Cover Personality: JR Life Sciences Founder Mr Ricky Ong
According to the teachings of the Buddha, there are Four Noble Truths. These truths include The Noble Truth of Suffering, The Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering, The Noble Truth of Cessation of Suffering, and The Noble Truth of the Way to Cessation. In terms of The Noble Truth of the Way to Cessation, the path to ending suffering is known as The Noble Eightfold Path.
The Noble Eightfold Path is one of the principal teachings of Buddha, and is described as the way leading to a cessation of suffering and the state of self-awakening. It involves having the Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.
Buddhist teachings have been a central tenet of JR Life Sciences Founder Mr Ricky Ong’s life principles. In this issue, we have the pleasure of speaking with Mr Ong about his career, and how his life philosophies and experiences have shaped his professional and private lives.
Good morning, Mr Ong. It is a pleasure to see you once again since we last met a few years ago. To begin, tell us more about your career and how you came to start JR Life Sciences?
Mr Ricky Ong: Good morning! It is good to see you too. I think it has been about three years since we last met. Time passes by very quickly!
To answer your question, prior to setting up JR Life Sciences, I used to work in Cambert as a Sales Representative. Cambert is a leading importer and distributor of quality health supplements and skin care products in Singapore. For 22 years, I flourished in the company, and I rose through the ranks to become the Regional Operations Manager and Country Manager for Singapore. However, when the company was later sold in the mid-2000s, its new owners wanted to bring in their own people in place of the existing management, and I found myself on the chopping block.
This was absolutely unexpected and out of the blue. I was surprised, perhaps even shocked. After losing my job like that, I decided to take some time to contemplate on what to do next. Eventually, after six months of deliberation, I decided to go with what I know best – the health supplements business. That was when I started JR Life Sciences.
What are some of the earliest and hardest obstacles you have had to overcome?
RO: In the beginning, I had limited resources. I lacked capital, and I did not have manpower and counters to display my products. With a lack of help, there were long working hours where I had to slog for around 18 hours a day to build my business. This significantly reduced the amount of time I had for other areas of my life, like my family and friends.
As my company grew, I was able to increase my manpower, but this led to other problems, such as personnel issues.
Talking about manpower, what is the principle behind your office culture?
RO: At JR Life Sciences, we uphold the culture of servant leadership, where we serve our team members and focus on their needs before our own. I started and still continue to emphasise on this culture as I believe in serving and accommodating the needs of my employees, as well as embracing their ideas and suggestions. I believe that doing so will enable us to best serve our customers together. This is about having the Right Intention, doing the Right Action and making the Right Effort.
Apart from the idea of servant leadership, I also try to ensure that we follow our motto of “Health in Harmony” so that everyone in the company will be in the pink of his/her health. We emphasise on the idea of “Workplace in Harmony”, where the company constantly strives to create a conducive and harmonious working environment for everyone to enjoy working happily together.
I also introduced flexible working hours so as to allow our staff to make adjustments to their working time. Our working lives are very busy. We have only 24 hours a day for all our commitments and what we want to do. These commitments and needs change over time. We often end up having to make sacrifices one way or another to fulfil our commitments and needs. The flexible hours help us to achieve our work-life balance and hopefully, maintain a healthy lifestyle as well.
Talking about the latter, we do encourage our employees to consume our supplements to maintain their health. We also organise bonding activities like hiking, cycling or entertainment activities, such as singing karaoke, to promote healthy living and better work-life balance.
Over the years, JR Life Sciences have won a lot of awards and accolades. How do you define success?
RO: Success is being able to find happiness in what you do, and creating value for your stakeholders, including your customers and employees.
Look, I will be the first to express my gratitude and pride for all the awards, accolades and milestones we have achieved. Awards like the Singapore Prestige Brand Award, SME Excellence & Consumer’s Choice Award, SME 500 Award, Entrepreneur 100 Award, Brands For Good, Superbrands, Golden Bull Award and Influential Brand, among others, are significant marks of recognition for us. We accomplished these as a collective unit – working in one direction, with the same goal in mind and for each other. Everyone has done his/her part and deserves every credit.
But going back to what I had said earlier, I think the most important thing for us is how our work have positively impacted on the lives of our customers. The testimonials from our customers about our excellent customer service and staffs’ positive attitudes, as well as stories about how our products have helped them to improve their health and general well-being. We find great joy and happiness in these. They mean the world to us.
What are your core life principles and what keeps you driven?
RO: I think it should be pretty easy to guess what some of my core principles are; they include Putting the Customer First, Teamwork, Benevolence, Integrity, Trust and Respect. I practise these to the best of my abilities in every aspect of my life. They guide me in how I interact with people and what I do in both my working and private lives.
