Armed with a diploma from the Singapore Polytechnic, Eric Phua Boon Kin began his career in the Mechanical & Electrical Engineering industry more than thirty years ago. Eric joined Trans Equatorial Engineering Pte Ltd in 1991, a private company founded in the same year by his elder brother that provided general electrical contracting jobs then. Like any journey of an entrepreneur, there were many challenges faced during the start-up phase of the company, especially the cash flow, as the business was mainly self-funded. In order to get things going, they first operated from a small rented office where his sister-in-law also helped with the administration.
Starting from ground zero, the team had to play multiple roles in the company including pitching for engineering jobs, procurement, tender submission, site supervision, as well as building relationship with consultants and suppliers. Eric had to learn everything the hard way – from becoming a small sub-contractor carrying out M&E works for offices, and subsequently establishing business leads and network. “When you are starting out, nobody knows you. You have to prove your capabilities and build trust, otherwise no one will use your services again.” Eric believed in delivering only the best and meeting expectations of clients, sometimes even exceeding expectations.
After completing several sub-contracting jobs, the company secured its first sizable public project within five years of its establishment – upgrading of fire alarm systems and electrical systems for the National University of Singapore (NUS). This gave the company a foothold in securing more projects from NUS followed by securing similar engineering projects from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Soon after, the engineering business began to take shape and they started operating in a proper office setup. Eric and his brother began to plan further. They had a vision “to be among the best and the preferred choice in the industry”. With this vision in mind, they decided to add further value for their clients by expanding their scope of services to include integrated M&E engineering services and general building works. By then, not only did the company’s services expand, the operations team also grew rapidly with the addition of managers, engineers, supervisors, electricians and support executives.
At this point, the company quickly gained recognition for its quality assurance and delivery of projects on schedule. As a testimony of its quality management system, the company was awarded ISO 9002 certification by the United Registrar of System Ltd for the provision of M&E services in April 1999. The start of a new Millennium in year 2000 also marked new areas of growth. This is also the year that the company moved into new markets in the region.
Building on the success of growing the engineering business into a sizable scale, Eric and his brother took the company public via an Initial Public Offering (IPO) exercise. In 2001, TEE International Limited was successfully listed on the SGX-SESDAQ with a total market capitalisation of $16 million. TEE’s constant pursuit for engineering excellence has gained traction with repeat and reputable clients as well as securing several high profile and prestigious large-scale projects that are each worth over $100 million including M&E engineering works for Singapore’s first integrated resort, Marina Bay Sands, Asia Square Tower 1, and more recently, Marina One Development to name a few. Besides, TEE is also very active in the Rebuilding business where it has secured projects to carry Alteration & Addition works for MRT stations, Institutions of higher learning, shopping and retail malls and the health sector.
TEE was upgraded to the Main Board of SGX in 2008. Today, its market capitalisation is about $115 million with business interests in Engineering, Real Estate and Infrastructure spanning across seven countries in the Asia-Pacific. TEE Group continued to expand with its guiding philosophy centring on acquisitions and projects that are synergistic or to complement its core engineering business. With that, TEE expanded into the real estate business developing mostly boutique residential developments and investing in income generating assets in Singapore and the region. TEE Land Limited, the real estate arm of TEE was subsequently listed on the Main Board of SGX in 2013, and its associated company, Chewathai PCL, which boasts 11 residential and industrial developments in Thailand, was listed on the Markets for Alternative Investments on the Stock Exchange of Thailand in 2016. In addition, TEE also forayed into the infrastructure business and is focused on assets relating to water, power and info communications. TEE currently operates two wastewater treatment plants in Thailand, invested in a power plant in the Philippines, and acquired an integrated info communications solutions and services provider, CMC Infocomm Limited, which was listed on SGX Catalist in 2015.
Eric is known to all as a leader who leads with a hands-on approach. He never fails to visit the various job sites to gain first-hand knowledge of the ground situation and to support his staff, offering insights and mentoring engineers who are relatively new to the industry. He also joins his staff for meals after work and makes the effort to get to know them better. On the importance of teamwork and camaraderie, Eric says, “To be among the best and preferred choice in this competitive business environment, a leader needs to recognise the strength of a strong team from the project directors all the way to the foreman and workers. Every role is vital in order to execute a project well.” Eric helms TEE Group’s engineering business amongst his other corporate duties such as the group reporting. His ethos is to constantly invest in human capital, making sure that his people are nurtured and groomed to bring out their full potential.
TEE Group’s success and plans cannot be attained and implemented without the right leadership and a group of dedicated management team. A handful of them had joined TEE when they graduated fresh from their tertiary education, and has now progressed to become Project Directors who are in the age group between mid-thirties to early forties. These are the up and coming leaders of the future who will eventually be part of the top tier management group. TEE remains focused on long-term commitments and initiatives to grow its young employees and middle management for career progression. As a testament to TEE’s efforts to raise the bar for its performance standards, TEE was awarded “Best Companies to Work for in Asia 2015” from HR Asia and as recent as last month, TEE also garnered an award in 2016 Singapore Corporate Award for public listed companies in SGX. Eric shares that “the success and sustainable journey of the company begin with a PASSION. To be passionate in everything we do, to hold firmly to our purpose or undertakings despite obstacles or setbacks. Together, we strive to soar beyond the next level and to achieve higher business aspirations.”