Douglas Foo



Douglas Foo (b. 1969, Singapore–), is the chairman, chief executive officer and founder of Apex-Pal International Ltd., a public listed food and beverage company, which owns and operates Sakae Sushi – one of the leading kaiten (conveyer belt) sushi chains in Singapore.1 The success of Sakae Sushi has won the company numerous accolades such as the Enterprise 50 Award in 2002, Most Promising Brand Award in 2003,2 the Singapore Prestige Brand Award (Regional) in 2006 and the Singapore 1000 Award in 2007. In recognition of his entrepreneurial spirit and philanthropic efforts, Foo was awarded the Rotary-ASME Entrepreneur of the Year in 2002,3 and the Public Service Star in 2013.4

Early life
Foo, the eldest of three children, was born in Singapore in 1969. His father, an immigrant from Hainan, China, worked as a mechanical and electrical consultant.5 Foo received his early education at the Red Swastika Primary School, where he was both a prefect and top student.6 He went on to study at Dunman High School, and furthered his education at Victoria Junior College.7 An active sportsman in college, Foo participated in long-distance running, laser sailing and windsurfing.8


Following his GCE “A” Levels, he served his national service with the Singapore Air Force. During his military service, Foo would read up on topics relating to radar and electronics in order to understand the workings of the missile systems. It was then that he discovered that his interest was not in engineering.9

Although Foo had already secured a place with the engineering school at the Nanyang Technological University, he decided to make the switch to study business administration.10 However, his ‘A’ Level grades did not qualify him for the university's business school. So, aided in part by funds from his parents, Foo enrolled in the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia for his degree in business administration (finance),11 where he graduated with distinction in 1994.12

The value of money
Foo was taught the value of money from an early age. Once, when he was 10, Foo, who was running a fever, called his father to ask for a lift home. His father, instead, chided him for wasting 10 cents on the phone call, and told him that he should make his own way home as their house was within walking distance from school.13 Since primary school, Foo was given only a modest monthly allowance of $50 for his food, transport and outings.14

To supplement his allowance , Foo gave tuition on weekends, earning up to $5,000 a month.15 He also worked during the six-month vacation before his enlistment, juggling a number of jobs at the same time. His typical day then involved taking turbine readings at Pulau Seraya in the mornings, relief teaching at Pin Yi Secondary School in the afternoons, and conducting door-to-door market surveys in the evenings.16 He also had a brief stint as a baker at Delifrance, where he met his wife. While studying in Melbourne, Foo continued to earn extra pocket money by selling shoes at the Queen Victoria Market.17

Early career
Upon returning from Australia, Foo found employment as a marketing executive with the real estate arm of Tokyu Group in 1995. During the course of his work, he formed friendships with a number of Japanese clients. Through these networks, one of his Japanese business contacts approached him to start a business to manufacture garments in India for sale in Japan.18

Foo took the plunge despite an attractive counter offer from his employer, and his lack of experience in the fashion business.19 He invested $100,000 of his savings and registered Apex-Pal in 1996.20 The trading office was located at International Plaza,21 while a factory with 50 workers and equipped with reconditioned sewing machines from Taiwan was established in India. The business yielded profits in its first year.22

Beginnings of Sakae Sushi
With the success of the garment manufacturing and trading business, Foo began exploring various ways of diversifying the business.23 He studied the basic needs of consumers, and decided that the food industry would be good to venture into. Having learned that Singaporeans were becoming more health conscious and discerning about what they consume,24 Foo ventured into the food and beverage industry in 1997.25

Although, Japanese fare was generally considered to be one of the healthiest among the various cuisines, it was also a relatively expensive dining choice for the masses at the time. Hence, Foo came up with the business proposition to offer Japanese food at affordable prices. By targeting the middle-class masses, the company would be less vulnerable to economic downturns.26 However, with the Japanese economic slump during that period, Foo’s business partner was reluctant to take on this new venture.27 In the ensuing months, Foo faced the uphill task of raising funds to buy out his partner’s share as well as setting up the sushi business.28

