DESIGNING and selling winter gloves out of tropical Singapore is counterintuitive to say the least. But daunting as it has been, 23-year-old Charmain Tan and her co-founders of Fiett are not about to give up on what they believe is a solution worth sharing.
"People think: 'Okay I'm buying gloves but they are made in Singapore, where they don't need gloves?' So there is some scepticism," she says.
But inspiration for the touch-screen friendly gloves actually struck in the deep of winter, while Ms Tan was on a year-long National University of Singapore (NUS) Overseas College programme in Stockholm from 2010 to 2011.
Frustrated at being unable to use her new iPhone without removing her gloves and exposing her fingers to the biting cold, Ms Tan started hunting for gloves to use with touch-screen devices.
All she could find, however, were thin acrylic ones with conductive tips. "It's not very pretty at all. They feel synthetic, artificial and were not warm enough for Sweden's harsh winters," says Ms Tan. But the thicker, warmer mittens she preferred proved cumbersome when text messages needed typing on a touch-screen phone.
That was how she dreamt up a conductive glove within a mitten, with a cap that flips over to reveal gloved fingers that can operate iPhones and iPads in warmth.
But that idea alone was not enough to persuade her to set up a business - despite having ambitions to do so since the age of 14.
"It never seemed possible before. Products never seemed possible to me because I was not an engineering student. It always seemed that those who create products are engineers - computer engineers coming up with an app or software, or a mechanical engineer coming up with a a physical product," says Ms Tan.
A statistics undergraduate, she could only envision herself entering into a F&B or events services business - a view that was challenged by her internship with a medtech company in Stockholm. "My boss was not medtech-trained. She was commerce-trained, and medtech involves quite complicated technology. After observing all that, I just thought, it's not impossible to do a product even if you're not an engineer."