Leung Kai Fook Medical Company



Leung Kai Fook Medical Company (Pte) Ltd is the maker of Axe Brand Universal Oil (also known as Axe Brand Medicated Oil), a popular brand of medicated oil recognised by many people around the world by its logo, which features an arm holding an axe.1 Axe Brand Medicated Oil is colourless and has a pleasant aroma due to its unique blend of eucalyptus, menthol, camphor and other essential oils.2 For more than 80 years, it has been used by adults and children as a treatment for giddiness, headache, travel sickness, stomachache, insect bites and other minor ailments.3

Early history
Leung Kai Fook Medical Company was founded by Leung Yun Chee (b. 1897, Shunde, China–d. 1971, Singapore) who, as a young man in his twenties, travelled from Shunde, China, to Singapore in the 1920s.4 He got to know a German physician, Dr Schmeidler, who gave him the formula for a medicated oil.5


Leung was initially a manager at a Shanghai silk trading company. But after three years, he decided to run his own business, operating from a shop in South Bridge Road, next to a medical hall. In 1928, Leung closed down his silk business and started the Leung Kai Fook Medical Company.6

Leung named the medicated oil after the axe because in the past, the axe was an essential item in every household, used daily to cut wood for cooking. The tagline he came up with, “Therapy in a bottle”, further sums up the brand’s values.7

In its early years, the response to the medicated oil was lukewarm, and faced stiff competition from more established companies from China and Hong Kong. Leung decided to advertise his product in the local papers, which was a bold marketing move in the 1950s. To promote and increase awareness of the company’s products, he started his own Chinese newspaper, New Life Daily, and gave away calendars and gifts. Furthermore, he undertook business trips to Malaysia, looking well-polished and distinguished in his Western suit, impressing buyers with his presentation.8

The business flourished in the 1960s, when Singaporean and Malaysian Muslim pilgrims started using Axe Brand oil on their annual haj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The pilgrims used the oil to relieve headaches, giddiness and other ailments caused by the long sea journey. The oil also became popular among Muslims living in countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan and even Kenya.9 Its popularity and sales grew to such an extent that the company shifted its production from a small cottage factory in South Bridge Road to a seven-storey factory in Macpherson in 1970.10

In 1967, Leung launched Shin Min Daily News, a Chinese newspaper that was subsequently sold to Singapore Press Holdings in the 1980s.11

Leung passed away in 1971.12 After his death, his son Leung Heng Keng, who had helped manage the company since 1951, took over and remains the company chairman today.13 Another son, Leung Mun Sum, joined the company in 1986 as managing director.14

Later developments
Since Leung Heng Keng took over the reins, the company has focused on expanding its markets beyond Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.15 Axe Brand products are today sold in more than 50 countries.16 The company operates five Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)-certified factories in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Vietnam.17

Leung Kai Fook Medical Company has added new products to its line up over the years. These include the Axe Brand Inhaler, Axe Brand Red Flower Oil and Axe Brand Medicated Plaster.18 The company has other various investments as well. It has, for instance, investments in real estate and computer companies in Singapore. In Hong Kong, it has invested in property and the travel industry. It has also ventured into hospitality in China, with investments in the luxurious US$65-million Hotel Landmark Canto in Guangzhou.19

Today, Axe Brand Universal Oil is one of the leading brands of medicated oil in Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Middle East and China.20 The company has successfully expanded the market for its medicated oil into the US, Australia and more recently, Romania and Greece.21 The universality of the product has seen its packaging translated into Arabic, Cambodian, French, Greek, Indonesian, Italian, Spanish, Sri Lankan, Swahili, Thai and Vietnamese.22 The company, which is still owned by the Leung family, was also one of the first medical oil producers in the world to obtain ISO-9002 certification.23



