The Emerging Enterprise Award has been empowering startups
and young enterprises in Singapore



Ven Chin, Founder and Executive Director, GD Group

2015 Emerging Enterprise Award Winner

Attending INSEAD’s Executive Education programmes has helped EE Award winner GD Group meet the challenges of the highly competitive F&B sector in Singapore and stay ahead

GD Group’s four food and beverage (F&B) brands have achieved enormous success in a short space of time. How would you sum up what the Group is all about? In a nutshell, what are its differentiators in Singapore’s crowded F&B scene?

GD’s differentiating concept is to offer classic Malaysian hawker dishes under one roof. Before food outlets like Malaysia Boleh and Malaysian Food Street launched, we had already started our first Gurney Drive outlet and identified the need to provide affordable, authentic Malaysian food in a comfortable air-conditioned environment.

It was also critical to get the pricing strategy right. We did a fair amount of research and analysis, and eventually found a price position that was resilient in both good and bad economic times.

Through our food quality, restaurant designs and price points, GD Group brands have become synonymous with authentic, good value Malaysian food served in a nice environment.

In 2015, GD Group was one of the top three winners of the OCBC Emerging Enterprise Award, which aims to help support Singapore’s dynamic start-up ecosystem. What impact has winning the award had on your business? Can you provide a specific example?

The award has certainly given us more credibility with important stakeholders like landlords and mall owners, banks, suppliers and partner firms. Stakeholders need to know that you are not a fly-by-night company and that you are here to stay for the long term.

Has the award provided a platform for GD Group to boost its capabilities for further growth? If so, how? Can you provide a specific example?

With the help of OCBC, one of the main sponsors of the award, we were able to purchase our first central kitchen. This has been instrumental in helping us maintain the quality of our sauces, and in making productivity gains by getting machines to take over some of the functions previously done in the outlet kitchens. It has also helped us ensure high and consistent standards in our food preparation. All this has been an important step towards positioning us for overseas expansion.

What other benefits has winning the award brought the business?

Throughout the award journey and afterwards, the award committee put a lot of effort into giving participants networking opportunities. We met many emerging leaders from various industries and learned a lot from them. I know it sounds clichéd, but it was through this experience that I learned the value of networking.

As the education partner of the Emerging Enterprise Awards, INSEAD Executive Education is committed to helping SMEs learn vital academic principles and cultivate key new skills to make their businesses globally competitive. Previously, you attended INSEAD’s “Negotiation Dynamics” and “Achieving Outstanding Performance” programmes. Why did you choose these two? What specific business challenges did you want to address?

In the F&B industry (and in most businesses), staff members are the greatest asset. As the number of outlets grows, business owners must manage from the top, focusing more on strategic decisions and delegating day-to-day operations to managers who are capable. Achieving Outstanding Performance taught me how to achieve outstanding results by focusing on people, processes and measurements.

The other course I chose – Negotiation Dynamics – was also really interesting. On a daily basis, I have to negotiate deals with landlords, suppliers, staff members and so on. Negotiation Dynamics taught me how to prepare strategically for these interactions, explore all options available and seek value for all parties involved.

Tell us about the mix of participants in each programme. Were they diverse groups?

With the exception of myself and one other Emerging Enterprise Award winner, none of the participants were from Singapore. They came from North America, Europe, Australia, Africa, China and so on, so it was a very diverse group.

What did you think of the quality of the teaching?

The faculty members were mostly industry practitioners. I think that is very useful. They were able to share practical experiences with us and were not too theoretical in their teaching.

What’s next for GD Group?

GD Group will continue expanding, both vertically and horizontally. Thanks to the addition of our central kitchen, we are able to look into growing new business arms, such as catering. At the same time, we are constantly looking for good new locations in Singapore, along with suitable opportunities to expand overseas.  


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