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Covid-19 pandemic a boon for gaming chair maker Secretlab, as demand from home office market grows

SINGAPORE — The Covid-19 pandemic may have cast a shadow over many businesses globally, but one homegrown company has found an unexpected opportunity.

Secretlab co-founders Alaric Choo (left) and Ian Ang.

Secretlab co-founders Alaric Choo (left) and Ian Ang.

SINGAPORE — The Covid-19 pandemic may have cast a shadow over many businesses globally, but one homegrown company has found an unexpected opportunity.

Gaming chair company Secretlab said that with more people working from home, the demand for its chairs has also grown.

The firm, which counts the United States, Canada and Europe as some of its major markets, has had to hire more staff to cope with what it described as a “multifold” increase in global orders.

During the circuit breaker period from early April to June, Secretlab recruited more than 30 Singaporeans, for positions in operations, customer service and product development, among others. The office now has more than 100 employees, with an average age of 28.

The increase in demand is surprising as, all along, Secretlab has branded itself as a customisable chair designed for the comfort of “hardcore, professional gamers” who spend long hours in front of the computer, Mr Ian Ang, the firm’s 28-year-old chief executive officer, told TODAY on Thursday (July 30).

“We have never actively… targeted the office (segment),” said Mr Ang.

However, when the pandemic struck, he noticed there was a “spillover effect” on office workers who were suddenly interested in purchasing the chairs, which have won awards for their design and comfort.

“We have even shifted to 24/7 production,” said Mr Ang. “Right now, our focus is trying to make sure that whoever wants to get a chair can get their hands on one.”

The chairs cost at least S$499.

However, it has not been entirely smooth sailing for the six-year-old company, which is backed by Temasek subsidiary Heliconia Capital.

As the pandemic has affected its vendors, it has slowed down the overall pace of production.

To date, Mr Ang reckons that the company produces at least 500,000 chairs a year, with North America and the European Union making up 60 per cent of its sales. Singapore accounts for just 5 per cent.

When asked if the company has plans to roll out more products beyond chairs for the home office consumers, Mr Ang was coy.

“We do have stuff in the pipeline, and that is where we are currently investing millions into research and development,” he said.

Touching on the increase in sales, Mr Ang acknowledged that the pandemic has resulted in disruptions all around and that his company has been fortunate. “We all know that, and everyone of us is very grateful,” he said

In a bid to do its part to stem the spread of Covid-19, Secretlab teamed up with its esports partners in April to donate 400,000 face masks to healthcare workers in Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.

It has also done separate collaborations with two esports organisations for a 24-hour charity stream where part of the proceeds from the sale of its chairs were donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

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