CornerStone for expansion of wine and spirits business

Mr Ang believes his firm's name change from Hock Tong Bee to CornerStone Wines helped to open doors for its regional expansion.
Mr Ang believes his firm's name change from Hock Tong Bee to CornerStone Wines helped to open doors for its regional expansion.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

In the 1930s, Hock Tong Bee was a provision store in Rochor Road that sold a wide range of produce, from rice to alcohol.

The firm's founder, Mr Ang Soo Seng, had coined the name from a combination of three words, which in Hokkien means "prosperity with beauty".

Over the years, the firm evolved into a wine and spirits distributor and merchant. As it grew, so did its ambitions to expand overseas, but its third-generation owner and managing director Clinton Ang felt the name Hock Tong Bee was not befitting of an international wine and spirits firm.

Mr Ang, 44, who took over the business from his father in 1997, said: "With a name like Hock Tong Bee, one must be honest with oneself - scalability is limited. Hence we came up with 'CornerStone' in 2001."

He believes the name change helped to open doors for the company's regional expansion.

 

He picked the name as he wanted one with a Christian meaning. In the Bible, Jesus Christ is referred to as the cornerstone, or foundation block, of the Church.

Today, CornerStone Wines is in 28 countries, including Thailand, China and the Maldives.

Mr Ang also restructured the firm, introducing a profit-sharing system for its sales staff and a collective profit-sharing system for its support staff, making them stakeholders in the business.

A change in mindset was necessary to keep the business going, he said.

"The only constant in life is change. One needs to adapt to an ever-changing environment."

Melissa Lin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2017, with the headline 'CornerStone for expansion of wine and spirits business'. Print Edition | Subscribe