Mr Pang Lim worked hard for years before his company, Koufu Group Limited, became an established local brand name in the food and beverage industry, with more than 60 outlets in Singapore, Indonesia and Macau. Today, the successful businessman continues to push for innovation within his company and he advocates for lifelong learning and continuing education.
When Mr Pang first opened a Koufu foodcourt in NTU’s South Spine in 2013, he hoped to bring his brand of nourishing meals to the NTU community on campus. Over the next few years, he decided that he wanted to do more to give back to society and that helping people to access education was how he would realise his philanthropic aspirations, and so he established the Koufu Endowed Bursary with a pledge of S$1 million in 2019.
From Academic Year 2021, the Bursary will provide up to six awards of S$10,000 each academic year to financially needy ASEAN students pursuing an undergraduate degree at the University. “The act of providing help should not be limited to people within one country. By supporting ASEAN students, I hope to create connections and opportunities for their future success,” said Mr Pang, who believes that directing support to international students can help to address global challenges, including the widening poverty gap.
Coming from a low-income family and being the eldest son of six, Mr Pang used to help his mother sell nasi lemak before going to school. He eventually devoted his entire youth to working multiple jobs full-time at eateries to support his family. When Mr Pang was in his late 20s, he operated a small fruit stall and sold vegetarian fare in a coffee shop. During this period, he started to take an interest in the coffee shop business while learning the ropes of the trade. Combining his years of industry experience and earnings, Mr Pang decided the time was right to venture fully into the coffee shop business.
In 1990, he opened more than 50 coffee shops island-wide and had plans for the company to go public. However, the sluggish economy in the early 2000s prompted him to sell his entire business to Kopitiam in 2002, another leading name in the local food service management industry. In the same year, he founded Koufu and opened its first branch at Toa Payoh HDB Hub. Fast forward to the present and Koufu is listed on the Singapore Exchange Mainboard.
After 30 years in the food and beverage and foodservice management industries, the humble 66-year-old Mr Pang retains his zeal to adapt and desire to stay ahead. “I have no special motto for success, but I focus on the attitude of perseverance and the importance to continually learn and improve oneself,” said Mr Pang, who enjoys reading business management books. “Even within my company, I encourage my employees to improve with the times.”
During the current pandemic, Koufu continues to innovate and restructure its business models to stay relevant. Some of these innovations include self-ordering and payment kiosks, and smart tray return robots. In 2021, Koufu established an integrated facility in Woodlands to house a central kitchen and a centralised dishwashing facility to achieve operational efficiency. With these improved operations in place, Mr Pang is confident that Koufu will be well-prepared to thrive in the post-pandemic era.
Speaking on what motivates him to be charitable, Mr Pang said: “In a time when people may be feeling hopeless and uncertain about their future due to the pandemic, do what you can to help more people lighten their worries and bring them happiness and inner peace. Inner peace provides us with the strength to make positive changes to those around us,” he said. “When you help others, they too will be inspired to do the same."
Mr Pang advised financially needy NTU students to believe that every challenge is short-lived. As the Chinese saying “狂风不终朝，骤雨不终日” goes: a hurricane never lasts the whole morning, nor a rainstorm the whole day.
“Never let these challenges affect your future. Instead of worrying, face these battles courageously and gain insights from them to help you in your future,” he said. “Every challenge is a learning opportunity not to be wasted.