Eu Yan Sang Started As A Small Medical Hall

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) store Eu Yan Sang is a Singapore domestic brand with origins dating back to the 1800s.

It is also one of the largest MTC groups in Asia, with more than 210 outlets in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia and Singapore.

Besides retailing Chinese medicines and herbs, it also operates nearly 30 traditional Chinese medicine clinics in these countries as well as a food and drink store in Malaysia.

In addition, it also has sales and distribution channels in Western countries like Canada, United States, Australia and South America.

Starting with a small medical room, here’s a look at how Eu Yan Sang has grown over the years to become a global brand.

Over 140 years of history

Eu Yan Sang Singapore
Image Credit: Eu Yan Sang

The first Eu Yan Sang store was opened as a small medical center in Malaysia in 1879 by the first generation founder Eu Kong.

At the time, opium consumption was widespread and Eu Kong was therefore concerned for the welfare of opium-dependent tin miners in Malaysia.

He hoped his doctor’s office would encourage workers to use TCM instead of opioids to treat their ailments.

His only son, Eu Tong Sen, inherited the business and by the 1910s the store had branches in Singapore, Hong Kong and China.

After the death of Eu Tong Sen in 1941, the company was managed by directors and was converted from a sole proprietorship to a limited liability company status.

According to a Forbes report, the threat of extinction of Eu Yan Sang in 1989 forced Richard Eu, Eu Kong’s great-grandson, to join the company.

Eu Yan Sang Richard Eu
Richard Eu / Image credit: 2iB Partners

Richard threw the company a “lifeline” because it was “riddled with thorns of succession.”

At the time, TCM was already considered a “declining industry”. Richard was therefore a key driver in the modernization of TCM, as he strives to make it more accessible to the masses.

When it took control of Eu Yan Sang, the brand had locations in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, respectively.

He then decided to expand aggressively and increase the number of retail stores in these countries. He also began to build distribution channels in Canada, the United States, Australia and South America.

Richard was a firm believer that TCM was not just for the East and also sought to increase its acceptance in the Western world.

I didn’t want to wait for the West to tell us about traditional Asian medicines or be sidelined in any conversation about health care.

So that was the start of thinking about how to change the company and indeed the whole industry, because at the time people were very intimidated to go to our stores.

Richard Eu, President of Eu Yan Sang International Ltd in a High Net Worth interview

In 2000 Eu Yan Sang was listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange. The following year, she bought the American brand Exilir, known for its healthy tonics and teas, and the Australian brand YourHealth.

Richard then stepped down as CEO in 2007 and assumed the role of President of Eu Yan Sang International Ltd.

The brand retired from the Singapore Stock Exchange in 2016, and the majority stake of Eu Yan Sang ended with a consortium made up of the Eu family, Temasek and private equity firm Tower Capital.

Pairing traditional wisdom with modern practices

Eu Yan Sang Singapore
Image Credit: Eu Yan Sang

When the term “TCM” is mentioned, many tend to think of dark, dimly lit medical rooms selling traditional herbs.

However, the retail stores in Eu Yan Sang are quite the opposite. Furthermore, Eu Yan Sang prides itself on its ability to rigorously integrate science and technology into its products and offerings.

Since the 1990s, Eu Yan Sang has never stopped innovating, integrating modernization into its products.

For example, the brand has developed its own ginseng tea bags, its pre-packaged TCM soup formula, and its bottled bird’s nest.

In 2009, Eu Yan Sang established Singapore’s first TCM lab with Nanyang Polytechnic.

He has also partnered with organizations such as the NUS School of Medicine and the Parkway Cancer Center to publish scientific papers on the interactions between TCM and Western medicine.

Dying trade in the name of the household

Although many once thought TCM was a dying business, it appears to be the opposite, as evidenced by the steady growth of Eu Yan Sang over the past century and more.

In 2018, the group made a profit of S $ 39 million, with revenues of just under S $ 300 million.

In addition, the company has managed to build a good reputation as a leading brand of TCM and won the trust of the general public.

If your clientele believes in your name and your reputation, than you would do well by them, at least that’s the basis of a good relationship.

It’s probably stronger than saying I can sell you something cheaper or that I have the latest technology.

Richard Eu, President of Eu Yan Sang International Ltd in a High Net Worth interview

Featured Image Credit: Eu Yan Sang

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Jothi Venkat

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