- HWP PRESENTS
LIM QING RU, 30, DIRECTOR OF CUSTOMER ADVOCACY AT AMERICAN SOFTWARE FIRM, ZENDESK
Raised frugally by a housewife mother and technical supervisor father, Ms Lim Qing Ru found herself a multimillionaire overnight when her technology company Zopim was acquired by an American software company.
San Francisco-based, New York Stock exchange-listed Zendesk reportedly paid US$29.8 million (S$40 million) last April to buy over Zopim, which was built by Ms Lim and four other co-founders. Zopim is a chat software that allows brands to have live conversations with visitors on websites in the form of a widget.
Her entrepreneurial journey started nine years ago, when as a philosophy undergraduate at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Ms Lim attended a cross-college conference at Harvard University, the birthplace of social media start-up-turned-behemoth, Facebook.
Inspired by the possibility of starting her own tech business, she returned to NUS and took on a minor in technopreneurship and also began looking for like-minded people on campus.
Her search lead her to Mr Royston Tay, Mr Wenxiang Wu, Mr Yang Bin Kwok and Mr Julian Low, all 32 - four engineer friends who had recently started Zopim.
The five of them clicked instantly over their shared work ethic and sense of adventure.
When the men left to pitch their idea to investors in America, they proposed that Ms Lim, who is single, represent them at a start-up competition in Singapore.
She gamely took on the challenge and reached the semi-finals, despite going at it alone. Impressed by her gung-ho attitude, the four asked Ms Lim to come on board as a co-founder in 2006.
Before the product was officially launched in 2008, they each drew about $500 a month for about two years.
This was because they did not accept funding from venture capital companies or angel investors - opting instead to rely on basic seed money from NUS Enterprise, a small investment from the Media Development Authority and $250,000 from Spring Singapore.
This allowed them to grow the business at their own pace.
Working tirelessly, the team launched Zopim in 2008, offering it for free to businesses for two years during their period of beta testing.
When the price plan was officially announced at the end of 2009, businesses that had been using the product free were happy to become paying customers.
Zopim began turning a profit a few months after.
By 2012, the group had hit an annual revenue of more than $1 million and was servicing more than 400,000 international clients out of Singapore.
The runaway success of their widget meant acquisition offers were coming at them from all sides, but the decision to sell the business was not an easy one for Ms Lim.
"Even though we were open to the idea, it's hard to put a price on the blood, sweat and tears that go into building a business from scratch," she says.
Ultimately, they decided to sell the business to Zendesk last year after realising that "Zendesk was the company we aspired to be in five years", she says. "Everything from its branding to its management style synced with ours - it was the perfect fit."
On April 10 last year, Zendesk officially acquired the business and, a month later, filed its US$150 million initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange.
Shares rose from their initial offering of $9 apiece to $11.40 and are currently trading for $23.80 apiece - making Ms Lim's partial payout in stocks a goldmine. She declines to say how much she pocketed from the sale to Zendesk.
But instead of resting on her laurels and enjoying her windfall, Ms Lim took on a salaried position at Zendesk as its director of customer advocacy, overlooking the integration of Zopim with Zendesk. All 30 original Zopim staff now work for Zendesk after the acquisition.
Last Thursday, the company launched Zopim Premium - an advanced version of the software that enables larger businesses to communicate with their customers in real time.
More impressively though, Facebook has recently come on board as a partner and is beta-testing the Zopim widget with two American businesses for its Facebook for Business clients.
Ms Lim proudly mentions that their widget even got a shoutout during Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg's recent F8 keynote address in San Francisco.
The down-to-earth boss lets on that the change in her bank account has done little to change her outlook on life.
She has chosen to skip all indulgent luxuries and, instead, is using her money to help grow other local start-ups.
"I worked hard to get where I am today and now I'm doing my part by investing in other Zopims of the future," she says.
This story was first published on The Sunday Times, 19 April 2015.
Hands up how many people have a friend who refuses to make a decision? Whether they're unable to decide where to meet for a drink or can't choose which salad they want for lunch, it can quickly get irritating. But now it's been suggested it could also be damaging to their health, with researchers claiming people who procrastinate could be more likely to have heart disease.
Image: Cover Media
It's thought that putting off decisions means that when people do have to go one way or another they feel incredibly stressed, putting their heart under a lot more pressure than those who make a quick choice.
