Entrepreneur of the Year - Douglas Foo of Sakae Holdings Limited



Douglas Foo

Founder & Chairman

Sakae Holdings Ltd.


It is good to plan and work towards our goals early, even if we are not sure of what we want. Life is after all, a continuous journey of self-discovery.

~ Douglas Foo, Founder & Chairman, Sakae Holdings Ltd.


Sakae Sushi is a Singapore-founded trendy, quick-service kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi concept that has become synonymous with a fun-filled, value-for-money and healthy dining experience. Serving Japanese cuisine, and catering to customers craving affordable and quality Japanese cuisine, Sakae Sushi is the flagship brand of Sakae Holdings Ltd. that has been listed on the Singapore Exchange since 2003, and is the first name that will come to mind when Japanese food is mentioned.


Since the first outlet was introduced in September 1997 amidst the Asian Financial Crisis, the brand has come a long way on the fast track of growth with local and international expansion, and is currently the largest kaiten-sushi (conveyor-belt sushi restaurant) Japanese restaurant chain in the country. 18 years on from the first outlet, Sakae Sushi has attained sustainable growth and remained resilient amidst various uncontrollable economic challenges over the years. Today, Sakae Holdings Ltd manages over 200 outlets globally, and aspire to be the best F&B company globally.


Listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange, Sakae Holdings Ltd. (Stock Code: 5DO), is a Food & Beverage company that is on the fast track of global growth. Since its inception in 1997, Sakae Holdings Ltd. has grown into a portfolio of diversified brands – Sakae Sushi, Sakae Teppanyaki, Sakae Delivery, Sakae Express, Hei Sushi, Hei Delivery, Senjyu, Kyo by Sakae, , Sakae Junior Club, Sakae Shoppe, Crepes & Cream and Nouvelle Events & Catering, all of which are synonymous with healthy dining, food safety, quality and sustainable growth. The continuous strong growth has been achieved synonymously through technological innovation and patents for improving operational efficiency, constant effort in strategic menu planning and maintaining high service standards. The emphasis on operational excellence has since contributed to the Group’s expansion across the globe, including Singapore, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, USA and Vietnam.

Brought up by a strict and thrifty father, Mr. Douglas Foo, Founder and Chairman of Sakae Holdings Ltd. learnt the value of money early on in his life. As a schoolboy, the budding entrepreneur would save money by walking half of his commute to school and then back home, instead of conveniently taking two buses. The money-saving lesson and mentality he fostered is one that helped him raise the money to fund his many businesses. Another childhood trait that he fostered well into his working life is Douglas’ belief in the importance of planning and managing one’s time well. During his three-month vacation before Singapore’s mandatory National Service, the young budding entrepreneur recognized that one should make the best of one’s time, and worked four jobs daily. His days would start at 5 a.m., with him taking turbine readings at Pulau Seraya (now part of Jurong Island). At noon, he worked as a relief teacher at Ping Yi Secondary School, and in the evenings, he worked as a baker at Delifrance. He would continue working at night, conducting door-to-door market surveys, before ending his day at 1am or 2am, after a 21-hour workday!


As Douglas embarked on his early career as a marketing executive in the real estate arm of Japanese conglomerate Tokyo Group, he would help out in all facets of the business, offering his help to his colleagues or superior. It was this inquisitive and helpful nature that earned him recognition and friendships which led to his first business opportunity - a garment manufacturing contract for the Japanese market. Douglas is grateful for his exposure to positive values from a young age, and holds the core values instilled by the mottos of his alma maters, Red Swastika School, ‘respect, magnanimity, trustworthiness and alertness’; and Dunman High School, ‘honesty, trustworthiness, moral courage and loyalty’ close to his heart. It is with this credo that he states “entrepreneurship should not be seen as a way to simply earn profits. It should transcend money-making, and should be for a greater good.” Like many successful entrepreneurs from around the world, Douglas did not start up Sakae to make money, but rather, to build a global brand and help the communities in which we operate.


