Feel Good: Why A Swedish Multinational Company Is Supporting A One-Man Watch Clinic In Singapore
This unusual story would never have happened if it hadn’t been for the global pandemic, the Swedish Chamber of Commerce, and a rather brilliant idea.
They say that every cloud has a silver lining, and one of the silver linings of the global pandemic is a special project coming out of SwedCham, the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Singapore.
The mission of the Sweden Singapore initiative, entitled SESG, has been to connect 12 Swedish multinational companies with 12 small businesses across Singapore to exchange ideas, expertise, and opportunities.
The Importance Of Small Businesses
Small and medium-sized businesses account for 99% of Singapore’s companies, employ 70% of Singaporeans, and make up for nearly half of the country’s GDP. And after an approximate 50% decrease in revenue for many entrepreneurs, this initiative is an important step on the road to COVID recovery.
Thus, big-name Swedish companies like H&M, Saab, Ericsson, Electrolux, Anticimex, AstraZeneca, Atlas Copco, Axis, Camfil, Stena, Trelleborg, and Hexagon have teamed up with small- or medium-sized Singaporean entrepreneurs, all with deep ties to their community.
The result is an ad campaign that will be visible all over the small island nation, providing the 12 Singaporean businesses with some much-needed visibility and unprecedented audience reach.
The Local Singaporean Entrepreneurs
The local businesses include a burger shop, an Indian goods boutique, a coffee shop, a tuition center, a ramen stall, a chicken rice stall, a fruit store, a tailor, a jeweler, a baker – and for our story – a watchmaker.
Unique Vintage Watches
Nick Tng is the owner of Unique Vintage Watches on Singapore’s Smith Street and has been collecting vintage watches since the 1980s. An engineer by training, he loves nothing more than tinkering with mechanical things. “I started my collection with one watch, and it grew from there,” he explained. “When I started to have many watches that needed servicing, it became a headache, so I decided to do my own servicing and repairs and read books and taught myself [watchmaking].”
In 2013, he decided to set up his own watch clinic business, restoring other collectors’ timepieces and selling interesting vintage wristwatches. “Watch repairs and servicing is hands-on,” Tng added. “Customers need to come down to the shop, they need to hand the watch to me, I need to assess it, I need to process what is wrong, and then I need to inform them what needs repairing and how much it will cost and so on. So at the end of the day, they have to come to me, and if customers do not come, it's quite difficult to work.”
So, it is hardly surprising that when Singapore went into lockdown, his business ground to an alarming halt.
Boon Choon Lim is President at Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence for Korea, ASEAN, Pacific, and India and is based in Singapore. The company has over 20,000 employees spread across 50 countries and specializes in sensors and software. Hexagon also manufactures optical instruments to measure watch components to the micron for quality control purposes, selling these instruments to some of the leading names in the Swiss watch industry.
Tng and Lim were paired up and are just starting on their journey together. The first project was a photoshoot and island wide advertising campaign that ran on billboards and buses. The campaign was a huge hit, and even Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, shared it on Twitter and Linkedin!
The regular partner meetings are called Fika4Good, after the Swedish tradition of “fika,” where friends and co-workers gather to have a coffee, chat, and solve problems. Each partner duo determines the issues they want to work on during these meetings.
“I'm really happy to collaborate with Nick,” shared Lim. “This year, my dad passed away, and I inherited one of his watches. I passed it to Nick to help me repair it, and he did a very good job.”
Rays Of Hope
The Swedish Chamber of Commerce – a non-profit, non-governmental, membership-based organization representing Swedish business in Singapore – developed the project in collaboration with creative collective Forsman & Bodenfors. The objective was to bring some hope in a moment of crisis, and the long-term vision is to continue the project throughout 2021 and beyond.
“It has been such an energizing project for our organization,” said Lisa Ferraton, General Manager at SwedCham. “I think we are much better off working together. And that's really the ultimate message of this campaign. This kind of challenging environment polarizes people, and everybody stays in their corner to try and protect themselves. But what if we reach out and say, ‘Hey, why don't we do something together? Why don't we try to get through this together?’” Lim agreed: “We have all pushed through a very hard time with lockdown, but at the same time, I think we have so much to learn from these SMEs. They just get on with their work, and that's something that some of the very big companies can learn from too.”
This initiative is proving that everyone has something to gain from sharing knowledge and experiences, big or small, and we are always stronger together.