Omni United: Treading in the right direction

"Don't do the right things, for the wrong reasons" is a mantra Gajendra Singh Sareen preaches and practices.

A former decorated military officer turned entrepreneur, Mr Sareen is the founder, President and CEO of Omni United, a tyre designing, manufacturing and distribution company.

The foundation of his business, he says, is its customer-centric focus, providing high quality and affordable tyres to customers, and a reliable and timely supply chain to global partner retailers.

Mr Sareen believes a company will succeed if it is able to solve a real world problem. However, many ventures fail because people choose to start a business for the wrong reasons such as fame and fortune.

Mr Sareen says he hopes to educate aspiring entrepreneurs that there are no shortcuts in business and that things will naturally fall into place if it is inherently right.

Founded in 2003 in Singapore, Omni United is Mr Sareen's third business venture since he resigned from the Indian military. His motivation for going into business was, he says, survival - he needed a better means of providing for his family.

Eventually, he got into the tyre industry when a friend sought assistance in importing tyres. Mr Sareen helped out and hasn't looked back.

In 1994 he decided to relocate choosing Singapore over Dubai as the result of coin toss. Now a naturalised Singaporean and head of a successful business, he says he is glad that luck favoured him then.

Today, Omni United has customers in more than 80 countries and offices in Singapore, US, United Arab Emirates and the UK. In 2017, Omni United was awarded the Enterprise 50 award for the 5th consecutive year, recognising it as one of the top 50 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore.

With a reputation as "the Ikea of tyres", Omni United aims to expand its distribution business in the US and is looking at acquiring companies in Europe and Asia. It currently sells more than 6.5 million units of tyres a year globally.

The company's flagship brand, Radar, has one of the widest range of passenger and light truck tyres in the industry catering to a wide segment of drivers and their varied needs.

This year, Omni United's revenue is expected to reach approx. US$300 million to US$350 million, an exponential growth from its initial turnover of US$7 million in 2003.

In the US, which accounts for 60 per cent of its sales, Omni United has expanded its business presence through two strategic acquisitions, namely A to Z Tire & Battery and Interstate Tire Distributor, to form OmniSource United Inc.

This has given the firm a network of distribution centres and dealers along the West and South regions of the county.

But whilst a major chunk of its current sales come from the US, its headquarters remains in Singapore. In Mr Sareen's words: "There is no reason not to be in Singapore. It is a clean place, an organised place, everything is perfect, and it has probably the best tax system in the world."

Mr Sareen says a large part of Omni United's success comes down to the support received from the Singapore government, its legal system and world-class infrastructure that enabled it to tap into opportunities to expand overseas.

For instance, when it needed legal assistance and bank references, Enterprise Singapore (previously IE Singapore) was able to help.

Omni United's success has also been accompanied by a belief in the importance of giving back to the society. In 2011 it decided to partner and support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), a US-based non-profit organisation committed to achieving prevention and a cure for breast cancer by advancing the world's most promising research.

Omni United through its Radar brand launched the Mobilizing Hope campaign through which it donated a certain percentage of its sales to the BCRF and also helped create awareness of the wonderful work done by the BCRF to the forefront of the industry.

To date we have donated over US$1.2 million towards BCRF's mission of preventing and finding a cure for breast cancer.

The company has also made efforts to improve its value chain sustainability, with the Radar brand becoming the world's first tyre brand to be certified as carbon neutral in 2013.

For Mr Sareen, Omni United's current success comes back to his principle of doing the right things for the right reasons. "If you want to be a billionaire, solve a problem for a billion people," he says.

"It is that simple".

"Entrepreneurs should not start a business for the wrong reasons, just because it's cool to do something or to have a start-up they shouldn't get into it, that'll be wasting energy and resources," he says.

"If there is a genuine interest in starting something or if there is a genuine passion then one should jump into it full on with heart and soul, and if one's heart and soul is in it there is no way to fail."

  • The writers are students from NUS Business School