The Prime Story
In 2020, many people have suffered from chronic loneliness and boredom arising from social isolation because of measures such as social distancing and extended periods of lockdown.
However, pandemic or not, one would be hard-pressed to imagine such psycho-social ills in the Tan family. Probably the largest household in Singapore, 85 family members spanning five generations live together under one roof. In fact, the Tans have been living under one roof for the past 100 years!
To date, they run 26 Prime Supermarket stores. Outside Singapore, Prime Group International is a family business consisting of a modern pig farm, five Sun Island golf-cum-holiday resorts, and two international schools in China.
It is hard to imagine that this sprawling empire started from a humble pig farmer – the late Mr Tan Ah Chye. The late Mr Tan and his 13 children and relatives managed and ran the pig farm until pig farming was phased out in Singapore in the mid-1980s. Following that, the youngest of Mr Tan’s children – Mr Tan Hong Khoon – was nominated to lead the family into unchartered waters.
Under his charge, the Prime Supermarket chain was birthed, followed by the subsequent diversification and regional expansion of the Group. Mr Tan Hong Khoon is the current chairman of Prime Group International and the head of the household.
Beyond the external success, the Tan family is an exemplar of successful intergenerational transfer of values. More than 80 of the Tan family members have roles in Prime supermarkets, be it cashiers or financial controllers. Even at home, the family is run like a well-oiled machine where all members abide by a set of family values:
- When children bicker, parents should counsel and discipline them in their own rooms.
- Adults should not quarrel.
- Disagreements should be talked through and resolved harmoniously.
- Husbands should not criticise or find fault with their wives or children in front of other family members. They should seek the advice of elders if there are problems.
- No complaining about meals.
- No littering, graffiti, or vandalism.
- No gathering in groups to gossip.
- Respect elders, address them when you see them. Take good care of the younger generation.
- Children must tell parents if they plan to return home late or stay out for the night.
- Youngsters cannot bring home friends of the opposite sex to spend the night. Accept work that is delegated.
Although wealthy, the Tan family do not bask in luxury but live simply with communal bathrooms. Family members are tasked with various household chores such as tending the garden, maintaining the different rooms in the house, laundry, and cooking.
Every member of the household is gainfully employed and there is no lack. Children can pursue any level of education desired, and all medical expenses and retirees are taken care of. The younger generation also continues to engage and take care of the elderly.
In 2014, six family members took a month to organise the Chinese New Year celebration at their family home on Toh Crescent, off Upper Changi Road. Many members had to fly into Singapore to attend the reunion. 125 in attendance only represented half of the massive family. The oldest at the dinner table then was 87-year-old aunt of Mr Tan Hong Khoon and the youngest was 3-month-old great-granddaughter of one of Mr Tan’s 12 siblings.
The Tan family is a prime model of what a successful transfer of values and legacy can look like. Here is how a united family can impact both the society and generations, long after one passes on.
Other relevant articles:
- 5 Lessons Learnt from Tan Kim Seng’s Will
- The Legacy of Tan Kah Kee
- When Yung Kee Cooked Their Goose
You may also be interested in:
- Kam, L. W. (2014, January 31). 125 family members gather for reunion. Retrieved from The Straits TImes: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/125-family-members-gather-for-reunion
- Prime Supermarket. (n.d.). About Us. Retrieved from Prime Supermarket: https://www.primesupermarket.com/about-us/
- Tan, A. (2018, July 3). From Rearing Pigs, Prime Founder Now Runs S’pore’s Largest Family-Owned Supermarket Chain. Retrieved from Vulcan Post: https://vulcanpost.com/642655/prime-supermarket-singapore-history/