In planning for Sakae Sushi, Foo made frequent trips to Japan and Hong Kong to study the operations of conveyor-belt sushi joints. He decided to implement a single price for all plates (with the exception of delicacies on red plates) because he felt that the various coloured plates (indicating the different prices of sushi dishes) used in Japanese restaurants deterred customers from ordering more. He also created a dining concept unique to Sakae Sushi to differentiate the restaurant from other Japanese dining establishments: the company uses a conveyor belt system that runs on blocks of wheels to deliver sushi to customers, provides hot water taps for customer to make their tea as well as interactive menus for placing orders. Over time, the company added more innovations such as sushi-making robots, and portable conveyor belts for catered dining.29

The first Sakae Sushi outlet opened at the OUB Centre at Raffles Place in the midst of the Asian financial crisis in September 1997.30 Despite the weak economic situation, the business took off. Today, there are over 200 Sakae Sushi outlets in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, China, Japan, India, New Zealand and the United States.31

In its efforts to reach out to Muslim consumers, Apex-Pal International went a step ahead by offering halal sushi under the Hei Sushi brand in 1997, and currently operates five outlets around the island.32 Foo, however, did not stop at sushi. He further cemented his foothold in the food and beverage scene by launching Black Tea Box (now defunct), and Crepes & Cream in 2000. The following year, he established Nouvelle Events, an events catering company with its own bakery and butchery.33 Apex-Pal International was listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange in 2003.34

Community work
Currently the president of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation,35 Foo also sits on numerous boards for corporate, governmental and non-profit organisations such as MILK (Mainly I Love Kids) Fund,36 Radin Mas Community Club, the ASEAN Business Advisory Council as well as the Lee Kong Chian School of Business Advisory Board at the Singapore Management University.37


Foo received the Public Service Star in 2013 in recognition of his philanthropic efforts. In 2016, he was conferred the Seri Pangeran Temenggong Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin III (S.P.T.M) by His Royal Highness Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin III, Prabu Diraja, Sultan Palembang Darussalam, which carries the title Dato’ Seri.38

Personal awards39
2002: Rotary-ASME Entrepreneur of the Year (joint winner).

2002: Top Outstanding Young Person Award, by Junior Chamber of Singapore International.
2002: Merit, Yazhou Zhoukan Chinese Entrepreneur Merit Award.

Hobbies40
2003: Singapore Youth Award.
2004: ASEAN Youth Award (Youth & Entrepreneurship).
2005: Health Leader (Excellence) Award, by the Singapore Human Resource Institute.
2007:
Public Service Medal, National Day Award.

2007: International Management Action Award.
2008: Commendation, Singapore Youth Award.
2010: Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) Champion.
2011: ASEAN-China Young Entrepreneur Outstanding Entrepreneur Award.
2012: MCYS Volunteers Award.
2013: Public Service Star (BBM), National Day Award.
2015:
Asia Corporate Excellence and Sustainability (ACES) “"Entrepreneur of the Year"” Award.

2016: NTUC May Day Friend of Labour Award.