About 20 years ago, the visionary realized that whilst Singaporeans enjoyed consuming healthy Japanese cuisine, the masses could not afford to indulge in it due to its high pricing. Back then, Japanese food was traditionally served in high-end restaurants. To make this healthy cuisine available for the masses, he researched and studied different ways, and introduced a simple three-tier pricing system which offers customers a no-frill dining experience. Today, with over 200 gastronomic creations carefully conceptualized and crafted by their chefs, Sakae Sushi’s customers can indulge generously in Japanese cuisine made with fresh and healthy ingredients, including Vitamin E enriched rice. With unique technology and innovation at the heart of their operations, including their patented Interactive Menu (IM), Sakae Sushi continues to delight their customers with hassle-free food ordering, Sushi games on their IMs to keep customers entertained while dining, and self- service hot water taps that provides customers with the ease of having their green tea anytime.  Today, Sakae has become the benchmark for excellence where quality and service is concerned, and continues to churn out newer innovations such as a patent portable conveyor belts for private dining events.


Besides being a successful entrepreneur, Douglas is passionate about Branding, and believes that branding transcends the product, and engages and communicates with the soul of people - customers and staff alike. To build 30, 0000 outlets in 5 continents, Sakae builds its sound foundation by investing in four core pillars – Human Capital, Global Food Resource, Real Estate Management and Sakae Corporate Advisory. The first pillar is Human Capital, because to build a global brand, Douglas believes that Sakae is going to need good and happy staff. He believes that there are companies that offer good products, but fail to thrive due to unhappy staff who represent the company poorly, thus affecting people’s impression of the product. On the other hand, staff who are treated well automatically become a company’s brand advocators and staunch supporters.


Douglas believes that it is imperative that life and business have meaning. In keeping with that belief, Sakae’s logo was created with meaning, where all parts of the logo symbolize his vision for the company. The eyes of the frog represent the set direction for Sakae, and foresight, the smile represents smiling, happy staff and good service; and the body and legs represent the other departments that ensure Sakae’s sound operations. Sakae’s logo also resembles gold ingots which signify prosperity, and the bottom portion of the logo represents a rice bowl which represents the rice that we serve in our Sushi, and prosperity. Together, all facets of the frog represent one Sakae, one Heartbeat, and one Sakae Spirit that  personifies the united Sakae team who strive together to propel the company forward. Fittingly, the word “Sakae” in Japanese means ‘growth’ and ‘prosperity’, and also represents “Drink Sake, Eat Sushi.”


In his free time, Douglas invests his time and efforts in helping people from around the world. As a staunch advocator of helping youths prepare for their future, he spends much time visiting schools, and speaking to youths to encourage them to think about the role they want to play in society. He gets them to focus on asking themselves “What do you see yourself doing, and what are your interests?” He encourages them to plan and work towards their goals early, even if they are unsure of what they want, because life is a continuous journey of self-discovery and learning.

ACES Awards on 5th November, Singapore!


ACES Awards 2015

Celebrating Asia’s finest responsible corporate leaders


Remember, remember the 5th of November!


The winners of the Asia Corporate Excellence & Sustainability Awards (ACES) were announced at a gala dinner at InterContinental Singapore on 5th November 2015.


The ACES Awards is organised by the MORS Group, which champions revolutionary leadership and sustainability in companies operating in the Asian region. In elaborating on the purpose of Aces Awards, Shanggari B., chief executive of MORS Group said: “Sustaining the limited resources is a collective effort, we need to bridge the CR gap and involve more corporates, both large and small, in adopting sound CR practices within the business operations.”


Supported by Synergio Consulting, and 6 individuals on the jury panel, the Awards received more than 110 nominees over seven categories. Douglas Foo, Founder & Chairman of Sakae Holdings Ltd was named Entrepreneur of the Year, for opening up previously high-end Japanese dining experiences to middle income consumers. Claire Chiang See Ngoh, co-founder of Banyan Tree Holdings Ltd was named Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, while Ivan Teh of Fusionex International plc was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Among the Industry Champions of the Year were Megamas Training Company Sdn Bhd, Robert Bosch Sdn. Bhd.


