Furniture body has designs for the future

New president Mr Yong has been heading local design festival SingaPlural (above), a key event of the annual Singapore Design Week, since last year. He says members need to also accelerate transformation from a design perspective.
New president Mr Yong has been heading local design festival SingaPlural (above), a key event of the annual Singapore Design Week, since last year. He says members need to also accelerate transformation from a design perspective. PHOTOS: PLUS COLLABORATIVES, SINGAPORE FURNITURE INDUSTRIES COUNCIL
New president Mr Yong (above) has been heading local design festival SingaPlural, a key event of the annual Singapore Design Week, since last year. He says members need to also accelerate transformation from a design perspective.
New president Mr Yong (above) has been heading local design festival SingaPlural, a key event of the annual Singapore Design Week, since last year. He says members need to also accelerate transformation from a design perspective. PHOTOS: PLUS COLLABORATIVES, SINGAPORE FURNITURE INDUSTRIES COUNCIL

New president outlines plans for stronger ties between members and unveils digital initiative as SFIC turns 35

The Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC) is certainly not lounging around as it turns 35.

It has a new president and digital strategy, and is building stronger partnerships between members, including non-furniture makers.

The trade association made a raft of announcements yesterday at its annual gala dinner at the Mandarin Orchard hotel.

One key plank is building deeper links with its associate members. It is doing this by reorganising its membership into five clusters, comprising furniture manufacturers, contract manufacturers, retailers, designers and suppliers of materials and equipment.

Mr Mark Yong, who took over the reins as SFIC president yesterday, told The Straits Times that the body is reorganising its membership into clusters to make the council "more structured and streamlined" to serve members' needs better.

"SFIC is rebranding itself to become more of an ecosystem which encompasses a larger community of lifestyle players that will serve a more sophisticated consumer generation," he said.

This will involve more collaboration between partners from different but adjacent sectors to offer consumers "lifestyle concepts beyond just furniture", he said.

Mr Yong said many furniture manufacturers are no longer just making furniture and have dipped their toes into the other clusters, such as design and retail.

He added that the council will also ramp up efforts to engage the younger generation by growing the SFIC's Youth Furniture Committee and creating opportunities to network in the region through its Asean Youth Entrepreneurs Exchange Programme.

In order to ride on the digital transformation of the economy, SFIC also launched a new initiative called "Smart SFIC".

The initiative includes plans such as establishing online platforms for e-commerce and using big data for market intelligence and analysis.

Mr Yong said he is most passionate about this initiative as he wants to get members to be able to ride the wave of new innovations.

"Smart SFIC is not just about technology. It is also about smart design, where we will encourage industry players to deploy design innovation as a key competitive edge for growth," said Mr Yong, who has been heading local design festival SingaPlural, a key event of the annual Singapore Design Week, since last year.

This is because consumers today are "not only tech-savvy, but also design-savvy", he added.

"We must accelerate transformation from a design perspective, where we will work with companies to enhance design content in their work to create superior value," he said.

Another development coming up is the SFIC's move to the new JTC Furniture Hub in Sungei Kadut, an eight-storey furniture hub to be built by the end of 2018.

The hub is expected to house many firms in one location to help cut costs and increase collaboration between companies.

Mr Yong, 38, replaces outgoing president Ernie Koh, who was president for the maximum of two terms.

Mr Koh said the past four years had been "an exhilarating experience", adding that several milestones were achieved, such as numerous local companies gaining greater global exposure.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2016, with the headline 'Furniture body has designs for the future'. Print Edition | Subscribe