|So this is how Danovel first started……
In 1937, Mr Koh Kee Khim followed his brother’s footsteps and left Shantou, China to pursue his Nangyang dream.
Kee Khim, a simple man with no formal education, started working with his brother to make mattresses and to earn a living in Singapore. In the early 50s, he moved to Johor Bahru and created his own mattress-making business and as well as a family of his own. His wife, Mdm Eu Meow Cheng, who has some education, was a good seamstress.
In September 1960, Kee Khim knew that he had to expand his business to support his growing family, with four children (the youngest one was just a month old). He took a chance and used his savings he had left to move to Singapore to create a furniture company, the Hock Hin Company in a rented zinc-roof house in Jalan Nanas (the present Sim Avenue). At that time, he had only basic machinery to help his business.
During that period, Kee Khim observed that merchants in Singapore were importing traditional rose wood furniture from China which were not suitable for the early apartments built (around 40 – 50 sqm. in size) by the Singapore Housing Development Board (“HDB”). Together with his wife’s sewing skills and his skills in making cotton mattresses, Kee Khim started crafting affordable small-sized framed sofas covered in PVC fabric fit for Singapore apartments.
|Kee Khim and his wife invited their relatives over from Malaysia to work in Singapore to further increase capacity and to grow the business. This is when the seeds of Danovel rooted. Kee Khim’s Hock Hin Company began its journey producing sofas to sell to furniture shops. The company earned its reputation with its iconic “AGOGO Model” because of the sofas crafted were both comfortable and stylish seating. Along with its growing customers, more furniture shops also did business and came to source from Hock Hin Company.
The 60s became a hit for Hock Hin Company, which became very popular in producing quality affordable sofas. However, in the early 1970s, the Kaki Bukit area was taken over by the Government for redevelopment and Jalan Nanas was expanded from a two-lane road into a four- lane road and renamed as Sim Avenue. Fortunately, Hock Hin Company continued on at the same premises.
As both the family and business grew, Kee Khim and Meow Cheng rented a terrace house in Changi Lorong 108 which served both as a family home and an additional production site. It wasn’t easy but Kee Khim worked hard for his business while he took care of his seven children.
Soon after, the area where Hock Hin Company sited was struck with redevelopment by the government. It had quite a setback for the business, but it didn’t stop Kee Khim from growing his business. In 1983, He found a new location found a new premise a HDB shop lot in Bedok Reservoir Road.
With his hard work and dedication, Kee Khim became an great role model and inspired his youngest son, Tuang Hock, to join the family business. Through Kee Khim’s guidance, Tuan Hock beyond a shop lot to a proper factory in Eunos and thus founded Novelty Furniture Industries.
Kee Khim encouraged his son to be more innovative to keep up with the growing OEM competitors in the market. Tuan Hock then established the Harvest Link International Pte Ltd to create their own brand of furniture. This time, the company diversifed its product line from fabric sofas to office furniture. They even set up a manufacturing plant in Taiwan. At this point of time, one of Kee Khim’s daugther, Siag Lan, who is also a chemist, became involved in the business. Although Tuan Hock was far away, Kee Khim often communicated with his son and provided valuable advices to him. He was the source of inspiration to his children while they took reins of the family business. As the business grew, because the family bond was strong, his 2nd daughter, Christina Koh, also came on board. Together each occupying different roles in the family business led to Kee Khim being assured that all that he had created not only had raised up his family and given them good opportunties and future.
Kee Khim then retired while Siag Lan moved to open a new company, Danovel Pte Ltd, a retail shop front selling local premium handcrafted furniture in the Orchard area. Harvest Link also grew internationally through the experience of Christina Koh.
Today, Siag Lan’s eldest son, Marcus carries the family business and trademarked the brand name, Danovel. Currently, the company has also expanded to Malaysia to set up a production base to export sofas globally. Danovel now involves itself together with the furniture industry of Singapore working towards contributing to the growth of the industry.
Looking back, like an egg of the eagle, Hock Hin Company, was founded by Koh Kee Khim, a simple man from the pioneer generation, who arrived in Singapore from China with nothing to his name, no education and speaking only the Teochew dialect.
Through the hard work of Mr & Mrs Koh, this egg hatched into the eaglet, Novelty, which took the “kampung” style home-workshop business to a greater height as a modern business unit in sync with the transformation of Singapore from a labour intensive to a capital intensive modern economy. The right choices made by their children and a grandchild transformed the eaglet to a mighty soaring eagle, Harvest Link International & Danovel, with its global reach as an international business house. The family values and strong bond instilled by Kee Khim dwells deeply in the business that will keep this legacy going on from generation to generations.
And the Danovel Story continues…