In this Spotlight feature, we speak to Mr Shawn Leng, Director of Huabao Agency. Shawn is a second generation business leader who has been tasked with growing the company’s flagship nutritional supplement brand, Wellring.
Hi Shawn, please introduce yourself to our readers and tell them about Wellring.
How long has Wellring been in the market?
Wellring has been established since 1986, just over 30 years now. The brand was started by my dad and a group of friends. In the early years, we were traders bringing in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) products into Singapore and selling them to the traditional Chinese medical hall. Over the years we have grown Huabao Agency from a trading company to become a distribution and manufacturing company with a wide range of health products.
Wellring is our flagship brand. It is a Singapore brand of health supplements using unique proprietary formulations harnessing the best of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) ingredients and western ingredients.
Why did you join the business?
I am a second-generation business leader but to be honest I was kind of reluctant to get into this business initially. I was working in the retail sector for several years and really enjoyed it but my father believed that I could contribute to his business so he persuaded me to join him.
It was only after a while that I realized it wasn’t just about selling health products but I was given an amazing opportunity to contribute to the health and wellbeing of my community, to offer employment to others, and many more. I am now really grateful to my father for this golden opportunity to stretch myself.
Another important goal I have is sharing the efficacy of our health supplements to the younger generation. Many of the older generations are familiar with TCM but not the younger ones. In focus group studies that we’ve conducted with those aged 45 and below, they told us that their parents, aunties and uncles have grown up drinking herbal soups and taking TCM to strengthen their health. However, due to lack of awareness and knowledge of TCM, they themselves are not sure what to take and they do not want the inconvenience of boiling the herbal ingredients. We realise the importance of our role to educate the younger generation on the efficacy of TCM products and of course it has to be backed by science.
What does the name Wellring means?
In the early days, we use Lingzhi (靈芝) as a core ingredient in many of our health products. Therefore, incorporation with our corporate name Hua Bao (華保), we name our product brand as華靈 , meaning 華保靈芝 . Wellring is basically an English pronunciation of 華靈.
However, the meaning of Wellring brand has evolved significantly over the years. Today, it represents a ring that you put on to keep yourself healthy, just like “The Lord of the Ring”. The ‘ring’ helps to nourish your health.
What is unique about Wellring brand?
First and foremost, we are a trusted Singapore brand with a history of over 30 years. We are conscious of the human element in the work that we do; in every nutritional supplement product we create, we know it can impact our consumers’ quality of life and affect the lives of others. We take our work seriously and our products are made with optimal quality raw materials that are carefully and responsibly sourced from reputable suppliers around the world according to strict standards.
Secondly, our health supplements are manufactured based on unique formulations harnessing the best of eastern and western ingredients to achieve and maintain a healthy, balanced body. As much as TCM has a history of more than 2000 years, integrating the scientific validation of modern medicine is integral for our brand’s success so we’ve started working with institutes such as Temasek Polytechnic.
Lastly, we listen closely to the health challenges that consumers are facing so as to improve our service and to produce innovative quality products to help them live a happier and healthier life.
What is the vision for your brand?
The founders who started this business have always believed that “it is health that is real wealth, and a sound mind lives in a sound body”. We want to bring products that enable people to strengthen their health. Our vision is “to nourish people to live a successfully radiant, confident and healthier life.”
What challenges do you face in building the Wellring brand?
We face some common challenges in family-owned businesses. I would say one of them is generational issue. As a second generation leader, I come with different perspectives on various aspects of the business such as to how to gain new customers and to improve day-to-day operations. Some of my views are vastly different from the older generation so we will certainly need to spend more time to discuss, debate and agree when It comes to decision making. Sometimes, initiatives have to be implemented on a smaller scale pilot test to win confidence internally before we can launch on a bigger scale. For example, leveraging on digital technology.
Another challenge is the proliferation of new distribution channels; managing distribution is definitely more difficult than ever before. In the past, we have used a traditional brand image relying on the Chinese medical halls as our key distribution channel, but now we are moving into the modern channels such as the pharmacies and online platforms with a modern brand image. It is definitely a new learning experience for us. With the rise of self-directed consumers who are increasingly relying on alternative channels to self-diagnose and to identify targeted health needs, we will have to constantly improve our knowledge and marketing efforts to target consumers needs, both on and off-line.
How do you plan to overcome these challenges?
I must say we are pretty confident with our brand direction after embarking on a strategic branding exercise. We have a great brand story to tell and we have great products. We have tested our brand concept and products with consumers and our partners and the response has been really encouraging. We are really excited! Of course we cannot sit on our laurels, we have to listen to our customers and constantly innovate to develop better products for our customers.
I am most grateful to my colleagues for their huge support behind the new business direction, we’ve got a great team and I am confident that we will find solutions to the challenges we face.
What are your plans for growing your brand?
Our first priority is the Singapore market and subsequently other parts of Asia. Our ultimate dream is to bring Wellring, ‘a made in Singapore’ brand to the rest of the world.
What is coming up in the year or two we should watch for (e.g. new product lines, new outlets, new markets)?
We are launching 5 products in September namely WellMan, WellWoman, WellMemory, WellImmunue and WellMove. These products are specially formulated harnessing the best of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) ingredients and western ingredients, and are proudly made in Singapore. Our products have gone through rigorous quality control at multiple stages – from raw material to finished product. We incorporate high quality raw materials such as bio-calcium, collagen type II with TCM in the formulas.
In tandem with our own online sales platform www.wellnesspoint.com.sg, partnerships with other e-commerce platforms are currently underway. Moving forward, we are targeting to fully launch 12 products in the next 2 years.