Family41
Wife: Koh Yen Khoon
Children: Donavan, Dominic, Donahue, Donaghan



Author
Shivaranjani Subramaniam



References
1. Apex-Pal International Ltd. (2004, January 28). The Business Times. p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2006). Who's who in Singapore 2006. Singapore: Who's Who Pub. p. 141. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
2. People at the peak: The who’s who of Singapore. (2006). Singapore: Magazines Incorporated, p. 408. (Call no.: RSING q920.05957 PEO)
3. Long, S. (2003). Grit success II: The guts behind Singapore's top entrepreneurs. Singapore: Prentice Hall, p. 50. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 LON); Low, K. T. (Ed.). Who's who in Singapore 2006. Singapore: Who's Who Pub. p. 141. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
4. Sakae Holdings Ltd. (2016). Personal awards – Douglas Foo, chairman. Retrieved 2016, September 20 from Sakae Holdings website: http://www.sakaeholdings.com/awards-douglas-foo-chairman.html
5. Chew, C. (2009, May 19). Sushi boss serves up recession buster. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ang, E., & Chang, P. Y. H. (2004). Winning strokes. Singapore: Nouveau Pub, p. 53. (Call no.: RSING 338.04095957 ANG)
6. Long, S. (2003). Grit success II: The guts behind Singapore's top entrepreneurs. Singapore: Prentice Hall, p. 48. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 LON); Ang, E., & Chang, P. Y. H. (2004). Winning strokes. Singapore: Nouveau Pub, p. 53. (Call no.: RSING 338.04095957 ANG)
7. Chuang, P. M. (2004, February 9). It pays to be crazy sometimes. The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Long, S. (2003). Grit success II: The guts behind Singapore's top entrepreneurs. Singapore: Prentice Hall, p. 48. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 LON)
9. Ang, E., & Chang, P. Y. H. (2004). Winning strokes. Singapore: Nouveau Pub, p. 53. (Call no.: RSING 338.04095957 ANG)
10. Ang, E., & Chang, P. Y. H. (2004). Winning strokes. Singapore: Nouveau Pub, p. 53. (Call no.: RSING 338.04095957 ANG)
11. Chuang, P. M. (2004, February 9). It pays to be crazy sometimes. The Business Times, p. 3; Wee, L. (2002, July 10). Recipe for success. The Straits Times, p. 17; Crepes & Cream. (2002, July 10). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Long, S. (2003). Grit success II: The guts behind Singapore's top entrepreneurs. Singapore: Prentice Hall, p. 51. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 LON)
13. Long, S. (2003). Grit success II: The guts behind Singapore's top entrepreneurs. Singapore: Prentice Hall, p. 50. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 LON); Ang, E., & Chang, P. Y. H. (2004). Winning strokes. Singapore: Nouveau Pub, p. 45. (Call no.: RSING 338.04095957 ANG)
14. Long, S. (2003). Grit success II: The guts behind Singapore's top entrepreneurs. Singapore: Prentice Hall, p. 51. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 LON); Ang, E., & Chang, P. Y. H. (2004). Winning strokes. Singapore: Nouveau Pub. p. 48. (Call no.: RSING 338.04095957 ANG)
15. Long, S. (2003). Grit success II: The guts behind Singapore's top entrepreneurs. Singapore: Prentice Hall, p. 52. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 LON)
16. Ang, E., & Chang, P. Y. H. (2004). Winning strokes. Singapore: Nouveau Pub, p. 52. (Call no.: RSING 338.04095957 ANG)
17. Long, S. (2003). Grit success II: The guts behind Singapore's top entrepreneurs. Singapore: Prentice Hall, p. 50. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 LON)
18. Long, S. (2003). Grit success II: The guts behind Singapore's top entrepreneurs. Singapore: Prentice Hall, p. 51. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 LON)
19. Long, S. (2003). Grit success II: The guts behind Singapore's top entrepreneurs. Singapore: Prentice Hall. p. 50. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 LON)
20; Ang, E., & Chang, P. Y. H. (2004). Winning strokes. Singapore: Nouveau Pub. p. 51. (Call no.: RSING 338.04095957 ANG)
21. Long, S. (2003). Grit success II: The guts behind Singapore's top entrepreneurs. Singapore: Prentice Hall, p. 50. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 LON)
22. Long, S. (2003). Grit success II: The guts behind Singapore's top entrepreneurs. Singapore: Prentice Hall, p. 51. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 LON)
23. Tan, R. L. (2008, July 27). My McSushi dream. The Straits Times, p. 78. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Frances, J. (2003, August 25). Teach a man to fish... Today, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Apex-Pal International Ltd. (2004, January 28). The Business Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Ang, E., & Chang, P. Y. H. (2004). Winning strokes. Singapore: Nouveau Pub, pp. 42–43. (Call no.: RSING 338.04095957 ANG)
