen (and a healthy dose of luck!).
Q: Khong Lieng Trading was first established by your grandfather, Mr Quek H.L, in 1967. It has since expanded its operations from an 800 square feet shop house to a massive 60,000 square feet space with regional presence. How did the company manage to weather the storms to become what it is today?
A: Edward: Economic slowdowns don’t affect us as much as we deal with consumable items, mostly recurring business. Plus, we have contracts with major oil companies like Chevron. We are an approved vendor for Shell and ExxonMobil as well.
Throughout the years, we’ve been expanding our product range as well to cater to different industries. We’ve also increased the number of brands we carry for gaskets.
Q: How did you get involved in the family business?
A: Actually, it’s my first job! I joined the company right after I was done with National Service as a 21-year-old. It was a natural progression, as my family was keen for me to join. It’s been 11 years since.
As one of the youngest Group Chief Operating Officers in the industry, have you changed Khong Lieng’s approach to doing business?
The way we do business has definitely changed. Our traditional business model was passive – in those days, business would simply come to us. But with increased competition, it’s a different story today. Hence, we’ve started to invest in marketing and business prospecting to gain a bigger slice of the pie.
By testing the waters bit by bit, we were able to find out what worked well for us. As a result, we now have specialised departments that ensure the quality of our products as well. We’ve invested in a modest R&D lab, where our quality engineers are able to perform things like chemical reaction tests as proof of our product quality to customers. No other competitors in the market are currently doing this.
Q: What’s your proudest achievement to date?
A: Despite the market crash in 2015, Khong Lieng managed to grow from 2 to 6 companies. It wasn’t easy to get business coming in, but we took advantage of the reduced overhead costs and our strategy paid off. We couldn’t just sit and wait, and I was probably quite lucky too (laughs).
Q: Do you think the oil and gas industry is experiencing a shift?
A: We used to handle a lot of FPSO (Floating Production Storage and Offloading) jobs, but it seems like a sunset industry right now. Instead, the focus seems to be on onshore now. In fact, we’ve just secured a three-year contract with one of only two oil refineries in Vietnam, despite fierce competition from major Japanese and European contenders. As a licensee manufacturer of several major brands, we are able to combine their best qualities for the products under our own house brand.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in the course of your career?
A: I remember pitching our products to an EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) company as a young sales engineer. I was probably 21 or 22 then, still new to Khong Lieng, wasn’t very familiar with all of our products. The person I spoke to told me this: “Polish up on your product knowledge before heading out to sell.” One other thing he said really struck me too – that smooth seas never made a skilled sailor.
Q: Khong Lieng will be exhibiting at OSEA2018. Able to share what will Khong Lieng bring to the table, and reasons for taking part?
A: We decided to get a bigger booth this time as we’re distributing more brands now, including global ones like Klinger, Garlock, Valqua, Jeil E&S, JDV, Zuercher Technik, Greene Tweed and Seal Maker. We are excited to showcase our new products as well, such as expansion joints and butterfly valves. It’s a great opportunity for us to build brand awareness – that we’re well-equipped as a gasket, sealing and valve specialist.
Q: Moving forward, how does Khong Lieng plan to stay ahead of its game?
A: We’re definitely changing the way we do things. For example, some of our processes are now fully automated. Also, we don’t plan on keeping a bulky inventory that takes up needless warehouse space. Instead, we’re focused on customisation, critical solutions, niche areas that add value to our services. Most of our products are now made to order.
Catch Khong Lieng Trading Co. Pte Ltd (Booth no. BH3-01) at OSEA2018 from 27-29 November 2018, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore!
Click here to view OSEA’s exhibit/visitor profile.