The Canadian study involved 980 people, who were put into groups depending on whether they had heart disease and hypertension or not. The first set agreed with sentiments about putting things off and wasting time rather than hitting deadlines. Although these techniques were supposed to help reduce anxiety, it was found they put stress on the heart.
The research was conducted by people at Bishop’s University in Quebec, who hope it will encourage a change in the way heart issues are treated. They believe people who procrastinate need to be taught why this could be adversely affecting their help and encouraged not to avoid choosing between one thing and another.
On top of this, it was suggested that actually having these heart issues could be one of the reasons why people delay decisions because it means they don't have to face up to what is wrong with them.
But the news that people put off what needs to be done is probably not anything new. In 2012 salary.com found that as many as 64 per cent of employees spent time surfing the web when they should be working, with 21 per cent admitting the act took up five hours of their work time a week.
It's easy to put off something you don't find that interesting, but we've all felt that sense of impending doom when you realise you actually do need to crack on with that report for your boss.
It won't be the most popular advice but it really is better to get things done in a timely way; you'll spend less time worrying and your work will likely be better. If you really can't kick yourself into action try an awards system - whether it's a new dress, a meal out or a holiday (for a really big report!) it's amazing what you can get done when incentives are dangled in front of you. -- COVER MEDIA
A healthy diet begins with getting enough fruit and vegetables, we all know that. How much you should eat is up for debate, with some claiming five isn't enough and you should be aiming for around ten. But one thing we can agree on is that raw is best - or is it?
Image: Cover Media
It was long thought that munching on uncooked vegetables was the best way to ensure your body absorbed all their goodness. However, it's now been suggested that certain varieties actually do more for you if you heat them first.
Nutrition expert Mel Wakeman is Senior Lecturer in Applied Physiology at Birmingham City University and has explained why this might be.
"Many of the nutrients found in plants are often less readily absorbed in the gut compared to nutrients derived from animal products. The fibre found in plants often binds particularly to minerals and makes them less available for the body to use (their bioavailability)," she told British newspaper The Daily Mail's Femail section.
"Heating can help to breakdown the fibre and so release some of the minerals for absorption, and can often increase the phytochemical content of plants which can provide additional non-nutrient benefits to our health."
Among the varieties which it's suggested could improve with heat are spinach, carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms and asparagus.
For example, warming tomatoes increases the level of lycopene in them, which has in turn been linked to helping cut the risk of prostate cancer. But the problem is that while cooking boosts that, it also reduces other nutrients. That's why it's important to eat fruit and vegetables in different ways, sometimes hot and others not.
Carrots are packed with antioxidant carotenoid, which gets increased when they are cooked, and heating spinach might make it easier for the body to absorb the iron in it.
And that's not the only fruit and veg news doing the rounds at the moment. A study conducted for the BBC by people at Kew Gardens has found what many have argued for ages - items grown at home really are tastier and healthier than those from supermarkets.
It was found that tomatoes grown in the own back garden had more natural sugar, antioxidants and certain nutrients than those created in bulk by manufacturers. -- COVER MEDIA
We're all guilty of putting the kettle on, cutting a big slice of cake and just generally enjoying life. And while you may feel good at that exact moment, cake isn't what nutritionists would call good mood food.
Image: Cover Media
So to help you in your quest to consume meals that do actually make you feel great NHS nutritionist Dr Sarah Schenker and food psychologist Dr Christy Fergusson have joined forces with Tilda to compile a list of the comfort foods we should all be eating. From appetite controllers, to foods that reduce cravings for sugary and fatty snacks, read on to see what you should be chowing down on.
Their list of 22 top foods include all the usual suspects such as pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, salmon, spinach, broccoli and quinoa.
Hero foods like coconut, avocado, pomegranates, blueberries and brazil nuts also made the cut.
“Brazil nuts are the richest source of the mineral selenium, containing ten times more than the next richest source. Selenium-rich food helps to combat depression and studies have shown that eating a small handful of Brazil nuts everyday can help to improve mood," Dr Schenker said.
Chickpeas, asparagus, beans and bananas also featured. And if you have a sweet tooth, fear not as dark chocolate is another great choice.
Ginger, beetroot, chilli, yoghurt, chicken and turkey and wholegrain Basmati are the last seven suggestions.
