Working in a fourth-generation family business can be daunting, but as the Royal Selangor marketing executive director, Chen Tien Yue does it well.

If there is a word that perfectly describes Chen Tien Yue, it will be ‘affable’. The executive director of Royal Selangor Marketing is perpetually smiling and has a sunny disposition no matter the situation. Together with his cousins, they run Royal Selangor, a legacy left behind by their great grandfather dating back to 1885.

But more than just keeping the pewter company relevant in today’s modern age, Tien Yue is also a husband and a father. This multi-faceted role he plays with finesse is precisely what encapsulates the BOSS Bottled fragrance vision of the Man of Today.

To find out more on how Tien Yue is the perfect representation of the Man of Today, we speak to him about his career thus far and his life principles.

As a fourth-generation successor of Royal Selangor, how do you continue maintaining your great-grandfather’s legacy while still ensuring that the business is relevant in today’s modern world?

We are very proud of Yong Koon’s legacy, and the business that previous generations of family members, non-family managers and employees have built. Not many companies today can look back at 135 years of history and say they are still preserving the heritage in craftsmanship that the founder started.

Previous generations of family members and their management teams have been entrepreneurial in expanding the Royal Selangor business, especially through product innovation and geographical expansion. My cousin Yoon Li (also an Executive Director at Royal Selangor) and I are very grateful for this strong foundation of innovation.

Today we see that in addition to developing new product categories and expanding into new markets, a key way to grow the brand is to engage more effectively with our customers. With our authentic heritage in pewter design and craftsmanship, we have a great story to tell. But how do we tell this effectively? 

Brand and design collaborations have increasingly become an important component of our story-telling, and we see this content resonating with our customers across our different touch-points. 

Chen Tien Yue is the marketing executive director at Royal Selangor. (Image credit: Lifestyle Asia)
What are the steps that you have taken to allow Royal Selangor to appeal to the younger audience?

We recognise that a brand known for home décor may find it difficult initially to engage with millennials who may not be thinking that much about decorating their homes. Especially in our home markets of Malaysia and Singapore, some younger consumers may have associated Royal Selangor as a brand that their parents bought, simply because we have been in the market for so long. 

Fortunately, we have found that with our recent pop culture collections like Marvel, Star Wars, DC and Disney, we have been able to get the attention of a younger generation of consumers, who have noticed us on their social media feed and have walked into our retail stores to see what this 135-year old brand is doing. They may start by picking up a small Marvel lapel pin, but suddenly they are aware that Royal Selangor not only does pop culture figurines but also contemporary whisky decanters and functional wine funnels.

Last month, Starbucks Malaysia launched a collection of Starbucks-branded coffee and personal accessories made by Royal Selangor and sold exclusively through its cafes. I remember when we launched our collaboration with Pestle & Mortar in our Pavilion flagship store a couple of years ago, it really made people sit up and take notice!

How do you achieve the fine balance of appealing to a younger audience yet maintaining the loyalty of your existing customers who enjoy pewter home items?

You are right in pointing out that there is a balance to strike, across all parts of the value chain. Our teams are certainly having to do more, and we are thankful that they are stepping up to the challenge. But we think it’s also more enjoyable for them. Younger team members enjoy working on our pop culture design and marketing projects, and this has enabled us to attract a younger workforce into the organisation.

The Royal Selangor x Marvel collection featuring Iron Man. (Image credit: Royal Selangor)

But increasingly we find that there is also a lot of common ground in what consumers want to see in a brand. We may engage with different customer segments through different projects or collections or media channels, but ultimately all of them appreciate the quality of our craftsmanship and the thought that goes into each design. 

What are your proudest achievements thus far during your time at Royal Selangor?

I am proudest of the fact that we have a great team today consisting of experienced team members who are truly experts of pewter smithing and design, and new team members who have come in to challenge the status quo. This combination of experience and new ideas enables us to make Royal Selangor and our pewter designs relevant to today’s consumers.

The new year is here. What personal achievements can you look back on in 2019 that you are proud of?

Back in 2019, I enjoyed some projects within the organisation that I’ve been more actively involved in. In particular, our collaboration with Medicom Toy on special edition pewter Bearbricks continued and in 2019 we launched a truly distinctive design: the Arabesque Bearbrick. It really showed what we can do in this unique material pewter, and how we could differentiate ourselves from all the other Bearbrick collaborations which have come before. 

What achievements are you looking forward to fulfilling in 2020?

In 2020 we have lots of interesting projects in the pipeline but talking about it now will be spoiling the surprise! But as we celebrate our 135th anniversary this year, it’s really the year where we get that balance you spoke about. Our British Museum and Celestial Blessings collection extensions are very much in line with our heritage positioning and what our existing customers are asking for, while new collaborations and new pop culture collections will bring new customers to the brand.   

You’re kept busy with work yet you manage to make time for your children and be a loving husband. How do you do it?

There never seems to be enough time especially with the work trips, but I am glad that I have been able to be there for the important occasions – the school concerts, music performances etc. My wife certainly keeps me in check!

The BOSS Bottled Classic. (Image credit: Lifestyle Asia)
Working in a family-owned business, it must be quite challenging to not think of work even outside of the office. How do you stay mindful and find your inner balance so that you can relax outside of work?

I really enjoy what I do. Who wouldn’t like talking about which next Marvel character to develop as a limited edition figurine? Or which Disney character and tune to incorporate into a music carousel? But when the workload gets a bit too much and the travel takes its toll on the body, I find regular exercise helps to re-establish some balance. A small tip? Pack running shoes for every work trip.

As someone who is busy running a company that spans across several countries, what's your grooming routine like?

Honestly, I’m a very simple man. I don’t fuss around with what’s more than necessary, but I do use colognes. In fact, I’ve used various BOSS scents over the years. I’m currently using the BOSS Bottled Classic.

Photography: Joyce Lim

Special thanks to Colony Coworking Space. 

PohNee Chin
Editor, Kuala Lumpur
Poh Nee is the editor and writes about travel and drinks. When she's not living out her holiday dreams via Google Earth and sipping on an Old Fashioned down at the local bars, you can find her snug at home bingeing on Netflix and mystery fiction. Reach out to Poh Nee via email at pohnee@lifestyleasia.com.