Name of Recipients:
Mr. Tan Chiang Yeow
If asked about the staples of Singaporean cuisine, Bak Kut Tea would definitely make it into many foodies’ top ten. For many years, the dish Bak Kut Tea has been synonymously linked with the spices produced by I. L. C. Trading, with their product reaching a large percentage of Singaporean kitchens. For the past twelve years, their spice pre-mix have been the number one selling brand in Singapore, propelling I. L. C. Trading into mainstream success.
Established in 1987 by Mr. and Mrs. Tan Chiang Yeow, the mission of the company has always been to provide their customers with greater convenience in cooking, especially given the hectic lifestyle of today. Using only the highest quality of spices, I. L. C. Trading manufactures in-house their flagship Bak Kut Tea pre-mix, as well as their newer product, the Black Pepper Crab spice pre-mix.
I. L. C. Trading was not Mr. Tan’s first foray into entrepreneurship. “Before I. L. C. Trading, I was doing another business which was a medicine and provisions distributor. Eventually, the business reached a bottleneck and it failed, and I had to think about what I would like to do next.” He then added, “Since young, I have always loved Bak Kut Tea, and the idea of going to the food industry came to me. As I’ve got my existing client base, it made sense for me to utilize them in my new business.”
However, Mr. Tan is well aware of the difficulties of a budding business. “As the Chinese saying goes, it is always the hardest at the beginning. For us, when we first started I. L. C. Trading, everything is done manually by hand. This includes cooking the peppers, the mixing, the packaging, everything. All the various steps were undertaken by my wife and I, and we were a two-man show at the beginning.”
Along the way, I. L. C. Trading also found itself battling unforeseen challenges as well. “The SARs crisis was a low point for us. At that time, the meat were affected by the virus, and this in turn lowered business for us as more people are wary about eating meat, and therefore Bak Kut Tea.”
Despite initial difficulties, I. L. C. Trading’s Bak Kut Tea spice pre-mix quickly became a household name in Singapore, and Mr. Tan proudly outlines the reasons why. “We were the first in Singapore to do this Bak Kut Tea Teochew style. Our Bak Kut Tea premix is also without the medicine taste, which many people did not like.”
“It is very convenient as well. Think of the ‘3 in 1’ coffee, and how the same method is used in our premix. Everything is in one, and there’s no need to add anything else, except for your meat and water.”
“Many competitors have copied our products, and produced their own versions of the recipe we used. I have looked at their samples and there were many similarities. But as long as the product we produce is superior to theirs, there is no need to be afraid of competitors. Quality will speak for itself.”
Looking back on his journey, Mr. Tan attributes much of his success to his religion and his family. “Praise the Lord. Without God, I would not be here today. He guided me on this path, and gave me wisdom when I needed it. Because of this, I became a Christian.”
He then added, “My wife was a major driving force as well; she started the whole process with me and still is by my side today. When we were registering the company’s name, I decided to name it after her. But at that time, there were many Alice’s, so we decided to use the acronym, I. L. C., instead. After the name was approved, someone highlighted to me that I. L. C. also means ‘I Love Christ’, so the name honors both of them.”
With capable support, Mr. Tan also put in plenty of hard work and effort as well, and these are qualities he thinks is essential to any entrepreneur. “You have to put in your own effort, your hard work, and be hands-on with every aspect of your company. You have to have a good understanding of the reach of your product/services, as that will determine how far you can go. You also need to understand how customer service works we well. For example, if your customer wants it that day, give them the best you can offer.”
Since their establishment, I. L. C. Trading have seen their products not only infiltrate the Singaporean market, but also of other countries as well, including America, Hong Kong, and Australia as well. With their success overseas, Mr. Tan hopes to be able to break into the China market in the future. “They are a huge market, but the customs are very hard to break through. But if it happens, it would be the next boom for our company; they’re Chinese just like us and appreciate Bak Kut Tea as well. It will be exciting to see whether this would happen.”
With their product dominating the Bak Kut Tea premix market, I. L. C. Trading looks poised to continue to lead the industry for the foreseeable future. With the awarding of the Singapore’s Outstanding Enterprise Award, this is only just one of many successes they have achieved, and there is no doubt that with there will be many more still to come in the future.
1 Kaki Bukit Road 1 #05-09
Enterprise One S(415934)
T| 6842 4908 / 6846 4908
F| 6842 0362