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Author: SGX   |   Latest post: Tue, 14 Jun 2022, 12:46 PM

 

Alpina: Building Resilient, Multi-Pronged Growth

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Alpina CEO

Building engineering and maintenance services veteran Low Siong Yong has come a long way since leaving his hometown in Melaka to seek a better future.

From young, Low learnt the principles of hard work and determination from his father, who worked two jobs to make ends meet for the family of nine children.

“To supplement his income as a rubber tapper, my father would wake up at 3am every day to help my mother prepare handmade steamed paus for sale in the coffeeshops, and never once complained about being tired, in order to put food on the table for us,” recalled Low, the Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of SGX-listed contractor Alpina Holdings Ltd.

“It was my father who taught me the importance of developing a strong work ethic, to persevere and work hard to achieve my goals.”

Such experiences helped Low to cultivate a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Watching parents toil to support the family, he developed a clear goal early on to become his own boss, so that he could buy a Mercedes-Benz for his father to enjoy.

After completing his O-Level exams, Low became an electrician apprentice. When the opportunity arose, he came to Singapore in 1993, with a few hundred dollars in his pocket, hoping to realise his childhood ambition and build a promising future for himself.

The journey was a long and arduous one - he had to start from scratch again because of the different regulations and standards for electrical systems in Singapore.

As an apprentice, hierarchy was everything. “In the lorry, our supervisor is the driver, and his second-in-command would sit in the passenger seat. Because I was just an apprentice, I had to sit in the back, exposed to all the elements - either baking in the hot sun or lashed by cold rain during stormy weather,” Low recalled. 

“I was determined to earn my right to sit in the front passenger seat, and so with a single-minded focus, I put in long hours to learn my trade, never shying away from asking questions, and within eight months, I was finally promoted to be the second-in-charge.”

But Low did not stop there. He continued to upgrade and upskill himself over the next several years, first by obtaining a National Technical Certificate Grade 3 in Electrical Installation and Servicing from the Institute of Technical Education, then a Skills Evaluation Certificate in Electrical Wiring Installation from Singapore’s Construction Industry Development Board, and finally, a Building Construction Supervisors Safety Course Certificate from the Ministry of Manpower.

Following these cumulative efforts, he was eventually promoted to Supervisor.

“I’m a simple person at heart - when I first started out with low qualifications, I realised I needed to put in extra effort to continuously learn and acquire new skills and build up my reputation,” he recounted.

“However, I also knew that at some point, I would reach a ceiling if I did not chart my own path in the industry.”

From the Ground Up

So Low took the plunge to venture out on his own, setting up a sole proprietorship that handled electrical works, as well as electrical maintenance and installation projects. He later roped in former colleague Tai Yoon On to run the business with him.

The road ahead remained bumpy as there were several instances where payments were delayed for months and client receivables started piling up although projects were completed on time. “Though I was a boss, I didn’t draw down a fixed salary for a long time when I started the business,” he pointed out.

“In fact, my co-founder Tai and I took on a second job as emergency maintenance service crew, operating from 7pm to 12 midnight, so that we could earn some additional income to sustain our day-to-day business operations.”

With a growing track record, the Group’s business started to expand, but the pair continued to face numerous challenges and hurdles. At the same time, they remain grateful to and encouraged by their benefactors, who have provided them with opportunities and various forms of assistance over the years. “I believe that when one is willing to learn and has a positive attitude, others will help,” he added.

Having worked his way up from the bottom, Low places a premium on staff welfare. “What must come first is the welfare and well-being of my workers, who are usually foreigners,” he said. 

“I also left my hometown at an early age and had to work hard in a new environment to get to where I am today. I understand their struggles and challenges because I’ve experienced them myself. So no matter how difficult the circumstances are, I will ensure my workers get paid first and promptly,” he asserted.

“And when my workers know their welfare is being taken care of, they will also devote themselves wholeheartedly to our clients’ projects. This is very important in our line of work because our staff are at the frontline, and if projects are not completed to customers’ satisfaction and expectations, our reputation will be at stake. So this is a win-win situation for all of us!”

Indeed, this policy has enabled the company grow from strength to strength. From its early days as a struggling sole proprietorship, Alpina has now come into its own. 

Listed on SGX Catalist in January this year, the Group has amassed an operating history spanning more than 17 years, specialising in integrated building services (IBS), mechanical and electrical (M&E) engineering services, as well as alteration and addition (A&A) works for both private and public sector projects.

