By Patrick Jonas
Ten years ago, two young men working in the real estate business for an international firm felt it was time they struck out on their own. Mr Karamjit Singh and Mr Melvin Poh had both turned 30 and armed with oodles of youthful energy they made a leap of faith.
Their first challenge was in finding a suitable name. They were determined not to name it after themselves, the way law firms and accounting firms do.
"We knew we wanted a brand name that would be able to grow in its goodwill factor," said Mr Singh.
They also agreed that it should be an English word that has a positive meaning, is unique, short, sharp and not easily mispronounced.
The two spent quite a bit of time poring over the dictionary and came up with the word Credo, which means: "A set of beliefs or a guiding principle."
And so with a lot of self-belief Credo Real Estate took off on April 15, 2002, with one assistant from a small office in the Asia Insurance Building (now the Ascott Singapore Raffles Place).
Today, Credo is a leading name in the real estate field and the number one in brokering collective sales in Singapore.
And, recently, it entered into a joint venture with Republic Investment Management, a fund management company, to manage funds raised by utilising it in the property sector.
From its humble beginnings, Credo has grown to occupy an office in DBS Building Tower 2 employing around 50 people. In addition, some 170 associate agents operate from an office in Beach Road.
Along the way, Mr Poh left the company in the early years to start his own property development business but Mr Singh soldiered on.
Over the past 21/2 years, the company has brokered about $1.8 billion or 30 per cent of the $5.8 billion in total en bloc sales.
However, it was not the best of times when the company was launched - coming barely six months after the twin terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.
The world economy had taken a hit and the world was staring at a second Gulf War.
Said Mr Singh: "It was a period of general stagnation economically and the property market was not really heading anywhere. So instead of looking at it negatively we thought that it would be an ideal time to start working on creating the foundation of the company rather than trying to do that while running after a market that is active and moving."
Recalling the early days, Mr Singh says there were other factors which gave him and his then partner the courage to venture out on their own.
The two were then working with Jones Lang LaSalle and, apart from their youthful exuberance, they felt Singapore clients were receptive in giving business to local setups. The real estate business those days was dominated by multinational firms.
The other big influence was former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who had been promoting entrepreneurship for some time.
The hard work put in paid off in subsequent years as the economy improved. The golden year for Credo and for many in the real estate business was 2007. Mr Singh says that Singapore saw a lot of foreign investments in property that year.
"Foreigners loved what they saw and a lot of properties changed hands," he said.
The flow of foreigners buying property in Singapore has slowed down since and, as a result, the upper end of the private property market has seen prices fall. But the lower end, says Mr Singh is making up for that.
That segment is the private condo market that is just a few notches above the HDB market.