Seven individuals were named Top Outstanding Leaders in Asia: Dato' Tony Looi Chee Hong (Ban Lee Hin Engineering & Construction Sdn. Bhd), Khoo Gaik Eng - Grace Liu (East Wellsum Industries (S) Pte Ltd),  Georg Johann Chmiel (iProperty Group Limited),  Francis Lau Choo Yew (LCY Development Sdn Bhd), Marco Francesco Righi (Monier Malaysia Sdn Bhd), Dato Seri Dr. Goh Bak Heng, (Serial System Ltd) and Saudee Group Berhad’s Louis Tan Leong Chuin.

Winners in the Top SMEs in Asia category were Asta Chemicals Sdn Bhd, Cho Thavee Dollasien Public Company Limited and Esquel Garment Manufacturing Vietnam Co., Ltd.


Masterclass Sustainability Advocates Awards went to Bangchak Petroleum Public Company Limited, HP Inc and PT. Hero Supermarket Tbk.


Highlights in the Top CSR Advocates in Asia Awards category were Advanced Info Service Public Company Limited, DHL Express International (Thailand) Ltd, and Digi Telecommunications Sdn. Bhd. Top Green Companies in Asia included Airport Authority Hong Kong and PT. Great Giant Pineapple.


Top Community Care Awards companies included Bharti Airtel Limited, Prudential Assurance Malaysia Berhad, PT. Trakindo Utama, Samsung Electronics (Southeast Asia & Oceania) and TMB Bank Public Company Limited. Top Companies to Work for In Asia were FrieslandCampina (Hong Kong) Limited, Merck Ltd and RHB Banking Group.





Founded in 2012, the MORS Group’s differentiated value stems from its sustained and substantial efforts in research and development, with a dedicated research team focusing on understanding the potential of Asia and the instruments that aid in boosting Asia’s business prominence.


For in-depth profiles of the winners, or quotes from a member of the, contact:


MORS Group

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Jalan SS 6/6, Kelana Jaya

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Tel: +603 7887 6646          Email: may@morsgroup.com

How Social Entrepreneurs Make Change Happen

Author: Roger Martin & Sally R. Osberg

Who drives transformation in our society and how do they do it? Roger Martin and Sally Osberg argue in their new book, Getting Beyond Better, that the answer is social entrepreneurs, who target unjust and unsustainable systems — or “equilibria” — and transform them into entirely new, superior, and sustainable equilibria. In this excerpt, they tell a story illustrating how vision is the key to successful transformation.

To serious motorcycle racers like Andrea and Barry Coleman, flat-track racing is the most primal, authentic, and thrilling form of competition, harkening back to the origins of the sport at the turn of the twentieth century. The track itself is dirt and configured in the classic oval shape. Motorcycles make 20 or so counterclockwise laps during the course of a race, at speeds of over 100 miles an hour. As the bikes roar around the track, they gradually wear a groove where you’d expect to find it—near the center, just hugging the inside. Along the outside, the kicked-up dirt and dust forms what’s known as the cushion. Throughout the race, riders tend to stay in the groove, avoiding the cushion, where the ride is riskier because the dirt is soft and traction is uncertain.

But sometimes a rider will venture out into the cushion to overtake the competition. Taking to the cushion doesn’t require the rider to be a daredevil. It doesn’t take unnatural bravado. Rather, it requires the rider to have confidence in his experience and skill, and most of all, in the condition of his motorcycle. The bike must be impeccably maintained — oil, gas, gears, engine — and the rider must know it intimately, down to the depth of the tire treads to the millimeter. Taking to the cushion signals a rider’s determination to break out from the pack, to risk failure, and to win.

Social entrepreneurs, Barry Coleman explains, consistently ride in that cushion, where there is plenty of potential to get ahead and just as much to slide out of control. It is a place where guts and determination are required, and where skill and expertise can pay off. Barry should know. He and his wife aren’t just race enthusiasts, they are social entrepreneurs: founders of Riders for Health, an organization that manages transportation systems for the delivery of health care in seven countries across sub-Saharan Africa.

