Scanteak CEO on reviving her dad’s furniture business

Scanteak, a famend homegrown furnishings model identified for its premium designs and impeccable high quality, has a humble origin story with roots that hint again to a rag-to-riches story.
Regardless of being a brilliant baby, founder Lim Pok Chin lacked monetary assets that hindered his instructional aspirations. This prompted him to pursue enterprise as a way to create alternatives for himself.
Within the early days, he took on numerous menial jobs, similar to being a espresso boy, carpenter’s apprentice, and a home painter. Regardless of the hardships, his entrepreneurial spirit remained unwavering.
The muse of Scanteak started in 1974 with Hawaii Inside Decorations, which specialised in portray homes. His spouse was his first worker and with solely a modest 400 sq. toes workplace house in Joo Chiat, the corporate expanded quickly, establishing two showrooms inside simply two years.
Though Pok Chin had a Chinese language schooling and upbringing, he recognised the facility of branding and aimed for an English-sounding firm identify. Impressed by the favored TV present “Hawaii 5-O,” he named the corporate Hawaii Inside Decorations.
Nevertheless, pushed by a need to discover new avenues, Pok Chin ventured into the furnishings commerce, which offers with the import, export and retail of furnishings. In 1979, Hawaii Furnishings was integrated, attaining a formidable annual turnover of S$10 million inside 5 years.
Sadly, the ASEAN monetary disaster posed extreme challenges, pushing the enterprise to the brink of chapter. The fluctuating foreign money charges led to a considerable enhance in the price of imported items, making it nearly inconceivable to promote them at worthwhile costs.
In these darkest moments, a glimmer of hope emerged as Pok Chin, with assist from his associates, determined to “restart” the enterprise. That was how Scanteak was born, out of a disaster, in 1988.
Inspiring household moments with high quality and sustainability
Lim Pok Chin, founding father of Scanteak / Picture Credit score: Scanteak
Pok Chin’s visionary strategy led him to include Scandinavian minimalist design philosophies with high-quality teak wooden sourced from Southeast Asia. This fusion resulted in Scandinavian designed teak furnishings, giving beginning to the identify ‘Scanteak’.
Scanteak’s mission to excel in house furnishings whereas sustaining a worldwide presence is pushed by their imaginative and prescient of “inspiring household moments worldwide”.
In an interview with Vulcan Submit, Jamie Lim, CEO of Scanteak, emphasises their purpose of making furnishings that’s not solely purposeful, but additionally fuss-free. For instance, Scanteak’s detachable couch covers make it straightforward to scrub up spills, enabling households to get pleasure from their time collectively with out worrying about potential messes. This dedication to enhancing household experiences aligns completely with Scanteak’s overarching imaginative and prescient.
When requested to explain Scanteak in a single phrase, Jamie promptly responds with “high quality”. Their furnishings are designed in Singapore, typically in collaboration with designers, and their supplies are rigorously chosen for his or her ease of use, sturdiness, and power. Their final goal is to fulfil buyer satisfaction by providing furnishings that’s constructed to final a lifetime.
Jamie Lim and her brother Julian at certainly one of Scanteak’s SVLK-certified teak plantation / Picture Credit score: Scanteak
She added that sustainability is a key pillar of Scanteak’s ethos. For starters, Scanteak’s plantations are strictly regulated by the Indonesian authorities, underneath the supervision of the SVLK, the nationwide authority for timber legality. Because of this their timber are responsibly harvested to make sure sustainability.
The corporate has additionally taken proactive steps to make sure compliance with formaldehyde laws in numerous nations, similar to Japan and Taiwan. Formaldehyde, identified to annoy the eyes and delicate pores and skin, poses potential well being dangers, together with sure cancer-causing properties.
In Singapore, it’s not required for furnitures to be formaldehyde-compliant however after a dialog along with her brother, Jamie realised the significance of consistency and the affect it might have on future generations.
The siblings finally made the troublesome choice to require compliance throughout all markets, even when it meant parting methods with long-time “uncle” suppliers. This dedication to offering protected and sustainable furnishings stems from their dedication to inspiring household moments and making certain the well-being of shoppers and their youngsters.
