Singaporean businessmen Terence and Nelson Loh on their recipe for success

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) – In 2008, cousins Terence and Nelson Loh left their jobs as investment bankers to start their own investment vehicle Dorr Group, managing over US$4 billion in assets. In 2010, they launched Novena Global Lifecare Group. Today, it is a leading global medical and aesthetic chain with some 250 clinics treating over 2 million patients across 20 countries in four continents.

The men, who are as close as brothers, believe in disrupting existing industries in response to the rapid shifts of technology and changing habits of consumers. Novena Global Lifecare Group, for instance, attributes its success to being one of the first to offer affordable aesthetics treatment to the growing middle-class population of Asia.

As disruptors, the men have a correspondingly deep regard for the Lamborghini Urus, a super SUV which, in effect, disrupted the Italian company’s own reputation as a maker of luxury sports cars. The Urus has been an unequivocal success. It helped to nearly double Lamborghini’s sales in 2019 and attracted a new generation of Lamborghini fans. 

The Urus boasts top-notch performance powered by a twin-turbo V8 engine with a maximum power output of 641bhp at 6,000RPM and a peak torque output of 850Nm between 2,250 and 4,500RPM. Its four-wheel drive system, six driving modes for different terrains and low carbon emissions (compared to others of its ilk) make it an attractive daily drive.

The Lohs speak to The Business Times about their approach to business and their admiration for the Urus.


Nelson: I think that defining “success” is always a very dangerous thing to do. In this day and age, one should always be a work in progress, constantly trying to improve oneself, and not resting on one’s laurels. Personally, I don’t have a definition of success. I try to be the best version of myself in as many ways as possible. I try to focus on doing good and having a positive impact as much as I can.

Terence: For me, I try to stay ahead of the curve by constantly asking myself, if I were to disrupt myself, what would I do? I’m always on the lookout for new things, new ideas, new ways of doing things more effectively. I’m never satisfied with the status quo.


Nelson: I think data is vital today – in fact, it is basic. You need to know exactly what your consumers, stakeholders and employees want. You need to be empirical, objective and precise in your delivery. Given how quickly the world is changing, you cannot be inert or you’ll disappear. And I do think one major stumbling block to innovation is the inability to change one’s mind. We are our own biggest enemy because we tend to stay focused on one thing and not see what’s beyond. So before we even talk about innovation or technology, I think we must first stay open to new ideas. You can only be as big as the limits you set for yourself.

Terence: Businesses today need to be backed by a lot of data. But at the same time, remember to trust your own intuition. As business people, we are driven by a lot of personal experiences and the things we see. There is sometimes a tendency to over analyse things – a lot of people can become very pedantic and theoretical about data. But that’s what distinguishes an entrepreneur from a professional. A professional can become too textbook about the data, whereas an entrepreneur knows when to rely on data and when to follow his or her intuition.


Nelson: I don’t think of them as mistakes – rather just first attempts at learning. If you’re afraid to make a mistake, you will never succeed. I would, however, make a distinction between tactical errors and strategic errors. It’s okay to make tactical errors – just try not to repeat them – but it’s bad to make strategic errors. 

Terence: The thing about us is that we always like to hack things. We always try to see how to get around the conventional methods of doing things. And that calls for a lot of creativity and courage to make mistakes.

Nelson: That’s right. I often feel that the word “disruptive” is being used too loosely in the business world. To me, the right term may just be “creative”.


Nelson: Lamborghini’s Urus represents the creativity I’m talking about. If Lamborghini just stuck to doing what it just does so famously well – making luxury sports cars – it would never go into the SUV market. It would never have such a huge hit on its hands, with its car sales nearly doubling in 2019 mostly on the strength of the Urus. Everyone should find ways to disrupt themselves.

Terence: For me, the best thing about the Urus is its comfort and versatility. It offers perfect handling, is very comfortable for long rides, and has six different driving modes for different terrains – you can pick the Strada for the everyday drive, Sport for fun, Terra for rocky terrain, and so on. That versatility is similar to what you have to be as an entrepreneur. Whatever the nature of the challenge, you have to be ready to take it on. I also like the fact that it’s spacious. As a sports enthusiast, space is key to me. I need ample space in the trunk, the backseat or on top of the car to put my sporting gear, such as my surfboard.  And the Urus definitely offers that.

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