"Wholegrain Basmati is a great addition to the diet. Fluctuations in blood sugar levels are associated with changes in mood and energy, in turn blood sugar levels are affected by what we eat and drink," Dr Schenker noted. "After eating sugary foods or refined carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels can rise rapidly which may cause feelings of stress and anxiety, only to crash soon after, which can then leave you feeling lethargic or in low spirits. Low GI foods such as wholegrain Basmati rice contain the type of carbohydrate that releases energy slowly, keeping your blood sugar levels steady and maintaining a more balanced, calm mood." -- COVER MEDIA
After luxury, budget and short-term rental apartments, there’s another type of accommodation that’s squeezing its way into the hotel market: enter, the “poshtel”.
The Backpack hostel in Cape Town, South Africa, is Lonely Planet's 2014 pick for top budget hotel. © The Backpack.
According to a wide sweeping trend report released at the World Travel Market in London this week, design-led hostels that offer high-tech facilities, free Wifi, en suite bathrooms, and luxurious designs are becoming increasingly popular among both leisure and business travellers alike.
Written by market research firm Euromonitor, the report pointed out that emergence of poshtels, led by brands like Clink, St Christopher's Inn-Village, Safestay, The Dictionary and Generator Hostels, is forcing budget and mid-range hotel chains to rethink their pricing and distribution as well.
Lonely Planet's pick for the top value hotel of 2014 is The Backpack hostel in Cape Town, South Africa, while Hostelworld.com gave Tattva Design Hostel in Porto, Portugal the top spot in the category of large hostel.
Though the report says that Generation Y — those born between 1981 and 1990 — makes up a key part of the “poshtel” demographic, the report adds that budget accommodations like these could also find a market in older age groups as well as the business segment.
The cold is not bothering many Elsa-wannabes this year. ©2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
It's set to be a cold, cold Halloween this year as characters from Disney's 2013 animated film "Frozen" top the chart of the most popular costumes.
According to a study by e-commerce provider SLI Systems, Internet users in the US, the UK and Australia have conducted over one million online searches this Halloween season for "Frozen"-related queen, princess and snowman characters.
It looks like we're in for a Hollywood Halloween in general, with seven out of the top 15 costume searches relating to movies.
"Frozen" is way ahead, prompting 122 percent more search activity than its closest movie costume rival, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." Other popular film costume ideas include the 'Minions' of "Despicable Me" as well as characters from "Maleficent" and "Book of Life."
The study was carried out by analysing search activity across 17 costume retailer websites based in the US, the UK and Australia from September 1 to October 26, 2014.
Here are the top 15 most-searched costume themes of 2014:
Stated in no particular order, here are our best picks:
#1. ORIGINAL FRIED CHICKEN
($22.50, serves three to four)
NENE CHICKEN, #01-24 Star Vista, tel: 6222-6363
Nene Chicken is one of the largest fried chicken chains in Korea, with over 920 outlets. The chicken crumbled in my mouth on first bite. The meat was moist and tender, though a tad oily.
BEST SAUCE: Green onion ($23.50, serves three to four)
#2. ORIGINAL CHICKEN
($15 for half chicken, $17 for boneless half chicken)
WOORI NARA, #01-02, 19 Lorong Kilat, tel: 6464-9282
Tucked away in a quiet corner of Bukit Timah, Woori Nara was definitely worth the trip.
Everything about their fried chicken was spot on – crispy skin, wonderful flavour, tender and juicy meat. They deliver islandwide (with delivery fees varying according to distance), but we recommend eating on location.
BEST SAUCE: Soya garlic ($17 for half chicken, $19 for boneless half chicken)
#3. CRISPY CHICKEN
($7.95 for six pieces)
4 FINGERS CRISPY CHICKEN,#B4-06A Ion Orchard, tel: 1800-427-4779
Well-seasoned and tasty. The skin was crispy rather than crumbly and not too oily. Choose the drummettes for juicier meat; the wings can be slightly dry.
BEST SAUCE: Soy garlic ($7.95 for six pieces)
#4. FRIED CHICKEN
($18 for half chicken)
KKO KKO NARAKKO, 57 Tras Street, tel: 6224-8186
Th e original version had a crunchy, crumbly skin, which was very flavourful on its own if a little dry. All chicken dishes are served with tangy pickled radish.
BEST SAUCE: Sweet & spicy ($20 for eight pieces)
This story was originally published in the March 2013 issue of Her World magazine.
Sweet treats are made of matcha, no? Image: Babette, Smoulder, Sun with Moon Japanese Dining & Cafe, Dessert First and Antoinette
Who wants to have leafy Kale or grainy Quinoa when you can enjoy equal health benefits from yummy superfood matcha? Not only is this magic green tea powder high in antioxidants, it also detoxifies the body, boasts concentration, increases energy levels, relaxes the mind and even helps in weight loss.