For the Colemans and Riders for Health, winning means nothing less than a new health-care delivery equilibrium on a continent that desperately needs one. Today, on virtually every relevant health indicator, Africa lags. Life expectancy is 10 years shorter than the rest of the world. Child mortality is double the global average. Whereas the United States has 2.4 doctors for every thousand citizens, sub-Saharan Africa has just 0.2. Across the region, some thirty thousand children under the age of five die every day from diseases that are easily treated or prevented with available vaccines and medicines, including diarrhea, measles, and malaria. Immunization programs, even with the massive scale-up in supply made possible by the multilateral Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (“Global Fund”) and a host of NGOs, still fail to reach an estimated 22 million children. Progress remains difficult, despite stated commitments to millennium development goals, decades of foreign aid, and billions of dollars in philanthropy.

The miserable health-care equilibrium in Africa, the Colemans would argue, is kept in place partly by its failing infrastructure. Too often, available medicine and equipment can’t get where they are most urgently needed. Health workers waste hours each day walking and waiting, rather than delivering care. Communities go weeks and months without meaningful access to health care, even in times of desperate need. All of these problems result from gaps in infrastructure, but it was one gap in particular that tweaked the notice of this pair of motorcycle enthusiasts: African health systems were failing because they lacked the underlying transportation systems needed for reliable health-care delivery.

It isn’t the stuff of banner headlines. But in Africa (or, for that matter, anywhere else), if reliable transportation is not part of the health-care delivery system, people die. To Andrea and Barry Coleman, the reality that they encountered — a health-care delivery system hobbled by inadequate transportation management infrastructure — was utterly unacceptable. They envision a very different equilibrium, a future transformed, in which African health ministries are equipped with reliable, affordable, and effective transportation systems that deliver the health-care services their people need, when, where, and how they need them. And it turns out motorbikes have an important role to play.

Vision and the Social Entrepreneur

Much has rightfully been made of the need for a clear and compelling vision in any endeavor. A vision can set direction, mobilize followers, align activities, and galvanize the will required by an individual or team to accomplish something significant. Without a compelling image of the future, and — as importantly — clear steps to achieving it, organizations will drift and quite likely fail. Any winning strategy begins with an aspiration that articulates what winning means for an individual, organization, or endeavor.

Social entrepreneurs, too, must articulate their winning aspirations, and do so in the context of transformative change. They must go beyond simply articulating an improvement to the system. Social entrepreneurs are driven to get beyond better. The social entrepreneur’s vision of winning must be aimed at equilibrium change rather than at the amelioration of current conditions; it must be specific yet systemic in its approach, targeted at a constituency that cannot effect the change alone while also considering the system holistically; and it must be adaptable and resilient in the face of changing conditions.

Andrea and Barry Coleman saw in the existing system an opportunity that was little noticed by others. Most of the attention in global health is on the eradication or effective treatment of disease. By contrast, the humdrum issue of transportation infrastructure barely registers. Andrea notes, “People assume the infrastructure is in place. It isn’t.” The Colemans could see that it wasn’t, and they could also see just how vital transportation was to the operation of the whole system. They were able to do so because they had deep and extensive personal expertise that could be brought to bear on this new context – and this expertise just happened to be about motorbikes.

Andrea had grown up in a family of motorcyclists, and from an early age wanted nothing more than to become a racer herself. “The day I was sixteen, I put my L-plates on, took three months and then passed my test. I just wanted to be out riding motorcycles,” she recalls. And so she did, sharing a love of racing with her husband, Grand Prix racer Tom Herron. In 1979, Herron died in a racing accident, spurring Andrea to develop a passion for safety every bit as intense as her love of riding. Her second husband, Barry Coleman, traces his own interest in motorcycles to his racing beat for the Guardian. It was through this shared interest that the two first met and their relationship began.

