Over the course of a decade, pharmaceutical and specialty ingredient leader Seqens Group has established a resilient business model based on a combination of organic expansion and canny acquisitions. A standalone structure within Seqens Group, the Mineral Specialties division is a leading producer of soda ash and sodium bicarbonate.
While it has a strong European presence, it was a recent greenfield investment in Singapore that has burnished the company’s international footprint. As you would imagine, business dealings in Asia can function very differently from business dealings in Europe.
Enter Raymond Sinnah, President of Mineral Specialties and Executive Vice President of the Seqens Group. Forced to leave Cambodia with his family in 1974 during the Cambodian Civil War, he studied in France – at military school initially, before earning an executive MBA – and then worked across Europe, the US and Asia in a variety of industries. There were many lessons in store for him.
“I learned you had to adapt yourself to the local culture, respecting people and the environment,” Raymond recalls. “Having experience on three different continents, I have been able to take the best of each culture, benefiting from management benchmarking and best practices, and making things relative.”
Using state-of-the-art technology from France, Raymond and his team established the Singaporean base of operations very quickly, with one year of engineering work and one year of construction.
Today, they serve some of the world’s most demanding markets – such as dialysis, pharma, personal care and nutrition – with an organisational agility and supply-chain flexibility that adapts processes to meet specific customers’ requirements.
One of the strongest underpinnings of this effort has been the support of the Singaporean Government. There are a few different ways in which the Jurong Island facility is green, Raymond explains. “We capture CO₂ from the petrochemical industry and valorise it through our process as feedstock instead of polluting the air,” he says.
“Technological advances reduce energy consumption along our continuous process and we have limited waste compared to the industry standard, valorised locally through two main industries – water treatment to neutralise pH, and incinerators to filter sulphur emissions.”
Given the nature of his work, Raymond seeks out staff who appreciate and thrive within the company’s entrepreneurial and self-motivated culture. The Mineral Specialties division has been set up to encourage a certain way of thinking and working, which means it can operate very differently from other large-scale operations.
“Entrepreneurial spirit is part of our DNA,” he explains. “On a daily basis, we encourage initiative – taking risks and responsibilities. We believe in a lean organisation that favours quick decision-making, space for our employees to act and empowerment of our teams.
“We believe in a lean organisation that favours quick decision-making, space for our employees to act and empowerment of our teams.”
“People are motivated to be part of this adventure. We attract great talents and skilled people from different countries and cultures. The cross-fertilisation and transfer of know-how between our teams in France and Singapore means we are training on both sides, on both continents.”
Seeking the win–win
On a micro level, Raymond is mostly concerned with defining a clear vision for the company and preparing Plan B and C in case the on-ground situation or market changes. Planning for those unknowable factors is one of his major motivations in business.
“I enjoy revealing new challenges to my team, to ensure we are consistently meeting shareholder expectations,” he says. “It is clear to me that empowering people is very powerful, and it is a pleasure to operate within a framework of human values – transparency, trust and engagement. I believe in long-term, win-win partnerships based on trust, where you can find fair solutions when facing a crisis together.”
“The cross-fertilisation and transfer of know-how between our teams in France and Singapore means we are training on both sides, on both continents.”
But that doesn’t mean he neglects the macro view, which sees both Raymond and Mineral Specialties continue to plan for the medium-range future. “We’ve set up a strong team, have sustained our position in Europe and started our international expansion via greenfield investment in Singapore to serve APAC markets,” he says.
“Finally, we have prepared a very promising plan for the next five years. It’s important to spend time on the execution of a plan with the proper organisation. I always learn from mistakes and tackle weaknesses with a structured approach to improve our future.”