Tan Tong Hong
Big Box International Pte Ltd
Big Box International Pte Ltd was established in 2000 as a holding company for several retail brands in Singapore. As the company’s mission is to “inspire more people to Give Joy”, the various brands that they house are also committed to this cause. They do so through the sale of fun and unique toys, gifts and gadgets. One such local brand is Action City, which is the retail arm of Big Box International Pte Ltd.
Co-founded by Mr Tan Tong Hong and Mr David Chong in 2000, Action City is dedicated to rekindle the habit of playing and having fun in one’s daily life. Mr Tan headed his team at Action City by providing his vision – to allow the people of Singapore to reintroduce play into their everyday lives as well as experience the joy of giving. He set out to accomplish this by curating FUNIQUE (Fun and Unique) toys suitable for all ages and create unique collectibles that would appeal to collectors.
Mr Tan did not initially set out to start a business and definitely did not imagine that he would have helped to establish such a well-loved Singaporean brand. In fact, he did not even graduate with a sales or marketing degree and was much more passionate about the arts. However, during the Asian Financial Crisis in 1998 when businesses were not doing well, he received a pay cut of approximately 20%. While searching for an additional source of income, he chanced upon a roadside market along Clarke Quay for people to sell their items. Thus began his foray into entrepreneurship, when he decided to set up a humble roadside stall selling different kinds of toys. Gradually, it dawned upon him that he could make this his full-time business. This then lead to the founding of Action City.
The initial phase of growing the business was not easy for Mr Tan and his partner. As Mr Tan did not receive the formal education to acquire the skills of running a business, it proved to be a significant obstacle for him. Instead of having a smooth sailing path, Mr Tan had to learn through many mistakes and go through a trial and error process before he began to manage his business effectively. However, instead of bemoaning his fate, Mr Tan was thankful for the difficult experiences and challenges that he faced. He believed that the lack of convention in his methods proved to be the key factor for his ability to make breakthroughs in the industry. He was unlike others, who might have foreseen certain dead ends and given up. This definitely demonstrates Mr Tan’s resilience and hunger for excellence, which were crucial factors behind the success of Action City.
Mr Tan shared with us that it was important for an individual to recognize his own clear goal in life. For himself, it was his innate desire to create value and live for others. This then inspired Mr Tan to expand beyond the original Action City model and increase its scale to include that of other unique brands. Mr Tan and his partner then established Big Box International Pte Ltd, which would house different individual brands and support them in their businesses. This would then allow many local entrepreneurs to expand their brands to their fullest potential.
Today, Action City and Big Box International Pte Ltd have developed several ‘joy stimulating’ brands, such as LITTLEBIGSOUND and Creative DotBook, and represent international brands such as Hot Toys and Ugly Dolls.
Definitely, Mr Tan and Action City have come a long way and will continue to make a change, one toy at a time.