Singapore's tech companies: Strontium Technology

SINGAPORE - A missed flight that led to two friends spending five hours together over coffee sounds like the start of a romance.

But for Mr Vivian Singh and Mr Anshuman Gupta, it resulted in a business plan that eventually became Strontium Technology. Founded in 2002, it earned more than US$300 million (S$375 million) last year.

"We chose the name Strontium because it gave us a feeling of strength. And it rhymed with Pentium," said Mr Singh, 40, who is the current president and chief executive officer.

It was appropriate as the company started out making memory modules for PCs powered by Intel Pentium processors. Strontium would source memory chips from the big memory chip makers - Hynix, Micron, Samsung and Toshiba - and make memory modules for PC system builders.

Strontium's working relationship with these chip suppliers is the big differentiation factor, said Mr Singh. Most of his competitors usually get their chips from one or two manufacturers.

It probably helped that before Strontium, both founders had worked in the PC components industry and had the right contacts.

The two became friends while pursuing master's degrees at the Delhi School of Economics.

In its first year, Strontium earned US$130 million. Those early days were heady and exciting, said Mr Gupta, 40, who was CEO from 2010 to last year.

"Many a time, we drove the company van to a waiting FedEx plane late at night to meet a delivery deadline.

"Then we would grab something to eat at a hawker centre nearby," he reminisced.

Mr Gupta left the firm last year as he felt the business had taken off. He now advises budding entrepreneurs.

With the explosive growth in mobile devices, Strontium has moved from PC memory to consumer flash storage, which now forms 75 per cent of its business.

As a result, Strontium has had to transform itself into a consumer brand, starting with a new corporate logo in 2010. It uses yellow packaging to stand out on retail shelves where its competitors tend to be in red and white. It advertises on taxis here and participates in local IT shows.

Establishing Strontium as a consumer brand will be its biggest challenge for the next three to five years, said Mr Singh.

When asked about a future IPO, he said he would consider this route only if Strontium is able to garner 20 per cent share in its target markets in the next two years.

If that happens, it would be a step closer to the founders' original vision of building Strontium into a Fortune 500 company.

This article was first published on August 6, 2014.
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