The Group holds 15 Workhead registrations and two builder licences with the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) as at 20 December 2021. Among these, it has attained the highest grading of L6 for its registration under the ME15 (Integrated Building Services) and ME05 (Electrical Engineering) Workheads, which allow the Group to undertake projects in the public sector with no tendering limits and no project value limits under the respective Workheads.

Serving predominantly public sector customers, Alpina recently achieved a record set of results for FY2021, with revenue increasing by 36.8% to S$51.89 million and net profit surging by 84.0% to S$9.28 million.

Looking ahead, Low plans to expand the scale of the Group’s existing businesses - IBS, M&E engineering services as well as A&A works - by boosting manpower and equipment resources, in order to take on more and higher value projects. 

Alpina has also extended its scope of services and obtained registration of the FM01 (Facilities Management) Workhead Grade M3 in 2020. “This enables us to tender directly for integrated facilities management (IFM) projects of up to S$10 million from the government or statutory bodies,” Low added.

In addition, the Group is on the hunt for acquisitions - such as in cleaning, landscape, security and pest control services - to improve its portfolio of IFM offerings. This will further enhance its value proposition to customers and boost revenue streams.

Diversifying into Renewables 

Renewable energy is another growth driver. Alpina’s wholly owned subsidiary Digo Corporation and Terrenus Energy have been jointly awarded a 70 megawatt-peak (MWp) project to install solar panels across 1,198 HDB blocks and 57 government sites, as well as smart electrical sub-meters at these residential areas to monitor and analyse energy consumption patterns. Installation of the panels is expected to begin in third quarter of 2022 and complete by first quarter of 2025.

This project is the sixth solar leasing tender under the SolarNova programme, a Whole-Of-Government effort led by the Economic Development Board (EDB) and Housing & Development Board (HDB) to accelerate the deployment of solar photovoltaic systems in Singapore. 

“Solar energy is the most promising renewable energy source for electricity generation, and serves as an important part of Singapore’s efforts to de-carbonise its energy usage,” Low pointed out.

“Securing this solar leasing tender is a significant milestone for us, and together with our joint venture partner, we’re pleased to be able to contribute meaningfully to the acceleration of Singapore’s renewable energy market.”

Building on this momentum, the Group is well-positioned to be an enabler for green energy, and aims to develop new capabilities within the renewable energy value chain to meet its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) targets, Low added.

Work, naturally, is Low’s first love. But when the 49-year-old father of two is out of the office, besides spending time with his family, he is focused on his second passion - cycling.

“Running a successful business, and riding a bike, are in fact quite similar. As Albert Einstein once put it: “To keep your balance, you must keep moving”,” he quoted.

“Just get on the bike, experience the journey, learn and pivot from your mistakes, and continue pressing ahead.”

Truly, perseverance is one value that has been ingrained in Low’s character from youth. “Because I don’t have a strong academic background, I need to put in extra effort and work extremely hard as compared to others,” he said.

“Sometimes it may yield little result, and that can be demoralising, but based on my years of experience, I’ve learnt that with optimism and determination, demonstrating integrity, resourcefulness and foresight, I am confident of achieving my goals for Alpina by forging ahead together with my team.”

Alpina Holdings Ltd

Alpina is an established Singapore-based specialist providing Integrated Building Services (IBS), M&E Engineering Services (M&E), as well as Alteration and Addition Works (A&A) for both public and private sector projects in Singapore. With a long operating history of over 17 years, the Group has predominantly public sector customers such as government ministries and statutory boards, as well as public education institutions. It currently holds 15 Workhead registrations and 2 builder licences with the BCA. Among these, it has attained the highest grading of L6 for its registration under the ME15 (Integrated Building Services) and ME05 (Electrical Engineering) Workheads, which allows the Group to undertake projects in the public sector with no tendering and project value limits under the respective Workheads.

The company website is: alpinaholdings.com.sg

Click here for the company's StockFacts page.

For the year ended 31 December 2021 financial results, click here.

 

About kopi-C: the Company brew

Text: Jennifer Tan-Stanisic
Photo: Company file

kopi-C is a regular column on the SGX Research website that features C-level executives of leading companies listed on Singapore Exchange. These interviews are profiles of senior management aimed at helping investors better understand the individuals who run these corporations.

For previous editions of kopi-C: the Company brew, please click here.  

For more information, or if you would like your senior executives to be featured on SGX Market Dialogues, please send suggestions to jennifer.t@sgx.com.

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