Goi Seng Hui



Goi Seng Hui (b. 1949, Fuqing, China–) is an entrepreneur and investor nicknamed Singapore’s “Popiah King”.1 His company, Tee Yih Jia, is reportedly the largest producer of spring-roll skins in the world.2 Also known as Sam Goi, he is often cited as a role model f49or Singaporean entrepreneurs, having developed Tee Yih Jia from a small business with an annual turnover of S$300,000 into a global company with revenues in the hundreds of millions.3

Background
Born to a considerably wealthy landowning family in Fuqing, Fujian province, China, Goi came to Singapore with his mother at the age of six.4 His father had moved to Singapore earlier and worked as a provision supplier. Goi recalled the journey to be arduous, with the family sleeping on ship cargo for a month.5

In Singapore, Goi and his family led a simple life, living together in one room.6 Goi attended Dunman High School but did not complete his education.7 In 1969, Goi took out a S$10,000 loan from his father to start a motor rewinding business that failed. He then set up a mechanical engineering workshop offering services to businesses in Jurong. In 1977, Goi diversified his business and ventured into the food industry by buying over a fledging popiah (spring roll) factory called Tee Yih Jia, which means “No. 1 Company” in Mandarin, located in Geylang.8

Goi revealed in an interview in 2000 that the purchase had initially been done as a favour to a friend, with the intention of allowing the friend to continue operating the business. Circumstances changed three years later, however, and Goi took control of Tee Yih Jia himself in 1980.9

Tee Yih Jia
At the time when Goi took over the company, its production line was labour intensive. However, by 1982, it had been switched to full automation.10 This helped improved the company’s productivity, thus allowing revenue to grow from S$300,000 to S$62.4 million between 1980 and 1999.11 In 1986, Goi’s company won the National Productivity Award.12 Since then, Goi has continued to focus on technological upgrades and factory expansions in his management of the company.13

Goi’s strategy for Tee Yih Jia was to target restaurants and supermarkets in Chinatowns overseas as entry points for his products. Goi would handle would sales personally, using door-to-door sales to convince restaurants to buy his products. He struggled during the first decade but eventually established a strong presence in the United States, Australia, Europe and Asia, and built a global network of distributors and agents.14

To sustain his business, Goi diversified Tee Yih Jia’s product base to introduce new products such as fortune cookies, samosas, pizzas and prawn rolls to cater to different markets.15 In line with Goi’s aim of turning Tee Yih Jia into a global supplier of Asian fast food, Tee Yih Jia also moved into the fast-food segment of the market with fast-to-cook products such as frozen roti prata, laksa and nasi lemak.16 

Goi also invested in a brewery and vinegar factory, and struck up strategic partnerships with investments in food and beverage companies such as Thai Village, Super Coffeemix, Youcan, and the Tung Lok chain of restaurants. Goi also has investments in other industries including water treatment and electronics components.17

Business leader
In 1993, Goi’s drive and success in growing his business overseas was recognised when the government named him as part of the 14-member Committee to Promote Enterprise Overseas. The purpose of the committee was to help Singapore companies venture abroad and develop an external economy for the country, and Goi was part of the team that helped to review government regulations in this area.18 In that same year, he was elected to the council of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry as chairman of the foreign trade committee.19 Goi was also cited by then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong as a role model for entrepreneurs.20

In 2002, Goi served as a member of the Economic Review Committee.21 In 2004, he won the Ernst & Young Services & Business Products Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Public Service Star.22

Over the course of his career, Goi has built up an extensive network of contacts in China comprising business leaders, politicians and government officials. He is known to be a good connector and always open to sharing his contacts with fellow businessmen.23 For his leadership, vision and entrepreneurial qualities, Goi was awarded the Singapore Business Award in 2013.24

Personal life and contributions to society
In 2001, Goi partnered motor trader Peter Kwee to purchase Eden Hall gardens, a site on Nassim Road that formerly belonged to the British High Commission. The S$50-million purchase provided land for the Kwee and Goi families to build three bungalows. Goi also reportedly owns luxury cars like a Rolls-Royce and a Ferrari.25

