Sim Lim: From a wood business to an electronics hub

Sim Lim Square, now an electronics hub, first started as a timber business. -- ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Sim Lim Square, now an electronics hub, first started as a timber business. -- ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Sim Lim Tower was built by Sim Lim Realty, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sim Lim Group of Companies, and opened its doors in 1980 at Jalan Besar. It functioned as the headquarters of the company, and housed an "Electronic and Electrical City" which now specialises in hardware-type products, cables and electronics components such as resistors and capacitors.

Sim Lim Square, which is across the street on Rochor Canal Road and specialises in consumer electronics such as computers, cameras and mobile phones, opened in 1987. The mall was recently in the news after a retailer tried to give a customer more than $1,000 in coins after it was ordered by the Small Claims Tribunal to give a refund. Its management has also appealed to the authorities to "take a tough stand against the recalcitrant retailers", saying it has been "disappointed with the apparent lack of measures which the authorities are able to take against these incorrigible retailers".

Here's a timeline of the company that has its roots in timber.

1930s and 40s: Sim Lim first started as a timber business by Mr Soon Peng Yam in partnership with two of his brothers. The name Sim Lim in Chinese comprises a total of five character roots, all of which are the same, and mean wood. Eventually the three men split up, and Mr Soon took over Sim Lim. He died in 2002 at age 90. The timber business was expanded to one dealing in other building materials such as steel, iron and cement.

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1950: Sim Lim Company, which became a family business, was incorporated as Sim Lim Private Limited Company.

1960s: Sim Lim Co Pte Ltd diversified its business and started to be involved in building industries and other businesses, and became Sim Lim Group of Companies.

1970s: The company was badly affected by worldwide oil crisis, then recession.

1980: Sim Lim Tower opened under developer Sim Lim Realty. A $30 million project, it housed 158 shops in a four-storey Electronic and Electrical City at Jalan Besar, along Sungei Road.

1983: Sim Lim Tower was not enough for businessmen who wanted to set up shop, and eight of them went back to Sim Lim Realty and requested them to bid on another piece of land.

1987: Sim Lim Square, a six-storey, $140 million project, opened.

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Sim Lim suffered losses in the years to come, and was taken over by other companies. It is currently a management corporation, collectively owned by individual shop owners.

Sources: Sim Lim 50 years published by Sim Lim Investments Limited, The Straits Times