Boldness grounded in Tradition: Gaylin Holdings Plans Expansion without Compromise of Principles

In many aspects, you could call him an industry veteran. After all, with about 35 years of industry experience under his belt, Desmond Teo has grown almost simultaneously with Singapore’s offshore and marine sector.

But the novelty in his management philosophy and the boldness in his corporate strategy suggest otherwise – his modern and fresh approach has propelled Gaylin Holdings (Gaylin) into an international player

in the rigging and lifting solutions segment. What began as a small familyrun trading establishment with just five employees in 1974 is now a listed company with more than 450 employees, with operations in nine countries and a market capitalisation close to S$250 million.

Mr Teo, the executive director and CEO of Gaylin, believes that this transformation is built on traditional business principles, which the company will not compromise on despite being less conservative in other areas of the business.

“Our strengths are our services as we ensure prompt delivery (of our products) to our customers, with our products being of good quality. We guarantee them (our customers) this and we promise on what we deliver as if we fail on either promise, the downtime to our clients, who are in the oil and gas industry, can be very costly,” Mr Teo says.

That formula has worked to produce good results for the company. For its first financial quarter ended June 30, Gaylin announced a 30.4 per cent increase in revenue to S$25.8 million with its net profit surging 15.9 per cent to S$2.7 million.

The group, which offers rigging and lifting equipment such as heavy lift slings and related services such as load testing is, however, not stopping in its tracks and has rolled out new plans to expand its business. This year alone, Gaylin is expanding its operations in Malaysia with another facility, in addition to its test bed facility there, which has a testing capacity of 3,000 tonnes, and a joint venture business.

Mr Teo says that Gaylin may also look at new products and services and singled out the designing of offshore deepsea mooring systems as a possibility.

The group also recently completed the acquisition of 51 per cent of the equity interest in Rig Marine Holdings (Rig Marine) in the Middle East to give it a foothold into new markets.

“Baku (in Azerbaijan) and Kazakhstan are new areas where we have not stepped into before while Rig Marine has already been established in these markets for more than 10 years now and they have big projects there,” Mr Teo reveals.

He adds that the acquisition also allows Gaylin access to the winch rental market, which Rig Marine operates in.

Although Mr Teo says that while the group has no other acquisition targets on its radar at the moment, he will not rule out such a move when exploring new markets. Having already entered the Middle East market, he revealed that Gaylin may now look towards Europe, particularly Norway and Holland, to make a breakthrough.

It may not be surprising if Mr Teo were to pursue acquisitions to get into these markets as well. Where many local SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) may have chosen a more conservative route of gradual organic growth, Mr Teo has not shied away from mergers and acquisitions (M&A) to expand the group.

Gaylin’s overseas expansion has taken off in the last two years, after its listing on the SGX. Since then, the group has invested more than S$20 million in its M&A spree across the region including acquiring Lv Yang (Tianjin) Offshore Equipment in 2013. With Tianjin being one of the key shipbuilding hubs in China, this purchase allows it to enter the world’s biggest shipbuilding market.

Mr Teo’s bold approach towards growing Gaylin can also be felt in his internal management of the company. In a tight labour market and where employers lament the lack of homegrown talent interested in the industry, Mr Teo believes in putting Gaylin’s executives through the processes – from a junior and promoting them through the ranks – than to parachute in leaders from outside the company. “This will allow them to learn from scratch rather than to get someone who does not know about the company’s products and culture.”

He explains how he even chooses to send the well-educated and qualified new hires through the ranks as it is both a chance for them to learn different aspects of the company and for them to prove themselves for leadership positions. Mr Teo’s approach may seem novel and even risky to some but it is clearly not alien to him. After all, he himself started with the company from humble beginnings, joining in 1979 as a driver, delivering its products around town. This experience not only shaped Mr Teo as a resolute leader, having steered Gaylin through several sectoral and economic downturns, but also as a humble man.

These humble beginnings have shaped Mr Teo’s beliefs in giving back to the community and shareholders. Shareholders should take note that Mr Teo firmly believes in Gaylin continuing with its practice of offering attractive dividend pay-outs, subject to its profitability and board approval. Investors, he believes, should be rewarded adequately for their faith and confidence in the company.

The philanthropist has also built up a strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) culture at Gaylin as he himself serves on the boards of several non-profit and grassroots organizations, including Ren Xi Hospital.

Mr Teo was recently among 14 Singaporean entrepreneurs honoured at the Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards under the Most Promising category. With his bold yet grounded management style, both Gaylin and Mr Teo could yet achieve greater things.

From the Business Times, By MALMINDERJIT SINGH 


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