Scanteak’s sustainability efforts additionally lengthen to their manufacturing processes. “Price financial savings and sustainability should go hand in hand,” harassed Jamie.
By designing furnishings that maximises using supplies, Scanteak minimises waste and promotes financial sustainability. As an illustration, they design a variety of furnishings items, from massive planks like sofas to smaller equipment like stools, to totally utilise the obtainable wooden with out pointless wastage.
Whereas balancing stock ranges will be difficult, Scanteak is actively adopting synthetic intelligence (AI) to enhance forecasting accuracy. They’re creating a demand-supply forecast system that utilises AI and machine studying algorithms to analyse historic information, provider data, lead occasions, and buyer demand. “It mainly tells us what to promote and when to promote,” she quipped.
This data-driven strategy will improve stock administration and optimise pricing methods, making certain Scanteak meets buyer wants effectively and sustainably.
From Hollywood to teak wooden
Jamie Lim, CEO of Scanteak Singapore / Picture Credit score: Scanteak
Jamie, the daughter of founder Pok Chin, first joined Scanteak as a regional advertising director in 2004, when she was simply in her early twenties.
Earlier than becoming a member of Scanteak, Jamie pursued a double main in movie and advertising, pushed by her need to make a significant affect on this world. Her ardour for motion pictures led her to discover a profession in Hollywood, the place she engaged in each the creation and advertising of movies.
After spending two years in Los Angeles, Jamie got here to grasp that enterprise might additionally function a automobile for creating an affect.
The catalyst for Jamie’s return to Singapore and her subsequent choice to affix Scanteak was an sudden telephone name from her father.

He “unintentionally” referred to as me within the US after seven years and he claimed that it was a ‘butt name’. These had been the times of Sony Ericsson and to name internationally, it’s not a WhatsApp name away — it’s important to dial very lengthy numbers.
So when he referred to as me, he invited me to Taiwan and [painted] me a lavish image of what a profitable enterprise particular person would appear to be — and it concerned serving to staff, embracing clients, and spending high quality time with household. And I believe I used to be fairly bought on these concepts.
– Jamie Lim, CEO of Scanteak Singapore
This attractive imaginative and prescient, coupled with the attract of changing into a part of a grand legacy, finally satisfied Jamie to take the leap and be part of Scanteak.
Rising up nevertheless, Jamie admitted that she by no means had the intention to affix the household enterprise, so becoming a member of Scanteak was a big step for her.
Whereas there have been moments over the previous 19 years when she contemplated leaving, she is now grateful for staying. Remaining at Scanteak has allowed her to contribute to the household legacy and witness the model’s development firsthand.
Harnessing the facility of branding
When Jamie joined Scanteak, the model was truly dealing with a difficult section with solely three shops remaining in Singapore. In its prime, previous to Jamie’s involvement, Scanteak boasted a formidable community of greater than 10 shops throughout the nation.
Recognising the restrictions of the Singapore market, her father set his sights on increasing inside a “six-hour radius”, impressed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s recommendation to concentrate on close by markets.
Picture Credit score: Scanteak Taiwan
Believing that Taiwan, with its proximity and Chinese language-speaking inhabitants, offered a precious alternative, Scanteak ventured there as its first abroad market. Scanteak skilled regular development in Taiwan, establishing a presence within the nation by 1993 with an annual turnover of S$5 million.
In 2004, Scanteak expanded its attain in Taiwan to 25 showrooms and entered Osaka, Japan. The next yr marked the opening of Scanteak’s first flagship retailer in Taiwan, and by 2010, the model achieved a big milestone of surpassing 100 showrooms worldwide.
Following Scanteak’s fast enlargement, Jamie determined to embark on a complete rebranding journey to raised mirror the evolving preferences and aspirations of Scanteak’s target market.
Picture Credit score: Scanteak
The unique tagline, “timeless magnificence and high quality,” was changed with the extra relatable and welcoming tagline, “really feel at house.” This shift aimed to determine a stronger emotional reference to clients, emphasising Scanteak’s dedication to creating an atmosphere the place individuals can actually really feel comfortable and cozy.
