A quiet force in branding

A.S. Louken founder Luke Lim, in his office. He was recently presented with a 10 Outstanding Young Persons award by Junior Chamber International.
A.S. Louken founder Luke Lim, in his office. He was recently presented with a 10 Outstanding Young Persons award by Junior Chamber International.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Consultancy firm CEO keen to help Asian brands become market leaders

THE small office in a nondescript Alexandra Road building does not suggest you are in the nerve centre of an increasingly powerful player in the international branding game, but consultancy firm A.S. Louken likes keeping things low-key.

The only hint that this is a force in the industry is the cabinet at the main entrance laden with trophies and accolades the company has won for its prowess.

The latest addition is from non-profit organisation Junior Chamber International, which presented founder Luke Lim with one of its 10 Outstanding Young Persons awards.

Like his company, Mr Lim has an unassuming facade that belies ambitious goals and an entrepreneurial bent.

Mr Lim, 40, cut his teeth in the business world helping out at his family's coffee shop as a boy, an experience that seeded his interest in entrepreneurship.

His go-getting approach to life carried over into university, where he ran his own T-shirt design business for two years as an undergraduate, which helped fund his tuition fees and paid for a motorcycle.

Mr Lim, who holds an engineering degree from the Nanyang Technological University, eventually joined the civil service but left to set up A.S. Louken in 2000 to "help Asian brands become market leaders".

The company aims to help its clients expand by tapping their intellectual property.

It is part of an international network of branding consultancies known as the Ebeltoft Group that secures global clients.

A.S. Louken has worked with more than 1,000 brands, including prominent local firms such as BreadTalk, Charles & Keith, Tangs and Jean Yip.

Its clients range from multinational firms to listed companies to SMEs based in Asia.

Mr Lim, who christened the company after the Greek form of his name, said A.S. Louken was born of a belief that Asian brands are "undervalued".

This came from his experiences travelling the world during a stint at the Trade Development Board - now known as IE Singapore - a government agency that helps firms expand overseas.

"In many developed countries, intellectual property and branding are a crucial part of doing business," said Mr Lim.

"Asian brands are usually good at what they do, but not so much at communicating the right message or making use of their intellectual property.

"Asia was previously focused mainly on low-cost manufacturing, but that has been changing."

Mr Lim is also keen on boosting his own intellectual property.

He has also obtained a Master of Business Administration in retailing from Stirling University in Scotland, and completed a senior management brand and growth executive programme at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in the United States.

And he published a book in 2010, Secrets Of The Little Red Cow, outlining A.S. Louken's experiences with helping local firms develop brand strategies.

The father of three is also the vice-president of the Singapore Badminton Association and volunteers with various organisations such as The Salvation Army and the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants.

"It can be tough to juggle everything, but it's worth it," he said.