Member Spotlight: Liew Ching Seng
Member Spotlight: Liew Ching Seng
It’s a balmy afternoon, and the shimmering waters serve as the perfect backdrop for the superyachts berthed at the marina. Liew Ching Seng, Owner and Managing Director of Pacific Agriscience Pte Ltd, is as spirited as the weather—a fulfilling lunch of Char Kway Teow from one of his favourite restaurants LATITUDE Bistro did its part.
“It’s one of my favourite places to bring my overseas guests. I love the ambience,” enthuses the Club’s long-standing Member. The guests in question are executives from large agro-chemical conglomerates and dignitaries, who are all part of the wide network that Ching Seng—or CS, as he is popularly known in industry circles—has accumulated in his years in the business of crop protection, notably pesticides. They are vital to our existence as much as seeds and fertilisers, he explains.
“Without them farmers won’t be able to grow crops and we won’t have food to eat today.”
WRITTEN IN THE STARS
Growing up in the state of Negeri Sembilan in Malaysia, agriculture was a part of CS’ life. The 67-year-old has fond memories of the times he spent in his father’s large rubber plantation. “I used to tag along with my parents on their routine visits to the plantation—catch fish in the streams and play with the other kids. Back home, I would plant vegetables and flowers in pots and watch them grow,” he recalls.
When it came to deciding his career path, CS did not have to dig too deep. He graduated in Agronomy and Pest Management, the science behind field crop production and soil management from Iowa State University, USA. His first port of call upon graduation was to visit the plantation he used to frequent as a child and see how he could apply the knowledge he had gained.
But CS knew that there was a lot more to explore in the discipline and entered the industry to gain more experience. He started his career with Ciba-Geigy Malaysia before moving to a regional role with Singapore-based American company Uniroyal Chemical in May 1980—the company has since gone through a few consolidations, and buyovers. For CS, having taken over a high profile international role at a young age, that experience set the stage for the future of his career with large conglomerates.
It was also when he was with the company that he met his wife Michelle, who was based in its London office in the logistics department. “Those were the days of no cell phones and Internet,” he laughs. Their long distance romance blossomed over telex and snail mail, before she moved to Singapore to become his wife. Singapore has remained their home since.
HIS OWN COURSE
Throughout his career, CS had proved his mettle as someone who was competent to speak with farmers, and equally knowledgeable of the industry to speak with distributors and dealers on the commercial aspects of the business.
In December 1998, he decided to branch out on his own and founded Pacific Agriscience Pte Ltd. His all-rounded experience aside, the potential that CS saw in the market of generic pesticides urged him to make the move towards entrepreneurship.
“The global pesticide industry is around 60 billion US dollars at the retail level. India and China are the biggest producers of generic pesticides meaning off-patent,” he explains. These were cost-effective and did not compromise on function.
The initial focus of his company was on trading, where CS acted as a mediator between pesticide manufacturers—mainly in China, because of the language barrier—and distributors. Over time, CS pivoted to mergers and acquisitions, matchmaking smaller yet innovative agrochemical businesses with large conglomerates.
This was a natural shift for CS—his innately extroverted nature, coupled with passion and expertise in agroscience opened the doors to many a distinguished network around the world. In keeping with the times, his focus is now also on manufacturers of sustainable biological pesticides.
THE RIGHT BOOST
From a young 23-year-old in a regional role in a foreign country to a successful businessman, CS has come a long way. “I have my parents to thank for this,” he says.
One of nine children, CS is the only one among his siblings who is English educated and with a university degree.
He has an incident that happened when he was six years old to thank for it. “It is what I call a defining moment in my life,” says CS, as he recalls the exact conversation between his father and a relative—an “uncle, cycling towards our house”. “He was grinning ear to ear, and when my father asked him the reason, he announced that he had landed a job with Standard Chartered Bank and they were sending him to Manchester, England, for training. The only other question my impressed father asked him was: ‘what school did you go to’?”
Then and there, it was decided that CS would go to the same English medium school: King George V Primary School. He was pulled out of the Chinese medium school he was scheduled to go to like his siblings. “That’s why I am where I am today, and how we are here today,” he says with unbridled gratitude.
He has made sure his children—he has three sons—have had such opportunities to succeed in life. He also ensures they chart their own career paths and follow their own dreams.
It’s been 25 years since CS began his entrepreneurial journey, and he doesn’t seem to want to slow down. He works hard, and does so without cutting any corners— “no compromise on honesty and integrity,” he says, categorically. CS also contributes regularly to a few top agricultural journals and publications, and is a vociferous spokesperson for the future of the industry of crop protection.
In his downtime, in between jet-set business meetings, CS can be seen in the front row of certain luxury fashion shows in Europe and on the judges panel of some beauty competitions in Croatia, Slovakia, Germany, France, and Hungary. “No one can say I am just a boring pesticide salesman,” he laughs. “I enjoy what I do and I enjoy life.”
The original article was published on the September/ October 23 issue of Longitude, ONE°15 Marina’s Club magazine. Read it here.