Along with the tagline change, Jamie revamped Scanteak’s company picture, together with its font and total visible identification. Jamie additionally made essential design alterations to the furnishings itself, recognising the various tastes and existence in numerous markets.
Whereas Taiwan favoured a extra sturdy and hulking look, Singapore’s rising affluence and modernisation referred to as for slimmer profiles and a extra modern aesthetic. By adapting the furnishings design to swimsuit the preferences of every market, Scanteak efficiently appealed to a broader buyer base.
Leveraging her advertising experience, Jamie additionally created Scanteak’s first TV business. This business, centred across the heartfelt story of a father and son, gained accolades and viewers’ selection awards alongside famend manufacturers like McDonald’s and Singapore Airways.
It marked the preliminary step in Scanteak’s rebranding journey, because the business stood out from typical furnishings ads. Translating it to Chinese language, Jamie introduced the business to Taiwan, the place Scanteak’s branding journey gained momentum.
Jamie added that the media and promoting panorama has dramatically developed through the years. Throughout Scanteak’s early days, digital promoting was non-existent and folks relied on conventional media as a substitute.
Inserting an commercial in a newspaper was a pricey endeavour, prompting companies to pack as a lot data as attainable to maximise the return on funding.
Nevertheless, her dad’s mentor launched a refreshing perspective: “much less is extra” on the subject of strategic branding. As a substitute of overwhelming potential clients with data, they learnt to create impactful ads with minimal content material.
By that includes charming visuals and compelling copywriting, Scanteak’s ads stood out from the gang. The end result? Strains shaped outdoors Scanteak shops even earlier than they opened, solidifying the significance of strategic branding within the firm’s success.
Embracing digital innovation
Picture Credit score: Scanteak
Recognising the untapped potential of e-commerce, Scanteak boldly ventured into on-line retail at a time when the market has but to embrace this channel totally.
Initially, Jamie’s father harboured reservations about promoting furnishings on-line, believing that clients wanted to bodily expertise the consolation and high quality earlier than committing to a purchase order. Nevertheless, Jamie keenly noticed the market shifting in direction of e-commerce and proactively secured a grant to launch Scanteak’s on-line presence.
As a trusted model identified for its distinctive furnishings designs, Scanteak’s on-line technique centred on showcasing the merchandise in a visually interesting method.
Jamie famous that whereas clients might not be accustomed to the specs, dimension, or color variations of Scanteak furnishings, they typically recognised its total aesthetic and high quality. By that includes the merchandise on-line, Scanteak saved clients the effort and time of visiting a bodily retailer, catering to their busy existence.
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic offered important challenges to companies worldwide, however Scanteak perceived it as a chance to additional innovate digitally and develop new options. One key initiative concerned establishing abroad subsidiaries.
The abrupt implementation of Motion Management Orders (MCO) compelled many Malaysian employees members to rapidly return to their house nations, doubtlessly resulting in a lack of precious expertise. In response, Scanteak arrange makeshift workplaces outfitted with Scanteak tables and chairs, enabling staff to work remotely.
Customer support was one other space that underwent a big transformation in the course of the pandemic. With bodily shops compelled to shut, Scanteak needed to discover other ways to keep up seamless communication with clients.
By digitising customer support, Scanteak leveraged its current enterprise information database and engaged reside brokers who might tackle buyer queries by way of on-line chat platforms. This strategy not solely ensured immediate and environment friendly buyer help, but additionally demonstrated that superior service may very well be delivered with out relying solely on telephone conversations.
Provide chain disruptions posed one more problem for Scanteak in the course of the pandemic. With some suppliers unable to fulfil orders resulting from unexpected circumstances, Scanteak needed to resort to progressive options. The model independently sourced tabletops and desk legs and assembled them in-house, displaying agility and adaptableness to fulfill buyer demand.
As well as, their enlargement plans into Malaysia and different areas the place they’d arrange warehouses confronted important disruption because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

My group of 10 employees members, together with people from HR, accounting, advertising, design and procurement, had been caught there. I had all people [from different roles] there, so I believed why not go on Lazada Malaysia and Shopee Malaysia. We additionally determined to arrange an internet site throughout the entire COVID interval to broaden our [presence] since we will’t bodily be there.”