27. Long, S. (2003). Grit success II: The guts behind Singapore's top entrepreneurs. Singapore: Prentice Hall, p. 50. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 LON)
28. Long, S. (2003). Grit success II: The guts behind Singapore's top entrepreneurs. Singapore: Prentice Hall, p. 52. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 LON)
29. Chuang, P. M. (2004, February 9). It pays to be crazy sometimes. The Business Times. p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Long, S. (2003). Grit success II: The guts behind Singapore's top entrepreneurs. Singapore: Prentice Hall. p. 50. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 LON)
31. Singapore Management University. (2016). Advisory board member: Douglas Foo. Retrieved 2016, September 20 from Singapore Management University, Lee Kong Chian School of Business website: https://business.smu.edu.sg/business/about/advisory-board/douglas-foo
32. Halal cuisine at Hei Sushi. (2008, December 10). The Straits Times. p. 48. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Heisushi.com. (2016). Our locations. Retrieved 2016, October 18 from Hei Sushi website: http://www.heisushi.com/outlets.html
33. Wee, L. (2002, July 10). Recipe for success. The Straits Times, p. 17; Crepes & Cream. (2002, July 10). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Sakae Holdings Ltd. (2016). Milestones. Retrieved 2016, October 18 from Sakae Holdings website: http://www.sakaeholdings.com/milestones.html; Apex-Pal International Ltd. (2003, August 18). The innovative F&B people, p. A-21. Retrieved 2016, October 18 from zaobao.sg website: http://ir.zaobao.com.sg/apexpal/pages/doc/apexpal_ipo_prospectus.pdf
34. Apex-Pal International Ltd. (2004, January 28). The Business Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Singapore Manufacturing Federation (2016). SMF Profile – President’s Message. Retrieved 2016, November 2 from Singapore Manufacturing Federation website: http://www.smfederation.org.sg/index.php/profile/presidents-message
36. MILK (2016). Our Team – MILK. Retrieved 2016, September 20 from MILK website: http://www.milk.org.sg/new-index/
37. Singapore Management University. (2016). Lee Kong Chian School of Business – About – Advisory Board – Douglas Foo. Retrieved 2016, September 20 from Singapore Management University, Lee Kong Chian School of Business website: https://business.smu.edu.sg/business/about/advisory-board/douglas-foo; ASEAN Business Advisory Council. (2016). Members. Retrieved 2016, September 20 from ASEAN Business Advisory Council website:http://www.asean-bac.org/members/19-members-profile/79-douglas-foo; Chew, C. (2009, May 19). Sushi boss serves up recession buster. The Straits Times, p. 10; Chew, C. (2009, May 19). Sushi boss serves up recession buster. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Sakae Holdings Ltd. (2016). Personal awards – Douglas Foo, chairman. Retrieved 2016, September 20 from Sakae Holdings website: http://www.sakaeholdings.com/awards-douglas-foo-chairman.html
39. People at the peak: The who’s who of Singapore. (2006). Singapore: Magazines Incorporated. p. 408. (Call no.: RSING q920.05957 PEO); Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2006). Who's who in Singapore 2006. Singapore: Who's Who Pub. p. 141. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO); Ang, E., & Chang, P. Y. H. (2004). Winning strokes. Singapore: Nouveau Pub. p. 58. (Call no.: RSING 338.04095957 ANG); Sakae Holdings Ltd. (2016). Personal awards – Douglas Foo, chairman. Retrieved 2016, September 20 from Sakae Holdings website: http://www.sakaeholdings.com/awards-douglas-foo-chairman.html
40. Long, S. (2003). Grit success II: The guts behind Singapore's top entrepreneurs. Singapore: Prentice Hall, p. 50. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 LON)
41. Ang, E., & Chang, P. Y. H. (2004). Winning strokes. Singapore: Nouveau Pub, p. 59. (Call no.: RSING 338.04095957 ANG); Tan, R. L. (2008, July 27). My McSushi dream. The Straits Times, p. 78. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 18 October 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
Businessmen--Singapore--Biography
Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Foo, Douglas, 1969-
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Services>>Tourism and hospitality
Personalities>>Biographies
Entrepreneurship--Singapore
Personalities