The Global Live Seafood Story
Established in 1998, Global Live Seafood was founded by David Chong and his wife Pearly Lam, upon discovering an opportunity to create a demand in the Singapore market for premium shellfish and seafood.
An aeronautical engineer by training, Mr Chong’s humble beginnings in the live seafood industry involved setting up some tanks for Dungeness crabs and Geoducks at the rooftop of a friend’s house, and physically walking down Orchard Road to sell their products to Seafood restaurants on consignment basis.
He was approached to join a frozen seafood company to develop their live seafood arm, but 5 years later, Mr Chong decided to start out on his own, with his wife Pearly supporting on the administrative side, and set up his business at Jurong Fishery Port, armed with the network he built, and sheer grit. Thanks to his determination, the company landed a large client who they supplied to, and in 2004, became an incorporated company. His son, Joshua Chong, has since taken over to run the business.
When the older Mr Chong first started the business, Joshua was in his teens, and witnessed firsthand the struggle and hard work behind establishing and running the business. At that time, the older Mr Chong had no workers, and made all the deliveries by himself, which involved driving to Changi airport from their home in Bishan to pick up the shipment, before driving it to their office in Jurong, and then back home to Bishan, at all times of the day, sometimes even past midnight or in the wee hours of the morning. Long drives and long days of tedious work were characteristic of the job.
Joshua would sometimes accompany his dad on these drives, finding it fun and a novelty, but at the same time also learning valuable skills about the industry and serving as a helping hand to his dad. After the business was incorporated, their office moved from Jurong to Aljunied to a space 10 times larger than before, and with 6 to 7 staff under their employ.
Although always close to the business, Joshua did not intend to take over from the very start. Although he had hoped to do a Business degree, his grades did not get him into a local Business course. His parents offered to pay for him to get a Business degree overseas, but knowing the struggle his parents had in running the business, and in a bid to save the hefty expenses of an overseas education, Joshua chose to enrol in a local university to do Engineering, so that he could still help out with the business over the weekends and holidays.
After graduating from University, Joshua entered the financial industry and worked at 2 different banks over a span of 3 years. However, he knew that his heart still called him back towards the family business. In 2012, he left the financial sector, and dived wholeheartedly back into the business.
To date, Joshua has been with the business for 8 years, but still insists on making his own deliveries, so as to establish rapport and build relationships with his clients. Joshua quipped that the way his parents ran the business was very traditional, but would still ask him if he had new or innovative ideas to improve the business. It was that symbiotic relationship that led to the success of the business today, with Joshua constantly innovating for ways to streamline processes and increase market presence, built upon the solid foundations and established ways of operating that his parents had put in place based on their years of experience.
Although working together in the business helped Father and Son to grow closer, friction is inevitable as Joshua wryly pointed out. When tensions arise at work, it is difficult to maintain professionalism or draw the line between work and personal life, because his boss is his father. It was a complicated and challenging relationship to navigate, but Joshua acknowledged that the journey helped him to better understand his dad’s point of view, and forced him to learn to take his dad’s feelings into consideration and respect him more.
The older Mr Chong and his wife are now preparing to retire fully from the business. Although they initially had their reservations about whether Joshua was serious about the business, through the years, they witnessed Joshua’s dedication to the business, and are fully convinced and ready to let go and hand the reins over to him.
Joshua shares that he always told his parents, “It is difficult to start a business, but even more so to take over an established one.” This is a challenge that has been a motivation and driving force for him in developing the business. That, coupled with a desire to continue the legacy that his parents started, is how Joshua intends to make a dent in the Live seafood industry in Singapore, and establish Global Live Seafood as one of the Top Live Seafood Distributors in Singapore.