Company Profile—Sheng Siong
Lim Hock Chee is CEO and founder of Sheng Siong, a Singapore supermarket chain. Initially starting out as a pork counter in the Savewell Supermarket outlet in Ang Mo Kio, Lim bought over the outlet in 1985 when the chain of provision shops ran into financial difficulties. Since then, Sheng Siong has expanded and grown from strength to strength. In addition to more than 60 Sheng Siong outlets across the island, Sheng Siong has also built up an online and mobile presence, as well as expanded its footprint in the China market.
Origins and Evolution
Lim’s growing years were spent at his family’s Cheng Siong Pig Farm, where his parents reared pigs for sale. After the mandatory National Service, Lim worked on his father’s pig farm. In 1984, the farm faced a glut of unsold meat amidst the government’s plans to phase out the pig-rearing sector. Having come across the Savewell supermarket outlet in Ang Mo Kio, which was not selling pork at the time, Lim seized the opportunity and set up a pork counter at the outlet, paying the store owner 20% of sales revenue as rental.
The following year, the Savewell chain of provision stores met with financial difficulties and its outlets were listed for sale. With capital borrowed from his father, Lim bought over the outlet in Ang Mo Kio, despite having no experience in running a provision store. Together with his family members and 5 employees, he ran the first Sheng Siong store, focusing on providing a wide variety of no-frills products at lower profit margins.
Two years later, a second outlet was opened in Bedok, under the name Shing Siong. The third outlet in Woodlands opened almost a decade later in 1995, the first to feature a wet market section for fresh produce in a provision store. Customers took to this well, and this eventually became Sheng Siong’s business model, with the concept replicated across its rapidly increasing outlets.
The chain underwent a branding exercise in 2007, revamping its logo and introducing its slogan “Sheng Siong…all for you!”. It launched an eponymous Chinese language live television variety show “The Sheng Siong Show” for further publicity and sales promotion. The show has since become a regular season programme on the free-to air Channel 8. In 2011, Sheng Siong debuted on the Singapore Exchange. 2014 saw the launch of Sheng Siong’s online shopping platform for groceries. It then opened its first overseas venture, a 50,000 sqft retail area in Kunming, China in 2017. Most recently in 2021, the third outlet opened in Kunming amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Corporate culture and vision
In keeping with its humble roots and target consumer group, the majority of Sheng Siong’s retail outlets are found in the heartlands. Lim espouses the business model of low-cost offerings and efficient customer service. The predilection for efficiency is seen in Sheng Siong’s innovation efforts in its business processes and user journeys. From building a customised central distribution centre to support retail operations to being the first the first supermarket to implement electronic price labeling and designing and implementing its own hybrid self-checkout and payment systems, they are all aimed at providing the most efficient processes for staff and customers.
Recognising that employees are a key component of company culture, staff are trained to execute tasks with efficiency and proficiency. At the same time, Lim also believes in profit sharing with staff, and a large proportion of its profits are channeled towards staff bonuses. According to him, this means that staff have vested interest in the company’s performance because the better the company’s performance, the more rewards they receive. In 2020, up to 16 months’ bonus were distributed to employees for a stellar performance amidst the pandemic.
Awards and Honours
Sheng Siong has won numerous accolades for its excellence in various areas.
For its branding and recognition as well as commitment to quality, Sheng Siong has consistently maintained its “Superbrand” status every year since 2008, awarded by Superbrands Singapore. It was also the first supermarket to attain Singapore Quality Class certification by SPRING Singapore (now known as Enterprise SG).
Efforts to boost productivity without compromising sustainability did not go unnoticed. It was the first organisation to win the inaugural Singapore Productivity Award (Retail) in 2014. More recently, Sheng Siong was awarded the Best Inaugural Sustainability Report (Mainboard) by the Singapore Sustainability Reporting Awards (2018), and the Singapore Packaging Agreement (SPA) Excellence Award 2019, for adopting measures to reduce packaging waste.
Notably, Sheng Siong has won “Best of the Best Retailer” in Singapore three times in 2012, 2013, and 2015—this is the highest honour conferred to an Asia-Pacific company by the Retail Asia-Pacific Top 500 survey by Euromonitor International. It was also awarded The Enterprise of the Year Award by Singapore Business Awards 2015.
In 2019, Lim was awarded Businessman of the Year, the highest accolade at the Singapore Business Awards.
Did You Know?
The names “Sheng” and “Siong” mean “rising” and “vegetable” in Mandarin.
Full-time staff enjoy a free meal every workday. Staff working in Sheng Siong headquarters eat in the staff canteen, while others have meals prepared from a central kitchen delivered to them.
Lim’s mobile number Is available at every outlet, so that staff and customers can reach him easily, whether it is to provide feedback or for emergencies.
Lim and his two brothers, who are also working in the Sheng Siong Group, fund a bursary for their employees’ children.
Lim dropped out of Chinese High School (now known as Hwa Chong Institution) in Secondary 3 because he was struggling with English.
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CRC. (2016, November 3). “The Sheng Siong story: From selling pork in Ang Mo Kio to a millionaire” https://unscrambled.sg/2016/11/03/the-sheng-shiong-story-from-one-stall-selling-pork-to-a-millionaire/
Sheng Siong. (2020, n.d.). “Our Story”. https://corporate.shengsiong.com.sg/about/
Superbrands Singapore. Superbrands: An Insight into Many of Singapore’s Strongest Brands. Vol. 12. Singapore: SB Asia Pte Ltd, 2021.
Tan, Sumiko. (2019, May 5). “Lunch with Sumiko: Sheng Siong boss Lim Hock Chee walks the talk”. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/a-boss-who-walks-the-talk
Tay, Peck Gek. (2019, March 29). “Big dreams for the long road”. https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/hub/singapore-business-awards-2019/big-dreams-for-the-long-road
Yang, Royston. (2022, January 6). “5 things you should know about Sheng Siong”. https://sg.finance.yahoo.com/news/5-things-know-sheng-siong-040000301.html