This article was originally published on Hotelier Maldives, 13 October 2018.
We spoke to the founders of Onestop, a Singaporean custom furniture manufacturer supplying premium furnishings to one-third of resorts based in the Maldives, on their foray into the region that is now 10 years in the making.
Hotelier Maldives: Onestop actually began as a two-man show, so how did you get started? Were there any challenges in the beginning?
In the beginning, we had to do everything ourselves. Literally, we were both working in separate companies, and we would meet after-hours to discuss this potential business we were building, which was Onestop.
We got our first contract in the Maldives by proving we were not just all talk, but that we could do the job as well. When our first client expressed reservations about our capabilities, we told them: “Don’t give us the contract first. We’ll do up a sample, and if you like it, then you can decide to engage us.”
This kind of attitude built a trust between us and the client, because it shows how we believed we could do the job so well to the extent that we would produce a prototype without any concrete order. When we got the furniture pieces into the Maldives, the client liked what he saw, and that’s how we initially got our start.
HM: Does Onestop’s background as a Singaporean company pose any advantages in the Maldives?
A hundred per cent. One advantage is in terms of geographical location. We are four hours away from both the Maldives and China, and two hours away from Indonesia—right in the centre, and in-between these three countries that we trade majorly with.
Being based in Singapore, and comprised of staff hailing from various different ethnic backgrounds, also broke barriers for us. It allows us to communicate with clients and manufacturers alike, who are of different nationalities. Our Team speaks to our clients in English, to the Indonesians we work with in Bahasa Indonesia, or Hindi to Indian clients, and converse in Mandarin with our Chinese manufacturer.
HM: Are there any special considerations or challenges to keep in mind when supplying furniture to the Maldives?
The Maldives possesses some harsh weather conditions in terms of its humidity and salinity. Any furniture piece that is to be placed outdoors would need to be resilient to these conditions. Designing furniture for the Maldives thus requires a balance between design, functionality and durability.
So, this is where we come in, where we advise clients when a certain material may not work so well in a certain environment. Clients and designers alike listen to us on this aspect due to the experience we have.
HM: Onestop seems to emphasise its “one-stop” concept frequently. Why do you think this aspect of being well-rounded is important to the company?
At the end of the day, when you are developing a property—be it a hotel or a resort or even an F&B establishment—you prefer to just give the project to one company who can take care of it all, while ensuring quality, that the goods are made according to your specifications and deliveries arrive on time, for a small premium.
Thus, we are able to offer a much-needed service to our client at a reasonable price. So, that’s probably why we call ourselves Onestop, where we do everything from fabrics to special finishes, lightings.
To date, we’ve also invested in and have full ownership of a custom furniture factory in China, overseeing its running to improve quality control. We also own a soft furnishings company that does fabrics, curtains and wallpapers, and work very closely with our lighting suppliers and Indonesian counterparts—the same people that we work with from day one until now, so they’ve grown together with us in the past 10 years. Logistics is important to us as well, because it is, essentially, the make-or-break factor in a project.
Two good examples of projects that we were totally involved in are the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort and Kandima Maldives, where we were in charge of most of the furnishings: the lights, the furniture, and the special finishes.
HM: How do you go the extra mile for your clients?
We are always in touch with contacts in the Maldives, embarking on monthly visits to the Maldives for sales and after-sales purposes. Once we’re here, we’re engaging with people and finding out what’s happening. Whenever we hear of any new developments, we make it a point to reach out, let them know what we can do and do frequent follow-ups.
Value engineering is also something that we’re very strong at. This element has only strengthened over the years because we now have a soft furnishings company that does fabrics—which accounts for a huge portion of our furnishings
For projects that have been delivered, we engage in after-sales support. We speak to the project manager about any issues that have occurred and resolve them in the shortest time possible before more guests come onto the property. This is an area that garners appreciation from our clients because we make an effort in our identification and rectification of any issues. Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that we want our clients to get what they pay for, and more.
It’s a constant, proactive approach. For us, it’s all about being proactive rather than reactive, as the job isn’t all done and dusted at the moment of delivery.
HM: Are there any unique projects that Onestop has taken on?
Every project is so unique and special, due to the fact that we get so personally involved in the projects we take on.
But one of the more unique projects we’ve undertaken is Niyama Private Islands Maldives, specifically supplying loose furniture to its underwater bar, Subsix, which was designed by Poole Associates. For the chairs, which were designed to resemble the sea urchin, we experimented and then finally settled on common everyday material like rubber piping—but used it to create a piece of art.
HM: Do you have any repeat clients? If so, why do you think they go back to Onestop again and again?
Yes, and all our clients tell us the same thing: it’s a hassle-free process with Onestop. They can rely on us to successfully deliver according to project timelines, without discounting on product quality or service.
We guarantee our clients that we will manage any problem that comes up within 48 hours. We have successfully resolved almost all the problems that we’ve encountered in our 10 years in the business, be it major or minor. And that’s what every client wants to know: that at the end of the day, they can rely on us to solve any problems they have.
Most importantly, along the years, we’ve become friends with all our clients. There are hardly any formalities now. They can just pick up the phone and give us a call because they know that it will be taken care of.
HM: Do you have any expansion plans?
We’re always growing in terms of strengths, sales, and clientele, but Onestop is currently looking into expanding to a different market within Asia. This year, we have expanded to the Philippines and Thailand. We have investment plans for the Maldives as well, in areas of development and real estate.
Another area we’ve already expanded into, service-wise, is ID works, which will cover installation works of wall panels, countertops and feature walls in lobbies and waiting areas. This involves setting up an on-site workshop within reach of the project, and with the installation overseen and supported by our own specialised team.
Of course, we are constantly embracing new technology and exploring different manufacturing techniques, investing in the latest equipment to improve efficiency and quality. On top of that, we are in the process of setting up an Indonesian facility that will be owned and managed by us.
HM: Are there any guiding principles that Onestop abides by?
Honesty is our main policy. We tell our clients up front whether we can or cannot do something. Once we’ve taken on a job, what’s important is the commitment that we have to the client and the project.
We also believe in not giving up. We don’t leave our clients in the lurch; we go down the path of helping them tackle the problem. I think if you put enough time and effort into it, anything can be resolved.
Finally, we’re really in the business of building a relationship than anything else. It’s about the relationships we’ve built in the Maldives and around the world—that we want to keep.
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