Updated: Apr 22
Not willing to let two generations of hard work go to waste, third generation family member takes up the reins of the civil engineering family business.
Chua Yuan Shen initially had no intentions of join
ing the family business. His family was also not supportive of the idea. However, Chua Yuan Shen was not willing to let two generations of hard work go to waste and decided to venture into the technical field of civil engineering, in which he had no training of, to take up the reins of the business by pushing for change.
Hocklim Engineering Pte Ltd was founded in 1988 by his grandfather, Chua Chiang Hock, and father, Chua Chen Yok. The company began as a small main contractor, which had less than 10 employees in 2012, when Chua Yuan Shen joined. The company’s main business came from Government external works projects such as roads, footpath and drainage etc.
Taking the Family Business Module in University sparked the interest to join the family business
When interviewed by ‘Lianhe Zaobao’, Shen openly expressed that he saw how difficult his father had to work to make ends meet while he was growing up, and dismissed the thought of joining the family business. During the university admission period, he decided to study Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) in National University of Singapore instead, a discipline that is unrelated to the family business. Perhaps, there was still a lingering curiosity in the family business, he got inspired to take up an elective module in Family Business in his 3rd year of university. After the course, he became more open to the idea of joining the family business.
He went on to explain: “My father was prepared to close the business after a few more years. I, on the other hand, felt that this would be very ‘sayang’. After all, the business was a culmination of two generations of hardship and sacrifice, and I grew up listening to them talking about it. I thought to myself, “Since my father was going to close the business, this could be an opportunity for me to explore new ideas and implement them with less pressure”.”
Chua Yuan Shen is the third child in the family and he has two older sisters and a younger brother, neither of whom had any interest in joining the business. His father had never actively encouraged any of his children to join the business, mainly because the industry is very demanding and he felt that a university graduate would have better prospects elsewhere.
In 2012, Chua Yuan Shen joined the company. His first assignment was to collaborate with a PhD student from the Nanyang Technological University in developing a reinforced soil wall system that can reduce soil erosion and slope failure. He conceded: “I had just graduated and could not grasp the concept of the system. I ended up spending countless hours with the PhD student to develop a small-scale mock up for testing purposes. This system eventually turned out to be a huge success.”.
This system (GeoBarrier System) utilizes the different grain size in soil aggregates to activate matric suction and capillary effect, to control the flow of water in the layers below. According to these advanced unsaturated soil mechanics principles, by varying the ratio of fine, coarse aggregates and Approved Soil Mixtures (ASM) in a slope, we can prevent rainfall-induced slope failure due to heavier rainfall. By filling these materials into custom-made Geotextile bags, and installing them in an interlocking manner, we can create a stable and aesthetic earth retaining wall. A wide variety of plants can be planted in the Geotextile bags to complete the GeoBarrier System.
This technology is sustainable and replaces more expensive construction materials such as steel and cement with recycled aggregates. The Housing Development Board (HDB) co-patented this technology with Nanyang Technological University (NTU). The company will be implementing this technology at an upcoming Build-to-Order project in the Bidadari estate. Other potential clients include private developers and landed property owners.
公司也在2018年凭着改善组屋生活的创新概念，获得建屋发展局颁发的“企业版酷点子”（Cool Ideas Enterprise）奖项。
In 2018, Hocklim Engineering Pte Ltd was also awarded the Cool Ideas Enterprise award.
Chua Yuan Shen has identified the emerging construction technology sector as fast growing and is actively pivoting the business to capture market share in sustainable urban infrastructure technologies such as GeoBarrier System, Automated Flood Barrier solutions and Instrumentation work. Under his stewardship, the once-traditional business has propelled itself forward to achieve 18% CAGR over the last three years.
In 2017, the company had a revenue of 2 million dollars. This increased to 8 million dollars in 2020. The staff strength of the company increased to approximately 50, of which a large proportion of them are skilled and trained PMETs.
Chua Yuan Shen is grateful that his father was willing to accept this succession gracefully, to gradually transform the company in his own style and methodology. However, the process is fraught with challenges. At some point, he faced many bottlenecks and left the company to experience working in a large construction company. With the greater understanding of the construction industry, he eventually returned to the business with a fresh approach to tackle the challenges ahead.
Hocklim is scheduled to move into a new 13,000-sqft factory space situated in Bukit Batok Industrial Park by end 2021. Chua Yuan Shen hopes to use this factory to incorporate more research activity to further develop the company.
Presently, Hocklim is based in Singapore, and has plans to go regional in the future.