How a small business grew into an international brand
Ngo Chew Hong, also known as NCH, is a local company that epitomises the Singapore Dream. Starting from humble beginnings selling packaged oil within Singapore in 1950, they’ve since grown by leaps and bounds.
Today, their products are sold in over 100 countries across 5 continents including Africa and Europe. It’s prophetic - Ngo Chew Hong actually means ‘five continents’ in Chinese characters.
With NCH's product, OKI, being identified as a Top Brand in Influential Brands' 2015 survey in the Premium Cooking Oil category, we decided to delve deeper into what exactly went on behind the scenes to make a local company a success in the international arena.
OKI's story so far
One of the first products that NCH began exporting in the 1970s was an edible oil called ‘OKI’. The name OKI was chosen as it was easy to remember and pronounce - as was their tagline, ‘Say Ok to OKI’.
In their early years, globalisation posed a unique challenge nobody has seen before. As consumers in Singapore became more sophisticated and informed, we started to have a wider range of demands and product preferences than before. Each country presented a unique challenge in terms of local preferences and cultural backgrounds, which meant that NCH had to be alert to vary their branding and marketing strategies accordingly.
To meet this challenge, OKI expanded their product line and product range in varying product and pack sizes to cater to the diverse needs of manufacturers, food service distributors, and retail customers in local and overseas markets.
For instance, once they realised that there was a shift towards healthier and better-quality oil, OKI introduced different varieties of cooking oil such as OKI sunflower oil, canola oil, corn oil and soya bean oil. In recent years, they’ve also introduced new products such as bakery fats, condensed milk, basmati rice, and even multipurpose soap for both bath and laundry use.
However, as the market changes and new competitors pop up, new challenges keep popping up for OKI. To answer these challenges, OKI is continually refining their competitive advantages. This, they believe, will help them maintain their position as one of the industry leaders in the cooking oil industry.
The OKI advantage
1. Integrated Business Model
Everything is done under one roof
If you never took a single lesson of Econs, having an Integrated Business Model means that OKI oversees multiple stages of their business, from the manufacturing of their products to the transportation to where they are sold. By controlling each stage of the supply chain, they streamline the processes involved, allowing OKI to minimise cost, improve quality control, and understand what consumers want better.
2. Economies of Scale
Many Oompa Loompas working together is better than one Oompa Loompa working alone.
Like how you get discounts for buying items in bulk when haggling at street markets in Bali, OKI benefits from Economies of Scale. With impossibly huge manufacturing plants and factories, OKI's production costs are spread over large volumes of products, translating to direct discounts for consumers.
3. A Diverse and Multicultural Team
Having identified the key countries and entering them in early stages, OKI has access to important regional markets. Their marketing team is also multi-cultural and multi-national, giving them advantages in understanding different markets niches.
4. A Strong Senior Management Team
Their senior management team are veterans in the edible oils and fats industry, with over 20 years of experience. Whether it’s sourcing, production, pricing, or finance and risk management,these seasoned managers are experienced enough to deal with any challenge that lies ahead.
5. Continuous Innovation
Continuous innovation is a recurring theme in OKI. They’ve got an in-house innovation & research team that understands what we want, constantly developing new products for different industries such as bakeries, food ingredients and infant nutrition.
About OKI and their road ahead
It’s hard to be different in the cooking oil industry, but with these solid advantages over the competition, OKI has established a foothold in more than 80 countries across 5 continents. Today, OKI is a household name for cooking oil.
Looking ahead, OKI will be looking to market more differentiated premium products, which will help them increase customer loyalty and add unique selling points to help them stand out even further above the competition. Apart from packaged oil, they’re also looking into rice, dairy products, and tomato paste so customers will be able to associate OKI with more than just cooking oil.
About Influential Brands
Influential Brands is a consumer insight driven awards programme which provides a platform for brands to celebrate their achievement; for consumers, businesses and stakeholders to recognise the brands’ efforts in arriving where they are today. The study conducted by Influential Brands is purely consumer driven and the Top Brands are selected by consumers through their perception and preference, demonstrating the level of impact and influence of the brands in each consumer’s life.
Influential Brands seeks to identify consumer preferences, their behaviours, values and to understand how the ever-changing environment affects consumer experience in the purchase journey. The programme is tailored to enrich the brands’ relationship with their consumers through ongoing meaningful conversations and engagement.
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This is part of Influential Brands 2015, where we highlight the most influential brands in Singapore.