Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shop Eu Yan Sang is a Singapore household brand with origins dating back to the 19th century.
It is also one of the largest TCM groups in Asia, with over 210 retail stores in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia and Singapore.
In addition to retailing Chinese medicine and herbs, the company operates almost 30 TCM clinics in these countries as well as a food and beverage business in Malaysia.
In addition, the company has sales channels in western countries such as Canada, the USA, Australia and South America.
Starting from a small medical hall, here you can see how Eu Yan Sang has developed into a global brand over the years.
Over 140 years of history
Photo credit: I Yan Sang
The first Eu Yan Sang Outlet was opened as a small medical hall in Malaysia in 1879 by the first generation founder, Eu Kong.
Opium use was previously widespread, so Eu Kong was concerned about the welfare of opium-addicted tin miners in Malaya.
He hoped his medical hall would encourage workers to use TCM instead of opioids to manage their ailments.
His only son, Eu Tong Sen, inherited the business and by the 1910s the business had offices in Singapore, Hong Kong and China.
After Eu Tong Sen’s death in 1941, the company was run by administrators and transformed from a company to a limited liability company.
In 1989, the threat of extinction to Eu Yan Sang forced Richard Eu, Eu Kong’s great-grandson, to join the business, according to a Forbes report.
Richard Eu / Photo credit: 2iB Partners
Richard threw the company a “lifeline” because it was “thorny”.
At this point in time, TCM was already known as the “Sunset Industry”. Richard was thus a major driving force behind the modernization of TCM as he works to make it more accessible to the masses.
When he took control of Eu Yan Sang, the brand had offices in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
He then decided to aggressively increase the number of retail stores in these countries. He also began building sales channels in Canada, the United States, Australia, and South America.
Richard was firmly convinced that TCM was not only intended for the East and tried to increase its acceptance in the Western world as well.
I didn’t want to wait for the West to tell us about traditional Asian medicines or get out of hand in discussions about healthcare.
So that was the beginning of the thought process about how to change the business, and indeed the whole sector, because back then people were very intimidated into going into our stores.
Richard Eu, Chairman of Eu Yan Sang International Ltd in a high-fortune interview
In 2000, Eu Yan Sang was listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange. The year after, it bought the US brand Exilir, known for its health tonics and teas, and the Australian brand YourHealth.
Richard later stepped down as CEO in 2007 to take over the chairmanship of Eu Yan Sang International Ltd.
The brand was delisted from the Singapore stock exchange in 2016, and the majority stake in Eu Yan Sang was taken over by a consortium made up of the Eu family Temasek and private equity firm Tower Capital.
Combining traditional wisdom with modern practices
Photo credit: I Yan Sang
When the term “TCM” is mentioned, many tend to think of dingy, dimly-lit medical halls selling traditional herbs.
However, Eu Yan Sang’s retail stores are just the opposite. Eu Yan Sang also prides itself on its ability to consistently incorporate science and technology into its products and offerings.
Since the 1990s, Eu Yan Sang has been constantly innovating and integrating modernizations into its products.
For example, the brand has developed its own ginseng tea bags, a prepackaged TCM soup formula and a bottled bird’s nest.
In 2009, Eu Yan Sang founded the Nanyang Polytechnic, the first TCM laboratory in Singapore.
It has also partnered with organizations like the NUS School of Medicine and the Parkway Cancer Center to publish scientific papers on the interactions between TCM and Western medicine.
From dying trade to household names
While many once thought that TCM was a dying trade, it appears to be the opposite, as evidenced by the steady growth of Eu Yan Sang over the past century and more.
In 2018, the group achieved a profit of S $ 39 million on sales of almost S $ 300 million.
In addition, the company has managed to build a good reputation as a leading TCM brand and gain the trust of the public.
If your customer base believes in your name and reputation that you would get it right, at least that is the foundation of a good relationship.
It’s probably stronger than saying I can sell you something cheaper or that I have the latest technology.
Richard Eu, chairman of Eu Yan Sang International Ltd in a high net worth interview
Selected image source: Eu Yan Sang