When Pin Min Lam left Singapore’s Eagle Eye Centre (EEC) in 2014, after having helped establish its paediatric eye service, he thought he was closing the door on his career in private practice to embark on a new journey full-time in the civil service. “But life is such that it is full of many twists and turns,” he says, and as fate would have it, he found himself returning to the leading specialist eye care facility in 2020, this time as its CEO.
He back working alongside trusted colleagues, including Co-Founder and Vice Chair Wee Kiak Lim, who was previously the centre’s CEO. “Dr Lim has left big shoes for me to fill, but at the same time, he has provided me with a great foundation to work from,” Pin Min enthuses.
“We’re like a mini Singapore national eye centre in the private sector.”
- Pin Min Lam
Founded in 2006, EEC has become the largest private ophthalmology eye care provider in the country, with seven branches and two day surgery suites. Its reputation for excellence in laser vision correction (LASIK) refractive and cataract surgery is quickly being matched in the implantable collamer lens (ICL) domain; the centre is the fastest-growing ICL service provider in Singapore.
Since The CEO Magazine first spoke with EEC in 2018, there’s been much progress to report. “Over the past five years, we have expanded significantly and our revenue has more than doubled from 2018–2022,” says Pin Min. “At the same time, we’ve recruited more doctors and now have a team of 17 professionals in all subspecialties of ophthalmology. We’re like a mini Singapore national eye centre in the private sector.”
Speaking to the executive duo today, it’s clear both Pin Min and Wee Kiak are brimming with excitement about what the future holds, especially in light of the recent announcement that regional healthcare provider HMI Group has acquired a majority stake in the business. HMI Group is the owner-operator of two Malaysian hospitals as well as a Singaporean primary care clinic chain, a private one-stop ambulatory care centre and a training centre. “Locally, we’re actually looking to expand our footprint by recruiting more doctors and opening more speciality centres to support the growth,” Pin Min says.
At the same time, they are exploring opportunities in new markets. “Just last month we launched a subsidiary called Eagle Eye Aesthetics,” Wee Kiak explains. “It’s our first foray into aesthetic services.” Sharing the same King Albert Park location as one of its traditional eye centres, this new facility offers state-of-the-art HydraFacial treatments, laser and light therapies, non-surgical injectables and surgical treatments.
“We’re also considering related business ventures such as pharmaceuticals,” Pin Min adds. Eye drops to control myopia (nearsightedness), a widely prevalent eye condition in the region, is one product both executives say is under serious consideration.
A collaboration with state investment company Temasek has also seen the business spread its wings across borders to establish an international franchise in Vietnam. “That was our first foray into a foreign market but now, closer to home, Malaysia has become more accessible thanks to our alliance with HMI,” Wee Kiak says. “We are also exploring opportunities in Indonesia.”
But that’s not to say the business has exhausted all opportunities in Singapore. “We think there’s still room to grow here,” Wee Kiak continues.
EEC is one of the luckier businesses to not emerge from the COVID-19 crisis on the back foot. “Our clientele is mainly local, so our volume didn’t decrease, in fact, it increased because the public healthcare service was significantly curtailed,” Wee Kiak says. As government-run hospitals froze elective surgery, patients turned to private alternatives such as EEC.
“Our LASIK volume went through the roof as well,” Wee Kiak adds. “People who, pre-pandemic, had such busy lives and travel routines that they couldn’t schedule the surgery suddenly found the time and money to book in for surgery.”
“Our entire quest is quality and it’s a journey with no ending.”
- Wee Kiak Lim
For Pin Min, the big lesson from the pandemic is to be nimble in the face of uncertainties that infectious diseases such as COVID-19 bring to the healthcare sector. “With all the variables, from the mode of transmission to the community vaccination rate and the new variants, we always have to adjust our plans to cope with the ever-changing scenarios unfolding before our eyes,” he says.
The CEO hopes that, as the pandemic starts to recede, EEC can restart community eye screening initiatives to “pick up diseases much earlier and prevent deterioration”.
“Over the last two years, we haven’t been able to do health screening in the community,” he says. “But when the pandemic is over, we need to support the Ministry of Health’s strategy and go upstream to pick up eye diseases early.”
Both leaders are driven by the same motivation to help as many people as possible through their work. “Our entire quest is quality and it’s a journey with no ending,” Wee Kiak says, adding that they are blessed to have a great team of doctors, other healthcare staff, and partners that also share this common vision. “We work together as one big family and that’s where the power of Eagle Eye Centre lies,” he continues. “We are much stronger than the sum of all our strengths.”
The pair also agree that great teams breed great leaders. “It’s a team effort; one person cannot run the show,” Pin Min says. “We need to have a good team to propel us forward, to reach even greater heights.”