JCI Senator Dato’ Dr. Tan Hian-Tsin is a renowned philanthropist with an illustrious business career, having successfully built up the Crocodile brand over the last 70 years. A recipient of many prestigious titles and distinguished awards, he received his Datoship from the Terengganu State Government, Malaysia, in 1969.
Dato’ Dr. Tan holds an honorary doctorate in business management from People’s University, Beijing, China and has an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Andrews University, Michigan, USA. In 2003, the Government of the Republic of Uganda appointed him Honorary Consul in the Republic of Singapore. The Shanghai Government conferred on him the prestigious Magnolia Award.
Dato’ Dr. Tan was born in Swatow, China, in 1925. He was the fifth child of seven boys and a girl. His late father traded in garment machinery in China. As a result of the Japanese invasion of China in 1938 his family migrated to Saigon, South Vietnam, and there they ventured into the garments business. In 1945, thebusiness expanded into Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and South Vietnam.
In 1947, he migrated to Singapore and started the Crocodile brand with his eldest brother. Despite facing stiff competition, Crocodile became the first major local brand. The first Crocodile shop was located at 6 North
Bridge Road, where the new Singapore Parliament House now stands.
From 1947 to 1952, the Crocodile brand expanded into Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Thailand, establishing itself as a prominent brand in Southeast Asia. In 1953, Crocodile entered the Hong Kong market successfully, with its own retail chain and department stores. In 1956, Crocodile ventured into the Japanese market. While it took them almost three years to establish the brand there, Japan became Crocodile’s biggest market for the next 35 years. Crocodile then continued its expansion into Taiwan, South Korea in 1965, mainland China in 1993 and India in 1996, Sri Lanka in 1998, Uganda in 1999 and Bangladesh in 2000.
In 1955, Dato’ Dr. Tan married his beloved wife, the late To’ Puan Dr. Tsao Sui Lan, in Hong Kong. They have one son, two daughters, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Dato’ Dr. Tan has always believed in the biblical teaching that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”. Together with his wife, Dato’ Dr. Tan led an extraordinary selfless life focused on giving and philanthropy.
He set up the Crocodile Foundation in 2002. The Foundation has been run by a board of directors whose members are drawn from Rotarians, Jaycees, church members and friends. The Foundation is an endowment fund and has part shareholdings in the Crocodile Group. It generates annual dividends. 50 percent of this amount is ploughed back into the Foundation while the board of directors of the Foundation makes decisions on the distribution of the remaining 50 percent.
He devoted much of his time in JCI, an international non-profit youth organization with the mission of providing development opportunities that empower young people to create positive change. In JCI, the youths
believe that “Service to Humanity is the Best Work of Life”. In 1960, he was elected as the National President of JCI Singapore. Today, he is recognised as the Patron of JCI Singapore, JCI City Singapore and Orchid Jayceettes of Singapore. He is also one of the advisers to Junior Chamber International Asia Pacific Senate.
Dato’ Dr. Tan’s support for JCI dated back several years. He donated US$1,000,000 to the JCI Foundation as part of his commitment to support the fundraising efforts by the JCI Foundation. The first US$500,000 donation was made at the 2004 JCI World Congress in Fukuoka, Japan. While the second US$500,000 was made at the 2005 JCI World Congress in Vienna, Austria.
Dato’ Dr. Tan also provided Tsunami Relief Assistance through JCI Operation Hope. In February and March 2005, he visited Sri Lanka to assess the needs of tsunami victims in that country. Moved by the great suffering he found, Dato’ Dr. Tan said he would to donate US$300,000 for JCI members to rebuild a school and conduct other relief work in Sri Lanka. According to JCI Operation Hope guidelines, the donated funds were to be invested in long-term projects to help children. However, Dato’ Dr. Tan realized that many fishermen in the area were unable to make a living because they had lost their boats. In July
2005, he presented 20 fishing boats to tsunami-affected fishermen. In February 2006, he revisited Sri Lanka to deliver on his promise regarding the school. Surrounded by a large and distinguished gathering, Dato’ Dr. Tan officially opened the rebuilt Arafath Vidyalaya Modera School in Moratuwa, which had been destroyed by the tsunami. Children in the area now enjoy a better and new atmosphere to pursue their studies.
Dato’ Dr. Tan also joined the Rotary Club of Garden City in Singapore on 3 November 1990. Together with his wife, he is a member of the Chair’s Circle, Arch C. Klumph Society. Their portraits are prominently displayed in the Arch C. Klumph Gallery in the Hall of Honour, RI World Headquarters, Evanston, Illinois, USA. In 2004, he received the Rotary International’s Highest Honour Service Above Self Award.
Quotes of Dato’ Dr. Tan Hian-Tsin
I am so pleased that Sian Chay has initiated this Memorial Endowment Fund; and I will also do my best to support with a humble donation of $2 million to start the Memorial Endowment Fund.
Doing charity is from the heart. Everyone can just do their best by donating within their means, big or small. We do not have to compare how much our donations are.
When doing charity, we donate with pleasure.