Author

Nureza Ahmad



References 
1. Superbrands: An insight into more than 100 of Singapore’s strongest brands. (2002). Singapore: Superbrands, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING q658.827 SUP); Leung Kai Fook Medical Company. (2015). Our story, the history of Axe brand. Retrieved from Leung Kai Fook Medical Company website: http://axebrand.com.sg/aboutus  
2. Superbrands: An insight into more than 100 of Singapore’s strongest brands. (2002). Singapore: Superbrands, p. 22. (Call no.: RSING q658.827 SUP)
3. Leung Kai Fook Medical Company. (2015). Axe brand universal oil. Retrieved from Leung Kai Fook Medical Company website: http://axebrand.com.sg/detail/axe-brand-universal-oil
4. Superbrands: An insight into more than 100 of Singapore’s strongest brands. (2002). Singapore: Superbrands, p. 22. (Call no.: RSING q658.827 SUP); Leung Kai Fook (Guangdong) Medical Co. Ltd. (n.d.). Interview with chairman of the board. Retrieved from Leung Kai Fook (Guangdong) Medical Co. Ltd. website: http://www.lkfmedical.cn/english/about.asp?classid=1&id=27
5. Leung Kai Fook Medical Company. (2015). Our story, the history of Axe brand. Retrieved from Leung Kai Fook Medical Company website: http://axebrand.com.sg/aboutus
6. Lim, S. N. (1993, April 26). A dose of perseverance. The Business Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Superbrands: An insight into more than 100 of Singapore’s strongest brands. (2002). Singapore: Superbrands, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING q658.827 SUP)
8. Superbrands: An insight into more than 100 of Singapore’s strongest brands. (2002). Singapore: Superbrands, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING q658.827 SUP)
9. Superbrands: An insight into more than 100 of Singapore’s strongest brands. (2002). Singapore: Superbrands, p. 22. (Call no.: RSING q658.827 SUP)
10. Koh, J. (2015, August 8). Singapore’s most endearing brands: Axe Brand Medicated Oil. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
11. Lim, S. N. (1993, April 26). A dose of perseverance. The Business Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Leung Kai Fook Medical Company. (2015). Our story, the history of Axe brand. Retrieved from Leung Kai Fook Medical Company website: http://axebrand.com.sg/aboutus
13. Superbrands: An insight into more than 100 of Singapore’s strongest brands. (2002). Singapore: Superbrands, p. 22. (Call no.: RSING q658.827 SUP); Leung Kai Fook Medical Company. (2015). Our story, the history of Axe brand. Retrieved from Leung Kai Fook Medical Company website: http://axebrand.com.sg/aboutus
14. Leung Kai Fook Medical Company. (2015). Our story, the history of Axe brand. Retrieved from Leung Kai Fook Medical Company website: http://axebrand.com.sg/aboutus
15. Lim, S. N. (1993, April 26). A dose of perseverance. The Business Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Leung Kai Fook Medical Company. (2015). Distribution. Retrieved from Leung Kai Fook Medical Company website: http://axebrand.com.sg/distribution
17. Leung Kai Fook Medical Company. (2015). LKF in the region, manufacturing facilities. Retrieved from Leung Kai Fook Medical Company website: http://axebrand.com.sg/manufacturing; Carving a name, across the world. (2016, July 22). The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
18. Superbrands: An insight into more than 100 of Singapore’s strongest brands. (2002). Singapore: Superbrands, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING q658.827 SUP)
19. Lim, S. N. (1993, April 26). A dose of perseverance. The Business Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Superbrands: An insight into more than 100 of Singapore’s strongest brands. (2002). Singapore: Superbrands, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING q658.827 SUP)
21. Carving a name, across the world. (2016, July 22). The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
22. Superbrands: An insight into more than 100 of Singapore’s strongest brands. (2002). Singapore: Superbrands, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING q658.827 SUP)
23. Carving a name, across the world. (2016, July 22). The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg




The information in this article is valid as at 2004 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
Organisations>>Companies
Leung Kai Fook Medical Company
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Healthcare and medicine
Business enterprises
Business enterprises--Singapore
Health and medicine>>Medication and therapies>>Traditional Chinese medicine
Ointments