– Jamie Lim, CEO of Scanteak Singapore
The model’s on-line platform skilled important development and have become its “bread and butter” in the course of the lockdown interval. This strategic transfer can be anticipated to pave the way in which for Scanteak’s bodily enlargement, which it goals to realize within the fourth quarter of this yr or in 2024.
Whereas COVID-19 led to unprecedented challenges, Jamie perceives it as a blessing in disguise, because it accelerated Scanteak’s digitisation efforts.
Regardless of the turbulent occasions, Scanteak witnessed sturdy enterprise efficiency in the course of the pandemic. As individuals spent extra time at house, there was a heightened demand for house furnishings, and Scanteak emerged as a trusted model alongside business giants like Ikea and Courts.
Navigating challenges as CEO and the “boss’s daughter”
From left to proper: Scanteak founder Lim Pok Chin, his spouse Catherine, and their daughter Jamie Lim / Picture Credit score: Scanteak
Because the daughter of the corporate’s founder, Jamie’s journey into the enterprise world was not with out its challenges. Regardless of her {qualifications}, there have been doubts and criticisms surrounding her involvement within the firm.
Some questioned whether or not she was merely benefitting from her familial connections. Nevertheless, Jamie rapidly proved that being a second-generation chief was no straightforward job. The burden of the household legacy and the worry of letting down her father’s arduous work pushed her to attempt for excellence.
Jamie acknowledges that being the boss’s daughter got here with greater expectations. Failure was not only a private setback, but additionally a blow to the fame and heritage of Scanteak. She knew that to actually set up herself, she needed to be “extraordinary”, carving out her personal identification whereas respecting the model’s heritage.

Being the second-gen is definitely a lot more durable than being the first-gen. You need to show your self. As a primary gen, in case you fail, it’s okay, attempt once more.
As a second gen, in case you fail, it’s okay, attempt once more, however you’ve shamed the legacy. You let down your father’s arduous work. When you make it, good job; your dad gave you a stable basis [to work with].
– Jamie Lim, CEO of Scanteak Singapore
One of many important hurdles Jamie confronted early on was gaining buy-in and belief from long-standing staff who had labored underneath her mother and father for many years.
As a younger boss who didn’t match the normal company mould (full with funky-coloured hair on the time), Jamie confronted resistance and skepticism from some staff, who disregarded her concepts solely primarily based on her standing because the boss’s daughter.
Nevertheless, Jamie realized to navigate these obstacles by being extra clear along with her phrases and discovering widespread floor along with her group. She understood the worth of their expertise and opinions and recognised the necessity to respect their views.
As a substitute of imposing modifications, she initiated conversations and sought their enter on bettering the furnishings and enhancing gross sales. By framing these discussions as collaborative efforts, Jamie was in a position to bridge the generational and experiential gaps, fostering a way of unity and progress throughout the firm.
In 2019, Jamie’s transition from a advertising position to the CEO place marked a big milestone in her profession. Notably, she shares a singular dynamic along with her brother, who additionally holds a management position throughout the Group. Conscious of their distinct management kinds, their father astutely assigned them “particular person sandboxes” throughout the enterprise.
By delegating management duties to every sibling, Jamie and her brother had been in a position to flourish of their respective roles. Her brother has since assumed the CEO place at Nova Furnishings (an organization that Scanteak most not too long ago acquired), whereas Jamie took on the position of CEO at Scanteak Singapore. This division of duties not solely prevented potential conflicts, but additionally empowered every sibling to make unbiased selections and contribute to the household’s enterprise empire.
At this time, Jamie’s mother and father stay concerned within the enterprise, along with her father serving because the chairman of Scanteak Taiwan. They tackle an advisory position, granting Jamie and her brother the autonomy to make their very own selections and form the way forward for the corporate.
She acknowledges her father’s occasional disagreement along with her concepts, however values his two cents and appreciates that he trusts her judgment.
