Mr Gan received interview request from Mr Sugizaki San to talk about sanitary wares in hospital. The article below is a translation from the Japanese articles published by Mr Sugizaki San.
Let’s Talk Toilets
A businessman who contributes to an ageing society by selling Japanese toilets to hospitals.
There is a businessman working hard to contribute to an aging society by selling Japan-made toilets to hospitals in Singapore. He is Mr. Gan Hong Sang, (55) who is Singapore’s local dealer of TOTO, the biggest sanitary ware manufacturer in Japan.
When he was 19, he moved from Malaysia to Singapore on his own, seeking business opportunities. While working as a salesman of electrical appliances, he was asked by an acquaintance if he would like to sell TOTO products that had been brought into Singapore. He actually felt love at first sight when he saw the products. His first thought was, “it is better than any toilet that is distributed in Singapore.”
However, the business did not go that well at first.
The turning point came when he was invited by a consultant company to participate in a government supported competition for the refurbishment of toilets for disabled facilities in 1999. The facility was built more than 30 years ago at that time. The toilets had become dirty due to wear and tear. The refurbishment was necessary as the disabled people felt stressed and did not want to use the facilities. When he first arrived at the facility, he was met with a bad smell of ammonia before entering the building.
What kind of washroom was necessary? Mr. Gan took over a year to assess the facility two or three times a week and thoroughly examined the details surrounding the toilet by listening to the way the residents used the toilet. He planned and designed the structure inside the toilet in detail, such as the height of the toilet seat, the installation of the handrail, the easy to clean floor etc.
“Bad products are meaningless. if you do not use high-quality items, it will not be an easy-to-use toilet for people with disabilities,” said Mr. Gan.
He was victorious at the competition by appealing with the quality of goods. The washrooms became easy to use after the refurbishment and he got favorable comments by its users.
“You can help disadvantaged people by putting out quality products.”
Such feelings were strongly carved in Gan’s heart.
Mr. Gan’s next aim were hospitals where the elderly people often spent a long time. In Singapore, where the aging of the population rapidly progresses, as with disabled people, elderly people also find the toilet environment difficult to use.
In 2003, the need for countermeasures against infectious diseases was heightened by the outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). As a result, there was a greater need for the refurbishment of hospital toilets. The demand for toilets in each ward was also increased in order to identify the source of infection etc. These factors encouraged Mr. Gan to sell TOTO products to hospitals.
With the increase of demand in toilets for hospital, our high-quality products with technologies that can provide higher sanitation would be in demand in that area” said Mr. Gan.
The other business people who knew about Mr. Gan’s successful renovation of the disabled facilities, also gave him their support.
By doing so, he now has a track record of toilet sales at the 10 hospitals in Singapore and his business had also gotten on track.
“About 60% of the hospitals planned for construction have adopted TOTO’s products,” Gan said.
“Promoting the highest quality toilets will improve the toilet environment for the elderly and will contribute to the aging society. Of course, it also leads to higher earnings. A win-win situation!”
(Globe Asahi. Shinya Sugizaki)