Adrin Loi



Adrin Loi Boon Sim (b. 1955, Singapore–) is the executive chairman of food and beverage chain Ya Kun International.1 The youngest son of Ya Kun founder, Loi oversaw the expansion of the company from a single outlet to a chain spanning over 50 outlets in Singapore and close to 50 across the globe.2

Early life and family
Loi is the youngest of the eight children born to Loi Ah Koon and Neam Kia Shai.3 His father, nicknamed “Ah Koon”, was from Hainan, China,4 and came to Singapore in 1926 to work as a coffee-stall assistant.5 After working for 10 years, the elder Loi started a coffee shop with two partners selling coffee, crackers, French toast and kaya toast at Telok Ayer Basin.6 However, the partners eventually left and Loi’s father became the sole owner of the coffee shop.7 In 1944, the shop was formerly registered.8

Loi’s childhood was spent in a crowded, busy environment as the family shared a three-storey shophouse on Cross Street across his father’s coffee shop with seven other families.9 He and his siblings would help out with the coffee shop’s everyday tasks which included helping their mother to prepare the kaya for the shop.10 Loi would later recall that this exposure allowed him and his siblings to learn the skills and knowledge of the business like how to charcoal grilled bread.11

Education and career
Loi studied at Anderson Secondary School and then the Singapore Technical Institute, where he earned a diploma in applied electronics. After completing National Service, he took up a private diploma in management before going on to work as an electronics salesman.12

During this time, his father’s shop moved from its original location to Lau Pa Sat in 1972 before shifting again in 1984 to Telok Ayer Transit Food Market.13 In 1998, Ya Kun moved again – this time to Far East Square – because Telok Ayer Transit Food Market was slated for closure.14 At the time, the business was still run by Loi’s father and his eldest son but the patriarch was in ill health and the eldest son was nearing retirement. As a result, Loi and his fifth brother, Algie, took over the business with shares of 80 percent and 20 percent respectively by mutual agreement. The other siblings remained employed in the business.15

To move the coffee shop to Far East Square, a start-up cost of S$10,000 was required.16 Further, the rental at Far East Square at about S$6,000 to S$7,000 was 30 times higher than its previous location at Telok Ayer Transit Food Market. To save costs, Loi and his family used their savings to renovate the shop and to purchase secondhand furniture from businesses that had folded.17

Business at Far East Square was brisk, boosted by a large population of office workers in the area, and Ya Kun was able to break even within two weeks. Even then, Loi knew that Ya Kun had to expand if it was to become a viable modern business. After opening a second outlet in Tanjong Pagar within six months, he then worked with consultants from the government’s enterprise agency Spring Singapore to conduct business feasibility studies. When the studies indicated Ya Kun’s potential for growth, Loi decided to move into franchising in 2000.18

Two years later, Loi opened Ya Kun’s first overseas outlet in Indonesia, and over the next decade, Ya Kun grew to comprise 30 outlets in Singapore and 20 overseas. His father, however, did not witness the expansion of the business, having passed away in 1999. Loi’s mother had passed away after a bout of pneumonia in 1989.19

Business philosophy
Loi has spoken of being inspired by his father’s hard work, and the involvement of his family members in the business.20 In fact, since Ya Kun’s beginning, Loi and his siblings have been helping out at the outlets.21 Further, the recipe of the shop’s famed kaya is still guarded by the family, and the factory that produced it is run by family members.22 Loi felt that among the advantages of having his family members in the business is that they could provide support if the business is in trouble. Besides, he could also tap on family members for experience and know-how.23

Loi’s management style was also shaped by his childhood experience. As his parents were new immigrants to Singapore, they needed the support of friends and neighbours to survive. This taught Loi the value of teamwork. In fact, not only does he enjoy teaming up and working with people, Loi is also keen to network. These elements were fundamental in the way Loi managed Ya Kun. In addition, Loi learnt from his parents the importance of sacrificing for the greater good. Loi has created a family-like working environment in Ya Kun. This, coupled with Loi’s humble, non-confrontational and mild-mannered personality, provides his staff the latitude to voice their ideas, make decisions and take calculated risks.24

In 2014, Loi was nominated for the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award and was conferred the Public Service Medal.25

Personal life
Despite Ya Kun’s growth, Loi advocates frugality and a simple lifestyle.26 Outside of his business career, Loi is actively involved in a number of social and philanthropic institutions, including serving as a member of the North East Community Development Council and as an elder at Bethesda Hall church. He is married and has a son, Jesher.27