Jasen assortment / Picture Credit score: Scanteak
On one event, Jamie and her father collaborated on a settee design for its Jasen collection. It proved to be extremely fashionable, however they didn’t take the mandatory steps to guard their mental property.
Consequently, the design was broadly replicated and might now be discovered all around the Web. Jamie passionately illustrates this level as she scrolls by way of a devoted picture album titled ‘Copycat’ on her iPhone, exposing a mess of copycat designs, some even imitating Scanteak’s distinctive emblem and tagline.
Studying from this lesson, she defined that they took proactive measures with their Prologue assortment by acquiring a design patent. “Prologue was patented as a result of we actually did quite a lot of R&D into the best way to make a chunk of wooden lengthy and skinny with out breaking,” she stated.
Prologue assortment / Picture Credit score: Scanteak
Launched in 2012, Prologue was primarily focused on the Japanese market, and performed in collaboration with acclaimed design studio Outofstock. Jamie initially questioned the hefty worth tags related to designer furnishings, appreciating its aesthetic attraction, however acknowledging its inaccessibility for a lot of shoppers. This prompted Scanteak to introduce a designer vary that provided a extra inexpensive various.
At this time, Prologue stays certainly one of their best-sellers and has garnered quite a few accolades, together with the Singapore Good Design Award, IPOS Award for Design Innovation, Good Design Award in Japan, and the celebrated President’s Design Award. By safeguarding their creation by way of patent safety, Scanteak efficiently shielded their design from replication by others.
At this time, Scanteak’s trademark and patent portfolio stretches over into over 20 logos in 28 nations.
Jamie emphasised the significance for companies to guard their creations, whether or not or not it’s an invention, innovation, or model. She candidly admitted that she initially failed to know this idea, however has since recognised its significance.
A footprint of 180 retailers worldwide
Scanteak Signature outlet in Singapore / Picture Credit score: Furnishings & Furnishing
With a market presence in Singapore, Taiwan, and Japan, Scanteak operates round 180 shops globally. Nearly all of these shops, roughly 120, are situated in Taiwan, demonstrating the model’s recognition within the area.
Whereas actual gross sales figures weren’t disclosed, Jamie talked about that the Scanteak Group’s turnover is “north of US$100 million”, highlighting the corporate’s sturdy monetary standing.
Scanteak’s development technique is targeted on increasing its market attain inside Southeast Asia, focusing on nations like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. By prioritising markets which can be inside proximity and share language similarities, this strategic strategy permits the corporate to capitalise on the “low-hanging fruits”, whereas laying the muse for future enlargement.
Reflecting on her enterprise so far, Jamie stated that when she first joined Scanteak, Singapore had solely three shops that had been all “within the purple”.
By means of branding initiatives and attaining economies of scale, Scanteak managed to extend its outlet rely to fifteen. Nevertheless, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic compelled some closures, lowering the overall quantity to 11.
However, the corporate’s turnover has grown important since then, showcasing its resilience and adaptableness.
As Scanteak appears to be like to the long run, the corporate envisions changing into the “LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) of the house furnishings business”. The main target lies not solely on furnishing properties worldwide, but additionally on repeatedly evolving to fulfill altering buyer wants.
At present, Scanteak is venturing into the good furnishings realm. As a substitute of getting clients choose from current designs on the retailer, Scanteak goals to allow any electrical furnishings to develop into good by merely plugging in a dongle.
With innovation as an necessary a part of their business trip, Scanteak stays dedicated to development and is actively looking for alternatives for additional acquisitions.
In terms of the precious enterprise recommendation Jamie acquired from her father, she emphasises the significance of working arduous and dealing good whereas sustaining flexibility and taking dangers with integrity. Her father instilled the assumption that success shouldn’t come on the expense of others or compromise moral values and rules.
Moreover, Jamie underscores the importance of staying trustworthy to small duties. By excelling in even the smallest duties and upholding integrity and values, success will be achieved and step by step construct into a bigger narrative.
With Jamie’s management and Scanteak’s unwavering dedication to high quality and buyer satisfaction, the model continues to set new requirements within the house furnishings business, leaving an enduring legacy for generations to return.
Featured Picture Credit score: Scanteak