‘Popiah King’ Sam Goi Now S’pore’s 18th Richest With $2.56B Net Worth

Earlier this month, business magazine Forbes released its Forbes Singapore Rich 2020 list, which highlights Singapore’s 50 richest.

Sam Goi, president of frozen food maker Tee Yih Jia Foods (TYJ), placed 18th on the list.

As of September 4, 2020, his net worth was S $ 2.56 billion.

The 71-year-old is also president of GSH Corporation real estate development, where he owns nearly 60% of the shares.

However, he is better known as the “ Popiah King ” – TYJ is the world’s largest maker of soft and thin, paper-like crepe used to make spring rolls.

Building the world’s largest manufacturer of Popiah skins

yih jia tee building
Image Credit: Tee Yih Jia

In 1955, Sam arrived in Singapore on a small boat from Fujian, China, just six years old.

According to Forbes, he dropped out of high school to work in his father’s grocery store. He later got into frozen food when he bought a struggling food unit, which was then the TYJ.

TYJ Popiah skins
Popiah Skins / Image Credit: Hungry Island

TYJ started in 1969 as a “small semi-mechanized factory” producing spring rolls for the Singaporean market.

Armed with 450,000 Singaporean dollars borrowed from a bank and his father, he set out to revamp the underperforming food business in 1977.

In three years, he redesigned the company by automating its manufacturing processes and increasing production by 3,200 popiah skins per day to 25,000.

The tycoon also brought in technicians to design the world’s first automated machine for manufacturing popiah skins.

In 1980, TYJ was producing the spring roll pastries at an incredible rate of 30 million a day.

The company then began to diversify into other products such as flat breads and samosas.

Today, the company has a portfolio of popular brands such as Spring Home, Happy Belly, Masterchef, and Ryushobo ramen.

It also ships its products worldwide, with “distribution networks in over 80 countries.”

Besides TYJ, he also took advantage of the real estate boom in China in the early 2000s and acquired land while house prices were still modest.

In 2012, he acquired a majority stake in GSH.

Don’t slow down

The billionaire is now planning to branch out into meat substitutes and other special diet foods.

This indicates a continued zest for innovation as there is growing interest in plant-based and lab-grown meats, with startups like Shiok Meats raising millions of funds to develop their products.

According to Forbes, Sam plans to take on the role of angel investor for food startups, like he did at TYJ in 1977.

His entrepreneurial spirit is probably one of the main reasons for his success.

In 2015, Sam told the Financial Times that he “had just started” and was “still excited about the opportunities present”.

“Each generation will have its share of challenges and constraints. Therefore, from each generation will emerge entrepreneurs to solve these problems and create wealth and well-being for the society of their time, ”he said.

Featured Image Credit: Forbes, Asia Society

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Jothi Venkat

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