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Foo, the eldest of three children, was born in Singapore in 1969. His father, an immigrant from Hainan, China, worked as a mechanical and electrical consultant. Foo received his early education at the Red Swastika Primary School where he was both a top student and prefect. He went on to study at Dunman High School and Victoria Junior College. In college, he was active in sports and participated in long-distance running, laser sailing and windsurfing.
After his "A" levels, he served his National Service with the Air Force. During his military service, Foo would read on topics relating to radar and electronics in order to understand the workings of the missile systems. It was then that he discovered that his interest did not lay in engineering. Though he had already secured a place with the engineering school at the Nanyang Technological University, Foo decided to make the switch to study Business Administration. However his grades did not qualify for the university's business school. So, aided in part by funds from his parents, Foo enrolled in the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia for his degree in Business Administration (Finance), where he graduated with distinctions in 1994.
The Value of Money
To supplement his pocket money, he would give tuition from 8 am to 11 pm on weekends, earning up to $5000 a month. He also worked during the six months vacation before his National Service. His typical day then involved taking turbine readings at Pulau Seraya in the mornings, giving relief teaching at Pin Yi Secondary School in the afternoons, and conducting door-to-door market surveys in the evenings. He also worked briefly as a baker at Delifrance, where he met his wife. When Foo was studying in Australia, he continued to earn his pocket money by selling shoes at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne.
After Foo returned from Australia, he worked as a marketing executive with the real estate arm of Tokyu Group. In the course of his work, he formed friendships with a number of Japanese clients, some of whom who traveled to Singapore to buy garments for the Japanese market. Through these networks, one of his Japanese business contacts approached him to start a business to manufacture garments in India for sale in Japan. Foo decided to take the plunge despite an attractive counter offer from his employer and his lack of experience in the fashion business. He invested $100,000 from his savings and registered Apex-Pal in 1996. The trading office was located in International Plaza, and a factory with fifty workers equipped with reconditioned sewing machines from Taiwan was set up in India. The business turned in profits in the first year.
The Beginnings of Sakae Sushi
In planning for Sakae Sushi, Foo made trips to Japan and Hong Kong to study the operations of conveyor-belt sushi joints. He decided to implement a single price for all colour plates (with the exception of delicacies on red plates) because he felt that the various colour plates (indicating the different prices of sushi dishes) used in Japanese restaurants deterred customers from ordering more. He also created a dining concept for Sakae Sushi to differentiate the restaurant from other Japanese dining establishments. Sakae Sushi has a conveyor belt system to deliver its sushi, and customers have their own water taps to make their tea as well as interactive menus to place their orders. Over time, the company added innovations such as sushi-making robots and portable conveyor belts for catered dining.
The first Sakae Sushi outlet opened at the OUB Centre at Raffles Place in the midst of the Asian financial crisis in September 1997. Despite the weak economic situation, the business took off. Today, there are Sakae Sushi outlets in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and China, and Apex-Pal has added ten other brands to its portfolio.
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(Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 LON)
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The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
Foo, Douglas, 1969-
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