HAVING built a business around pre-owned cars, Orchard Credit is keen to head down the road of diversification and disruption.
Having built its standing in the local market for organizing financing and selling pre-owned cars, the challenge was how to make the leap to another level.
Property seemed a natural play decades ago for Orchard Credit’s founders, husband and wife Robert and Ruby Heng. Having started the business 40 years ago, they were content to grow it at a steady pace.
But a new generation brings fresh ideas, and their son Renny Heng has injected new businesses to broaden the scope and diversify the portfolio.
Adding Variety To The Orchard
With the car market subject to numerous shifts and stresses at the hands of government agencies, and the property market similarly affected, Renny ventured into the food and beverage, and storage sectors — wine retailing, wine storage and dining establishments, including the highly regarded Corner House in Botanic Gardens.
“Back in 2000, we decided to start the wine business as we saw growth opportunities,” recalls Robert Heng.
“Our wine retail and storage business units are now very important to the group. My view of the changes taking place in the economy and our own business model is that we must be quick to innovate to compete in this market and to embrace digital technology,” he states.
Orchard Credit Group of Companies now has six businesses. The more recent businesses account for 20-30% of the group’s turnover.
In line with this push for fresh ideas, the latest initiative is an incubator for tech ideas.
“We want to look at something that is in line with how the government wants to push the economy forward,” William Choo, the group’s Chief Operating Officer explains.
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The creation of a space to house and nurture start-up businesses will be launched in the near future. By nurturing and guiding them, Choo hopes to be able to expand into new areas of endeavour.
“We will have first right of refusal for any ideas that come up. We need around 10 or 15 ideas and maybe one will be successful,” Choo adds.
Not forgetting the car industry, innovations like easy financing and online applications have eased the process of getting pre-owned cars into the hands of new owners.
“We take in cars from as young as a few months to nine years of age. And we offer a one-year warranty, for cars up to eight years old,” explains Renny.
“At any time we have about a dozen cars for customers to choose from. By having relationships with all the banks we also make the loan processing smoother,” he adds.
“We’ve been in the business 40 years, so lead management is important. Especially since we now have different businesses, we can cross-market,” Choo adds.
Choo, who was the former Borneo Motors commercial director, was wooed out of retirement to help drive the businesses.
The biggest learning curve for Choo to navigate was in dealing with an environment that was less structured than what he had grown accustomed to.
“In a big MNC, like Borneo Motors, all the systems are there. It’s a strong, process-driven company.
At Orchard Credit, the spirit of entrepreneurship is definitely evident, as we establish the new brands and products,. But we have to do many things ourselves,” Choo observes.
With Toyota and Lexus, a lot of the brand building was historically set in place. In the pre-owned environment of Orchard Credit, it is a skirmish for business as used cars are channeled through various companies.
Renny maintains that the reputation of the dealer and the condition of the car are important factors in building confidence in customers.