Author

Alvin Chua



References
1. Koh, W. (2015). The top toast: Ya Kun and the Singapore breakfast tradition. Singapore: Cengage Learning Asia, p. 4. (Call no.: RSING 338.76164795 KOH); Gittleson, K. (2014, April 6). Meet Singapore’s coffee king Adrin Loi. BBC. Retrieved from BBC website: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-26677290
2. Gittleson, K. (2014, April 6). Meet Singapore’s coffee king Adrin Loi. BBC. Retrieved from BBC website: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-26677290
3. Loi Ah Koon. (1999, February 12). The Straits Times, p. 56; The Ya Kun secret. (2003, August 17). The Straits Times, p. 3; Apparoo, S. (2005, January 12). Ya Kun Kaya Toast. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. The Ya Kun secret. (2003, August 17). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. The Ya Kun secret. (2003, August 17). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ya Kun International Private Limited. (2014). Our history. Retrieved 2016, April 25 from Ya Kun International Private Limited website: http://yakun.com//the-ya-kun-story/history/
6. The Ya Kun secret. (2003, August 17). The Straits Times, p. 3; Buenas, D. (2003, June 24). Toast of the townThe Business Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ya Kun International Private Limited. (2014). Our history. Retrieved 2016, April 25 from Ya Kun International Private Limited website: http://yakun.com//the-ya-kun-story/history/
7. Buenas, D. (2003, June 24). Toast of the town. The Business Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ya Kun International Private Limited. (2014). Our history. Retrieved 2016, April 25 from Ya Kun International Private Limited website: http://yakun.com//the-ya-kun-story/history/
8. The Ya Kun secret. (2003, August 17). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ya Kun International Private Limited. (2014). Our history. Retrieved 2016, April 25 from Ya Kun International Private Limited website at: http://yakun.com//the-ya-kun-story/history/
9. The Ya Kun secret. (2003, August 17). The Straits Times, p. 3; Tan, Y. H. (2009, March 9). Toast to sweet success. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ya Kun International Private Limited. (2014). Our history. Retrieved 2016, April 25 from Ya Kun International Private Limited website at: http://yakun.com//the-ya-kun-story/history/
10. Tan, Y. H. (2009, March 9). Toast to sweet success. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ya Kun International Private Limited. (2014). Our history. Retrieved 2016, April 25 from Ya Kun International Private Limited website at: http://yakun.com//the-ya-kun-story/history/
11. Apparoo, S. (2005, January 12). Ya Kun Kaya Toast. The Straits Times, p. 13; Tan, Y. H. (2009, March 9). Toast to sweet successThe Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ya Kun International Private Limited. (2014). Our history. Retrieved 2016, April 25 from Ya Kun International Private Limited website at: http://yakun.com//the-ya-kun-story/history/
12. Tan, Y. H. (2009, March 9). Toast to sweet successThe Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ya Kun International Private Limited. (2014). Our history. Retrieved 2016, April 25 from Ya Kun International Private Limited website at: http://yakun.com//the-ya-kun-story/history/
13. Ya Kun Kaya Toast. (2007, May 20). Today, p. 57. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ya Kun International Private Limited. (2014). Our history. Retrieved 2016, April 25 from Ya Kun International Private Limited website at: http://yakun.com//the-ya-kun-story/history/
14. Ya Kun Kaya Toast. (2007, May 20). Today, p. 57. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Tan, Y. H. (2009, March 9). Toast to sweet successThe Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Tan, Y. H. (2009, March 9). Toast to sweet successThe Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Phan, M. (2006, April 25). Not so lost in translation. The Business Times, p. 15; Lee, C. W. (2006, August 30). Kaya-flavoured taste of success. Today, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Tan, Y. H. (2009, March 9). Toast to sweet successThe Straits Times, p. 45; Buenas, D. (2003, June 24). Toast of the townThe Business Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Tan, Y. H. (2009, March 9). Toast to sweet successThe Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Lee, C.W. (2006, August 30). Torch bearers of the family business. Today, p. 29; Ya Kun is the toast of the town. (2004, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Tan, Y. H. (2009, March 9). Toast to sweet successThe Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Ya Kun is the toast of the town. (2004, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Lee, C.W. (2006, August 30). Torch bearers of the family businessToday, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Koh, W. (2015). The top toast: Ya Kun and the Singapore breakfast tradition. Singapore: Cengage Learning Asia, pp. 152–155. (Call no.: RSING 338.76164795 KOH)
25. Koh, W. (2015). The top toast: Ya Kun and the Singapore breakfast tradition. Singapore: Cengage Learning Asia, p. 7. (Call no.: RSING 338.76164795 KOH)
26. Chong, G. (2006, May 31). Ya Kun boss needs only his daily breadThe Business Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Tan, Y. H. (2009, March 09). Toast to sweet successThe Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.




The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources.  It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject.  Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Manufacturing industries>>Food, beverages and tobacco
Baked products industry--Singapore
Loi, Adrin Boon Sim, 1955-
Businessmen--Singapore--Biography
Personalities
Personalities>>Biographies
Beverage industry--Singapore