CITATION FOR MR. NEO KAH KIAT BY MR. IMSAIL GAFOOR
THE SPIRIT OF ENTERPRISE AWARDS 2016
THURSDAY, 10 NOVEMBER 2016
MANDARIN ORCHARD HOTEL, GRAND BALLROOM
Mr Neo Kah Kiat, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Neo Group Limited, Singapore’s No.1 Events Caterer.
At the age of 12, he aspired to be a businessman, even though he did not know what it took to be a businessman. He was brought up in a humble family and was determined to lift his family out of poverty and take charge of his future, armed only with an exceptionally astute acumen for business opportunities. He set out to take on a path less ordinary: to be an entrepreneur.
From selling otah in school to starting a company in second-hand electronics after completing his National Service, Mr Neo is a self-taught and self-made entrepreneur. He decided right from the start that a business was more than just a profit-making entity – the company culture had to have the right values and ethics. This has set the tone for Neo Group even today.
In 1992, Neo Garden Catering began its operations in a shared kitchen in Joo Chiat with just 8 employees. He spent 13 years cooking in the kitchens and more than 20 years overseeing entire operations. Till today, he continues to take a strong interest in on-going product R&D.
He believes that the emphasis on quality would establish not only his business, but also set a leading example to improve and raise the stature and professionalism of the whole industry. An indomitable spirit, Mr Neo revolutionised the catering industry, changed public mindsets and continues to pioneer practices which are keenly followed and emulated by industry players.
In the last 24 years, Mr Neo developed 14 brands. He launched his first Halal arm Deli Hub Catering to serve the mass market, Orange Clove Catering for the mid- to high-end market, and retail outlets umisushi, NANAMI UDON, and issho izakaya which make up a total of 29 outlets islandwide today. Mr Neo also set up NKK, an import and export arm to achieve cost savings through economies of scale and consistency in quality.
LISTING & ACQUISITIONS
Other significant achievements include listing Neo Group in 2012, and expanding the premises by 10-fold to 75,000 sqft with a semi-automated centralised kitchen.
As orders grew to up to more than 1,500 orders a day, Mr Neo sought to bring stability and quality assurance through strategic M&A, from renowned confectionery brand Choz, to its latest high-profile acquisitions: Thong Siek Holdings; the No. 1 popular household brand of fish balls, DoDo, and CT Vegetables & Fruits; a leader in the fruit-and-vegetable trade. This move has given Neo Group an international presence in 29 countries.
Mr Neo’s contributions towards the industry have not gone unnoticed. In 2014, he received Public Service Medal “PBM”. He was also awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year in the Food and Beverage category in 2015 and touted ‘King of Buffets’ in a Straits Times article in July 2015.
Since 2010, the Group has been ranked the No. 1 Events Caterer in Singapore. Other awards include the Most Transparent Company award by Securities Investors Association Singapore (SIAS) Investors’ Choice Awards and Overall Winner of SPBA – Established Brand for 2 consecutive years and attained the Hall of Fame just within 3 years.
Also a strong advocate of philanthropy, Mr Neo is aware of how his leadership and direction can impact mindsets and has embedded philanthropy into the DNA of his business.