Steven Tan provides environmentally-friendly cooling solutions through his company, Modustack.
Contributed By Cara Ang
The Singapore government is actively encouraging the nation to go green. Modustack Pte Ltd, a supplier of air-conditioning systems, water heaters, facilities management, and the like, is emerging as one of the top go-to green companies.
Apart from saving the earth by reusing, renewing and recycling, Modustack has the solutions that empower businesses to do their part. The company helps the environment through energy efficiency by using new technologies in the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning industry for the global market.
“Part of the government’s efforts is to have 80 percent of the buildings in Singapore labeled with the Green Mark (an initiative to encourage the construction industry in Singapore toward eco-friendly building) by 2030. This is a huge market for Modustack.” says CEO, Steven Tan Yew Hwa, 50. Tan has been in the air-conditioning business since he first started work as a sales engineer in 1983. He then went on to form Modustack with two other colleagues in 2008.
COOL GREEN THINGS
For the last two years, Tan has ensured that the products he carries can be used in “green” applications. He deals mainly in the central air-conditioning sector, with products such as chillers for big buildings like shopping centers, hotels and office towers.
One nonpareil product he carries is the e-Clean Energy Saver, an energy saving device for homes and commercial buildings that utilizes microchip technology. It is currently the only one of its kind in the world. Other revolutionary technology includes Direct Current heaters, where hot water heaters run on 12V DC, oil-less centrifugal compressor chillers that are much more energy efficient and has a modular design so that there is ease for expansion and downsizing, and hot water recovery from air-con units that is mainly used in resorts.
GOING GREEN IN SINGAPORE
Tan notes that many local businesses still have the mindset of looking at the bottom-line first, rather than the long term advantages of being “green” conscious. However, one heartening trend is that multi-national corporations and companies that are aware of the importance of being environmentally friendly will readily invest more upfront, either with the aim of later cost savings in mind, to do their part for the Earth.
Tan dispels the myth that “green” technology is not feasible for companies on a tight budget. Eco-friendly technology may cost more at the start, but the return on investment seldom exceeds three years, and is much more sustainable in the long run. “I am in talks with a third party to fund projects in which our clients do not need any capital to purchase our products. This model of business generates revenue for us, even though our clients do not pay us for equipment upfront, when we get a cut of the money saved through guaranteed energy savings. We are still at the infancy stage of our business but the potential for this business model is enormous. Our biggest challenge is money as our business model is very capital intensive.”
SUCCESS AND BREAKTHROUGHS
As a new startup, many banks have turned down the request for loans as they do not have long track records or the ability to provide collateral. But Tan trusts God for breakthroughs. “By the grace of God, many suppliers offered us financial support by allowing us to pay when we collect. Lately I felt like God sent an angel to us! One hotel owner who is an existing client extended a S$200,000 personal loan to us with no strings attached! This was because he wanted to champion the cause of helping the environment and our business concept matched his heart’s desire. With this loan, we are now able to carry stock and plan for the longer term.”
While still relatively young, some of the company’s milestones include being awarded the contract for SMRT’s Circle Line and the upcoming Downtown Line. Tan attributes this win to Modustack’s range of chillers, which are modular and compact in design, fitting the application in MRT stations perfectly. However, all this success came through hard work and persistence on Tan’s part; he spent two years before the Circle Line deal was finalized, making presentations to the Land Transport Authority and consultants.
Possessing only a diploma in Engineering, being able to discuss details with full fledged engineers who are very specialized in their own fields is a wonder for Tan personally. “There are many meetings where there are two of us and at least 15 of them in a meeting, and each of the engineers will ask a couple of questions. That means that we have to answer over 30 questions in one sitting! Looking back, it is really the grace of God. The verse ‘If God is for you, nothing can come against you,’ really came alive for me.”
|CN Photo: Michael Chan|
With rising energy prices eating into the revenue of companies, coupled with increasing attention paid to corporate social responsibility, Modustack is indeed doing a good work by providing “green” alternatives for a company’s cooling and heating needs. They are helping companies and the environment at the same time by improving energy efficiency and making this technology more accessible to a wider scope of users.
Combining the “triple threat” of Modustack’s modular chiller system which saves on operating costs, the Direct Current heater (above, left) as well as the e-Clean energy saving microchip system (right), Sentosa’s Siloso Beach Resort’s eco-friendly efforts did not go unnoticed; they were awarded the title of the first eco-friendly hotel in Asia by the TÜV Rheinland Group, which conducts worldwide independent testing and assessment services.