What keeps me going at work? I think it is important to do what you love, and love what you do. I am fortunate in that respect. I love what I do, and being passionate about my work keeps me going. I always put in 100% effort and never give up, no matter the challenges and obstacles ahead of me. This has enabled me to overcome past challenges I had faced and will continue to guide me as I face new challenges.
What are some current challenges that you face?
RO: I look at challenges as opportunities. One challenge we always face is the launch of new products, which is, of course, also an opportunity. Despite the excellent performance of our current range of products, Holistic Way has expanded into the PREMIUM product portfolio in order to become a highly recognisable Health & Wellness Brand for the benefit of our customers. The latest Holistic Way PREMIUM GOLD range is being introduced as a long-standing quality life brand for the future.
Apart from that, Holistic Way has also just launched the GUMMY supplements range which are suitable for younger audiences. This range is intended to encourage and educate children to start maintaining good health as early as possible. We are also working on rolling out more product ranges that will be positioned under different categories, such as Holistic Way Premium Gold Bio-Elixir, Holistic Way Essentials, etc. These products target different customer groups and help us to keep up with current trends.
Besides the launching of new products, our brand currently has a limited overseas presence. We are looking to further expand into new markets in Asia, and we are talking with overseas distributors. We are looking at possible business expansion in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and China through a combination of partnership, distributorship and cross-border channels. This is a major new challenge for our company, but also one that greatly excites me. We will continue to grow the Holistic Way brand both locally and globally through growing and guiding a younger core team.
That sounds like a lot on the plate for your company. We know that despite the company’s heavy workload, you have always found time for your team to do CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). Tell us about some of these CSR efforts.
RO: Doing CSR is something that is always on my mind and it is something I am passionate about doing. When I was at Cambert, I started a CSR programme with my colleagues through our monthly contributions. We named it “Cambert Gift of Love”, which was a tribute to my former company.
At JR Life Sciences, a year after its founding in 2008, we established the JR People Care Fund. This is a fund which all our staff contribute to monthly. Besides the staff contribution, we also started to allocate 1% of our revenue to CSR work later on. This was increased to 1.5% in September 2022.
Our CSR work includes annual donations to charity organisations, and events in both Singapore and overseas. We also support staff welfare, social service organisations, disease support groups, nursing homes, religious organisations, and groups that support and look after people with intellectual disabilities, and underprivileged children. For example, we recently made a monetary contribution to ART:DIS (Arts & Disability Singapore – a group dedicated to supporting persons with disabilities (PwD) through the arts) for their “Adopt A Seat” fundraising campaign. We hope that our contribution can help enable PwDs to learn, train and collaborate with others in the creative economy. In all, we support over twenty charity groups. Our efforts are focused on helping the destitute in our community by making monetary and in-kind donations, as well as offering assistance to various charities and non-profit organisations.
Besides donations, our team also participates in charity-related activities like charity runs and community services to give back to the community. JR Life Sciences is not just a business, we are committed to creating an inclusive and loving environment for everyone in our community.
What are the mostimportant things in your life? What does “living a good life” mean to you?
RO: Family and friends mean the most to me, while “living a good life” is being able to do what you love and being passionate about it. I am blessed to be able to do it.
“Living a good life” also means having good health. I still remember the very first time I realised about the importance of health. I was about 19-20 years old when I got into a motor vehicle accident. I tore my knee ligament during the accident, and had to undergo a couple of operations. I was hospitalised for a few months. The doctor had initially told me that I may potentially have to rely on crutches for the rest of my life, and he did not want to operate on me.
When the doctor told me about my diagnosis, the news hit me very hard. It was a very difficult period for me and I prayed very hard about my condition. I also kept asking my doctor to take a chance on me and do a knee ligament replacement operation for me. After several refusals, he finally relented and operated on me. It was a success and I was able to recover about 85% of functionality. While I am unable to sprint or jump, I can jog and walk without crutches. From that point on, I realised the importance of physical health and treasured it.
This realisation about the importance of health gave me a fierce determination to ensure that people should always be able to enjoy good health. I realised that one way of doing this is to use the knowledge and experience that I have about supplements to provide good nutrition to people everywhere, as part of a healthy, holistic lifestyle. This became my mission and vision. It is about having the Right Livelihood.
We have come to the end of our interview. Quick-fire round: what do you do for leisure?
RO: Read self-enrichment books, and spend time with my family and friends.
Parting life advice for Prime readers?
Give your very best in whatever you do, and persevere. Success will follow.