01 OCEAN’S TWO
Nelson (far left) and Terence. They named their investment company Dorr after the initials of Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan, the ringleaders of the heist film
For 15 years, the pair grew up in the same family home in Upper Bukit Timah where they often “got up to no good” together and lorded over their younger siblings. What sort of pranks, we ask. They look at each other and laugh in unison, the glint of yesteryear mischief twinkling in their eyes.
Their sisters and brothers – Terence and Nelson are the eldest in their respective families – became human goalposts during football matches. “I made my brother drink Dettol to ‘cleanse his body’. He ended up in the hospital,” Terence says with a shrug. “We always got in trouble.”
Worldliness had been part of their psyche even from a young age, and the Lohs knew that the fear of failure in Singapore would clip their wings and dull their edges. The ecosystem that one is in determines one’s future, Terence says. “If you’re in an ecosystem where you fear, you’re restricted and you can’t think big.” So at 16, Terence packed his bags for California. A few years later, Nelson enrolled in the University of Cambridge – the UK, because “my dad said Terence was having too much fun in the US”.
“In China or Silicon Valley, you’re a serial entrepreneur if you fail. In our part of the world, you’re almost written off,” says Nelson, who shuttles among Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore. “The ecosystem does not support risktaking and those who are trying to do things differently. I always tell my staff and kids ( his daughter is 11 and son, eight) that failure is their first attempt in learning. You fail only if you stop trying,” he adds.
“Kids in Singapore will tell you that they want to be doctors, lawyers, architects, bankers. Kids in China will tell you that’s boring. One kid in China told me, ‘I can pay someone to do that. I want to be the next Tencent owner. I want to create the next app that the whole world will use.’ That’s amazing. Just yesterday in Shanghai, I bought a dumpling from a street vendor who accepted payment only through Wechat,” says Nelson, showing us his e-wallet to cement the point.
Terence – who, along with Nelson, comes from a family that runs one of the largest luxury automotive distributorships in China – pulls out his phone and shows us a Harvard Business Review article that he’d read in the morning before this interview. Charting the digital evolution of 60 countries, it compared digital competitiveness and grouped nations in four categories: Stand Out, Stall Out, Break Out and Watch Out. Although Singapore was a Stand Out, the article warned that Singapore had to keep up with digital evolution or this status could be easily usurped by Break Out countries like China and Malaysia.
Ironically, it is this rapid digitisation of the world that led them to sink their teeth into an industry that is one of the most resistant to change: health care. Of course, there’s the Loh twist to it. “Which industry, we wondered, would not be replaced by the Internet in the next 10 years? Health care was identified as one of them,” says Nelson. “We’re not doctors. But we knew, from being investors in a Kosdaq-listed medical equipment manufacturer, that aesthetics was an area that we could scale and make more affordable/accessible for consumers.
“So we focused on no-frills, noninvasive procedures to address what people wanted, which is more accessible and affordable treatment in a safe and friendly environment. We moved away from the traditional way of operating an aesthetics