Goi is a generous contributor to charities and organisations. Among the recipients of his largesse are Dunman High School, his alma mater; a school in the village in China where he was born; and Ren Ci Hospital.26 Goi has also helped to raise funds for the Ulu Pandan Community Club.27



Author

Alvin Chua



References
1. Tan, M. (2014, April 3). ‘Popiah King’ Sam Goi wins 2013 Businessman of the Year award. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva
via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
2. Jetley, N. P. (2011, August 8). Ready to roll. Forbes Asia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
3. Tan, M. (2014, April 3). ‘Popiah King’ Sam Goi wins 2013 Businessman of the Year award. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Low, E. (2000, November 23). Innovation key to successThe Business Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Kolesnikov-Jessop, S. (2006, January 14). Self-made tycoon seeks next big niche. International New York Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Popiah King’s humble beginning. (2005, March 13). The New Paper, p. 45; Loh, H. Y. (2003, April 5). A self-made manThe Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Kolesnikov-Jessop, S. (2006, January 14). Self-made tycoon seeks next big niche. International New York Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Popiah King’s humble beginning. (2005, March 13). The New Paper, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Popiah King’s humble beginning. (2005, March 13). The New Paper, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Loh, H. Y. (2003, April 5). A self-made manThe Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Popiah King’s humble beginning. (2005, March 13). The New Paper, p. 45; Tan, H. A. (1999, November 26). No. 1 by name, No. 1 by nature. The Straits Times, p. 8; Low, E. (2000, November 23). Innovation key to success. The Business Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Low, E. (2000, November 23). Innovation key to successThe Business Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Low, E. (2000, November 23). Innovation key to successThe Business Times, p. 44; Tan, C. (1996, November 28). Popiah-maker on a roll all over the world. The Business Times, p. 54. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Low, E. (2000, November 23). Innovation key to successThe Business Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Tan, C. (1996, November 28). Popiah-maker on a roll all over the world. The Business Times, p. 54. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Low, E. (2000, November 23). Innovation key to successThe Business Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Kolesnikov-Jessop, S. (2006, January 14). Self-made tycoon seeks next big niche. International New York Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Tan, C. (1996, November 28). Popiah-maker on a roll all over the world. The Business Times, p. 54. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Kolesnikov-Jessop, S. (2006, January 14). Self-made tycoon seeks next big niche. International New York Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Tan, C. (1996, November 28). Popiah-maker on a roll all over the world. The Business Times, p. 54. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Eng, C. (1999, March 1). From popiah skins to roti prata. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Raj, C. (2007, February 21). Super connector on a rollThe Business Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Chan, H. L. (1993, January 31). Ventures abroad: Panel of advisers namedThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Lee, H. S. (1993, February 12). Younger men occupy seats of SCCCI councilThe Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Leong, C. T. (2004, February 15). Popiah King on a rollThe Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Lee, S. S. (2002, January 3). Government names those to aid economic review. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Ernest & Young. (n.d.). Entrepreneur of the Year: Past awards 2004 winners. Retrieved from Ernest & Young website: http://www.ey.com/SG/en/About-us/Entrepreneurship/Entrepreneur-Of-The-Year/EY-entrepreneur-of-the-year-category-winners; Untitled. (2004, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Chen, H. (2009, May 19). Lifting the front wave. The Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Tan, M. (2014, April 3). ‘Popiah King’ Sam Goi wins 2013 Businessman of the Year award. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
25. Rashiwala, K. (2001, April 18). Eden Hall – popiah king is joint buyerThe Business Times, p. 9; Leong, C. T. (2004, February 15). Popiah King on a rollThe Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Chan, C. P. (2001, March 14). Filial homecoming. Today, p. 18; Loh, H. Y. (2003, April 5). A self-made manThe Business Times, p. 3; Tan, T. (2007, December 22). For Popiah King, helping others is the patriot’s wayThe Straits Times, p. 62. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Tan, T. (2007, December 22). For Popiah King, helping others is the patriot’s wayThe Straits Times, p. 62. 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
Goi, Seng Hui, 1949-
Businesspeople--Singapore--Biography
Personalities
Personalities>>Biographies