Mr Mark Yong, President of the Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC),
Ladies and Gentlemen, 

            Good evening. Thank you for inviting me to celebrate SFIC’s 37th anniversary. I’m delighted to see SFIC’s members, friends and supporters gathered tonight for this joyous event.

2          Our furniture industry has come a long way. I’d like to commend SFIC for playing a pivotal role in driving its growth and strengthening the Singapore brand globally over the past 37 years. The industry’s market value today is over S$6 billion, and home-grown furniture companies have successfully ventured to over 80 countries around the world.

3          While we celebrate our achievements, we should also look to building a stronger future. This is certainly an exciting time to be in the furniture industry. The outlook for the global furniture industry is promising, as it is projected to grow by more than S$140 billion in the next three years.

4          It is therefore timely that we look to new landscapes and the many opportunities that lie ahead of us.

Exciting opportunities lie ahead of us, especially in Asia

5          Over the years, the Singapore furniture brand has built a strong international reputation synonymous with trust and quality. To continue thriving in future, we need to build on this.

6          Change is upon us, and innovation and transformation is becoming a necessity. New market players are emerging to compete with us. They are harnessing technology to find new ways of designing and manufacturing, and at greater speed.

7          Demographics are shifting too, as an urban, Asian consumer base is growing to dominate the market. By 2025, Asian cities will house half of the global urban population. Emerging economies will account for nearly half of global GDP growth, driven largely by the growing Asian urban middle class.

8          This group will have different expectations as well: Consumer experience studies tell us that by 2020, more than 80% of urban consumers will pay more to get a better experience while two-thirds are likely to switch brands if they do not receive personalised experiences.

9          This is why it is so important for companies to expand the role of design beyond aesthetics, to processes and the entire consumer experience. Meeting the aspirations of this segment of consumers will be crucial in our ability to stay relevant and competitive. Singapore is well-placed to succeed, as ‘the Asian hub influencing tomorrow’s urban living’. SFIC has worked hard over past few months with industry and partners, and jointly developed a new vision statement for the Singapore furniture industry – the “Asian hub influencing tomorrow’s urban living”. This is ambitious and uplifting.

10          I believe Singapore is well-placed to succeed at making the most of new opportunities.  We have many strengths as a cosmopolitan urban landscape. As a city-state, Singapore has developed our own approach to urban living and solutioning which is often cited as a reference globally. Singaporean designers and manufacturers have the cultural and historical context to create a distinctively Asian design language that can travel and be appreciated far and wide.

How can we succeed in realising our vision?

11          Now that we have arrived at a shared vision, the even more complex work of executing this vision begins.

12          There are three areas that I believe SFIC is well equipped to focus on:

  • improving our capabilities;
  • cultivating our partners; and
  • nurturing the youth.

13          First, building our own organic, indigenous capabilities. This is essential in seizing market opportunities and staying relevant. Relentless testing, launching and iterating, and speed to market are no longer what only big companies do.

14          SFIC has an important role to play in helping furniture companies and manufacturers develop new skills. One way they have done so is through the “Borderless” platform, a zero-boundary living lab solution. “Borderless” helps companies to pollinate new urban living solutions and thus minimize business risks when developing new products. This is especially impactful for the many SMEs within the furniture industry who often find it a challenge to invest in R&D. Our local furniture brand Cellini tapped on this platform to research and create a new furniture design concept that melds traditional techniques and modern living solutions. Through this platform, they partnered with students from etc lab, Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s interdisciplinary design and research centre, as well as craftsmen from Indonesia.

15          Another competency that I know SFIC believes in is Digitalisation. I commend companies who have boldly taken this step. For example, Sunray Woodcraft Construction Private Limited. Sunray was an early adopter of smart technology as Charles Tan, its second-generation boss, recognised the need to digitise. He set up a new digital segment which has created a software that provides a platform for the built environment with visual and AI solutions. This results in streamlined work processes, and increased efficiency and productivity. I’m glad that SFIC has supported such innovations by bringing its members onboard this digitalisation effort.

