Born in a humble Singapore shophouse in 1976, within 25 years HTL was one of the world's largest manufacturers of leather-upholstered furniture. By 2002, a pioneering move to low cost production in China in 1996 had helped HTL make Europe its largest market. Forbes listed HTL in its Global Top 200 Best Small Companies in 2002 and again in 2003 and 2004, as HTL became a shining example of Singaporean enterprise.
Now, a global financial downturn had slowed demand, competitive pressures were intensifying, and HTL's competitive advantage from China manufacturing was eroding. Some European manufacturers had followed HTL's lead; others had set up low-cost Eastern Europe production after the break down of the Soviet block.
To navigate this new normal, we realised HTL needed to sharpen its edge, optimise potential in existing markets, develop new ones, and maximise cost efficiencies. This demanded innovative thinking and a two-pronged strategy.
First, HTL had to strengthen its capabilities as an ODM manufacturer to ensure continuing support from HTL's customer partners and growth in its core B2B business.
Second and simultaneously, HTL's acquisition of Domicil, once a leading German-based European home furnishings franchise, meant HTL must now address the new challenges of B2C in a fast changing world.
We needed to create a robust strategy for continuing growth that would enabled HTL to build on its capabilities as the world's most successful B2B manufacturer of leather upholstered furniture while simultaneously achieving similar success in B2C.
We found the answer in the chairman’s dream of seeing HTL in every home. We turned this into a challenging and inspiring new vision statement – A Sofa in Every Home.
This led to a simple and direct purpose statement: Furnishing Homes, Enriching Lifestyles Around the World. We underlined this with values restating established HTL strengths of True Partnership and Passion for Growth and introduced a new focus on Inspired Creativity.
HTL was now required to provide comprehensive support for all aspects of its partners' business by supporting the existing leather upholstered furniture and B2B models with innovative new products and distribution channels, leaving the partners to focus on making and keeping compelling promises to end users.
The result is a virtuous circle in which HTL’s business grows even as it adds value that further strengthens its relationships with its partners as they reach new heights.
It also encouraged HTL to broaden its consumer brand portfolio beyond Domicil by purchasing Italy's Corium and creating an additional consumer brand, Muse. (All three brands were defined by Aretése.)
Finally, it opens future possibilities of diversifying HTL's product portfolio beyond the confines of the living room such as the bedroom, the dining room, and the kitchen.
HTL continues to invest heavily in service and support for its partners’ businesses and their commitment to HTL remains as real and enthusiastic as ever. Meanwhile, HTL also continues to recalibrate its B2C activities to meet the changing needs of consumers through on-going exploration of activities such as the creation of home centres in key growth markets and the development of new brands to cater to different demographics and psychographics.