Racing also brought them to Africa. Together with their friend, the legendary Grand Prix racer Randy Mamola, the Colemans had spent years persuading their British racing peers to raise money for Save the Children’s African programs. In 1988, Save the Children sent Mamola and Barry to Somalia, to show them how these hard-won funds were being used. The money was clearly being put to good use. Yet what the two men saw in Africa, and what Andrea too saw on a subsequent trip, shocked them: hemorrhaging women being carted in wheelbarrows to the nearest clinic; health workers covering distances of twenty or more miles of tough terrain a day by foot; countless vehicles left to rust by the side of the road or stacked up against buildings, vehicles that would still be operating had they been serviced properly. What good, they asked themselves, was a health-care system without reliable transport? And what good were expensive vehicles that were as mobile as millstones? That, in a nutshell, was the status quo. It became the starting point for the Colemans’ vision for what should change.

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Getting the most out of your sustainability program

Author: Achim Berg, Nils Schlag, and Martin Stuchtey on behalf of McKinsey & Company

Sustainability initiatives won’t create lasting value if they’re poorly managed. Here are four lessons from companies that are doing it right.

Among retailers and consumer-goods manufacturers, commitment to environmental and social objectives can take many forms—whether it’s distributing fair-trade products, reducing materials used in packaging, or ensuring humane working conditions at suppliers’ factories. Unilever, for one, has a detailed Sustainable Living Plan, and among the company’s goals for 2020 is to halve the greenhouse-gas impact of its products over their life cycles. Swedish furniture maker IKEA has installed more than 700,000 solar panels in its buildings worldwide and has committed to own and operate more than 300 wind turbines. British retail group Kingfisher’s sustainability plan, which it calls Net Positive, aims not only to make frugal use of natural resources but also to restore and regenerate the environment—“putting back more than we take out,” as the company says.

These programs can be powerful agents of change, both toward greater alignment between customer and corporate interests and toward a culture of systemwide innovation in products and business models. Yet some skepticism remains as to whether sustainability efforts have any impact on financial performance in the short and medium term. Our recent research provides answers to both of these questions.1In this article, we discuss how companies are creating value from their sustainability programs and what practices enable companies to keep these programs running smoothly and effectively.

How sustainability programs create value

In previous work, our colleagues have outlined the various ways that companies can use sustainability initiatives to manage risk, drive growth, or improve returns on capital (Exhibit 1).2In our latest research, we sought to unearth examples of how companies are actually doing it. We found that companies that built sustainability into their operations saw immediate benefits, which gave them the momentum to do even more.

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Closing Nomination of ACES Awards 2015


Monday, 27 July 2015


The second Asia Corporate Excellence and Sustainability (ACES) Awards will be held in Singapore in November 2015 and the organizers are calling for entries from Asian companies.


The awards bring together finest individuals and organizations to acknowledge outstanding achievements in leadership and sustainability across Asia.


Some of the grand recipients of last year include Tetra Pak (Thailand), Globe Telecom Philippines, Nestlé Malaysia, British India, Mencast Holdings Singapore, Hemas Holdings Sri Lanka, Telkomsel Indonesia, and Manila Electric Philippines.


The ACES Awards is a great opportunity for companies to showcase their strength, benchmarking against Asian industry giants, and to receive the grand honor of being the beacons of Asia for responsible practices.


The nomination of individual includes Top Outstanding Entrepreneurs in Asia, Entrepreneur of the year including woman and young, while corporate nomination includes Top SMEs in Asia, Top Green Companies, Top Community Care Companies and Top Companies to Work for in Asia. Full list of categories can be found at the official awards website.


Speaking about the nomination response so far, B. Shanggari, CEO MORS Group said, “it is exciting to see fresh contenders representing Mongolia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, China, Japan and Maldives also securing their entry. Guests who attended the 2014 awards will attest to what a great evening it was, and this year the Awards will offer yet another fabulous show featuring industry titans that makes Asia proud”.


Nominations for the event close on August 22 and entry forms could be obtained from may@morsgroup.com





Founded in 2012, MORS Group’s differentiated value stems from its sustained and substantial efforts in research and development, with a dedicated research team focusing on understanding the potential of Asia and the instruments that aid in boosting Asia’s business prominence.

More details on MORS Group and ACES Awards can be found at www.acesawards.com