16          Second, we must cultivate strong partnerships, at home and also abroad, especially in Asia. I know that the SFIC leadership are already big supporters of the “3Fs” approach for Singapore – in other words, for players in the food, fashion and furniture sectors to come together, market together and hunt for opportunities together. I am greatly encouraged by this, partly because I have the privilege of also advising trade associations in these sister sectors, but also because this approach helps to raise Singapore’s brand value for all things related to lifestyle.

17          Partnerships abroad also present exciting opportunities. We should strengthen our positioning in ASEAN, especially with Singapore as chair of ASEAN this year. SFIC and Enterprise Singapore’s recent business development mission to the Philippines is a good start. The trip provided a good platform to promote urban living solutions from Singapore’s designers and furniture companies to Philippines’ leading developers and architects.

18          SFIC also continues to play an active role within the ASEAN Furniture Industries Council to market and profile ASEAN furniture to the world. At the same time, it is setting its sights further afield, to larger urban centres in Asia and even in Europe and the Americas. Recent business development trips to China, also organised with Enterprise Singapore, has seen promising outcomes. For instance: the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between SFIC and Redstar Macalline, one of China’s largest home improvement and furniture retail platforms. This allowed 10 of Singapore’s furniture brands to debut at the China International Furniture Fair in Shanghai, including stalwarts like Koda and emerging players like Commune.

19          Third, we must nurture our next generation. I am happy to see that SFIC is collaborating with Institutes of Higher Learning like Singapore Polytechnic to pair their students with leading furniture firms like Benel and Cellini to work on ‘’Co-Working’’ and “Co-Living’’ solutions. Efforts like these do much to kindle the interest of the younger generation in this industry.

20          I am also heartened to see SFIC taking a regional leadership role by organising the 4th ASEAN Youth Furniture Exchange Programme in Singapore. The Programme nurtures the next generation of business leaders and promotes cross-border business partnerships. On this note, I’d like to welcome the ASEAN participants, who are here with us tonight.

21          Another welcome to extend is to the new SFIC EXCO that has been voted in this afternoon. Succession and renewal of leadership is crucial to every organisation, and the new EXCO will have the exciting task of bringing to life the council’s new vision and plans.

The furniture industry can look forward to continued government support

22          I want to encourage the industry to keep having meaningful dialogue and collaborations with our public agencies. We have come a long way together and the government is committed to supporting the design community and trade associations like SFIC in their efforts to innovate, transform and seize new opportunities.

23          You would have heard Minister Iswaran’s announcement yesterday about the restructuring of DesignSingapore Council (Dsg), which will see Dsg shifting to the Economic Development Board (EDB).This is a great move that acknowledges the role design plays in transitioning the Singapore economy to the next phase.This move will enable Dsg and Design to synergise better with our economic agencies and strategies, scale up the potential of the design sector, and push for the adoption of design to enable growth and innovation.

24          Operationally, Dsg will remain intact and will continue its initiatives and work to support the design industry. The National Design Centre will continue to the nexus for designers and collaborators, and key programmes like the Singapore Design Week and the President’s Design Award will continue running.

25          As a fully-owned subsidiary of EDB, Dsg will have even more flexibility to pursue collaborations and partnerships. They will be able to test and roll out new ideas more quickly. Furthermore, they will be able to also tap on EDB’s partnerships to help Singaporean companies to adopt design. We will continue to back Dsg and its mission to support SFIC and the industry, engage international collaborators and build a strong Singapore Design Brand.

Conclusion

26          Let me close by urging everyone to rally around SFIC’s efforts in realising our vision for the future of Singapore furniture. I’d like to offer my compliments to SFIC’s stewardship and work in building the Singapore Furniture Industry 2021 Roadmap. It points to new possibilities in urban living solutions, whilst staying true to the principles of this industry – a spirit of invention and resilience, and the passion to bring quality of life to consumers.

27          A bright future is ahead of us. I am confident that the council will continue to bring its members to greater heights and look forward to future developments. I wish you every success.

28          Thank you.