Naturally, these benefits extend to delicious matcha desserts as well — or so we tell ourselves — so feel no guilt while you indulge in these twelve matcha sweets we absolutely love.
1. WAFFLES AND PANCAKES
Waffle Slayer’s Matcha Buttermilk Waffle. Image: ST
I don’t know about you but to me, waffles and pancakes (and yes, they belong in one category in my book) are not just an enjoyable dessert but a classic comfort food perfect anytime, all-year-round. There’s little in life that can’t be cured with a good waffle or pancake (or more like a plate full of them). Add matcha to the mix and you’ve got a utterly delectable dessert on your hands. We’re not talking about a scoop of green tea ice cream dumped on top of your plain old waffle either, but waffles actually infused with the fine green tea powder like Waffle Slayer’s Matcha Buttermilk Waffle ($14.90) that’s topped with azuki beans and ice cream.
It's death by fluffiness with Miam Miam's Matcha Souffle Pancake! Image: Miam Miam
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, try the famous Japanese cafe chain Hoshino Coffee’s incredible hybrid Matcha Souffle Pancake ($12++) that has the thick, airiness of a souffle with all the fluffiness of a pancake. Be warned that the queue for these popular sweets at Hoshino Coffee can get rather long though, so if you don’t feel up to the wait, head to French-Japanese restaurant Miam Miam where Matcha Souffle Pancakes ($9.80) are also served.
Waffle Slayer is located at 37 Kampong Bahru Road Singapore 169356. For more information, call 62224869.
Hoshino Coffee is located at #03-84, Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Road. For more information on Hoshino Coffee, call 63383277.
The Miam Miam Bugis Junction branch is located at #02-14 while the Westgate branch is located at ##01-21/22. For more information, visit http://miam.sg/.
2. LAVA CAKE
Smoulder's bite-sized White Chocolate Matcha Lava Cake gives you gooey matcha without the mess! Image: Smoulder
Molten yet fluffy, gooey yet spongy, who can resist the allure of lava cakes? I know I certainly can’t, especially when they’re infused with green tea. Get a bite of these oozing matcha goodies at the newly opened Japanese-French fusion restaurant Babette at $12++. For those with smaller appetites, you can go for local bite-sized lava cakes chain Smoulder with their White Chocolate Matcha Lava Cake ($2.80 per piece and $24 for a box of nine).
Smoulder is located at Raffles City Shopping Centre 252 North Bridge Road, #B1-68 Singapore 179103. For more information or to order online, visit Smoulder’s official website at http://www.smoulder.it/.
Babette is located at 165 Tyrwhitt Rd, #01-03, Parc Sovereign Hotel Singapore (207569). For more information, like Babette on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BabetteSG.
Image: Sun With Moon Japanese Dining & Cafe
Maybe I’m just being picky but I’ve always found Tiramisu a tad too sweet for me, even with the dusting of fragrant coffee powder. That’s why the Matcha version hits just the right note for me. The fluffy layers of mildly bitter matcha sponge cake takes off the sickeningly saccharine taste of the thick, creamy layers of mascarpone cream and balances the Tiramisu just perfectly. Trust me, I can polish off an entire slice of SUN with MOON Japanese Dining & Cafe’s Matcha Tiramisu ($8) all by myself. Fans of alcohol can also give L'Atelier TiramiSu’s dark rum laced Matcha Tiramisu ($6.80 per slice, $48 per whole cake) a try.
SUN with MOON Japanese Dining & Cafe is located at #03-15/16/17 Wheelock Place, 501 Orchard Road. For more information, visit their official website at http://www.sunwithmoon.com.sg/sun-with-moon-wheelock.html and like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sunwithmoondining.
L'Atelier TiramiSu is located at The Central @ Clark Quay, #B1-09. For more information, visit their official website at http://latelier-tiramisu.com/ and like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/LAtelier-Tiramisu/562673593776094.
While Antoinette is famous for its macaroons, we prefer its matcha-flavoured mousse cake, Opera Matcha ($9 for a slice, $40 for 500g and $80 for 1kg). Made of green tea mascarpone mousse, chestnut cremeux, almond crumble and green tea finger sponge, Antoinette's spin on the popular Japanese superfood results in a light but dense Japanese matcha mousse cake.
The Antoinette Penhas Road branch is located at 30 Penhas Rd, 208180, the Antoinette Mandarin Gallery branch is located at #02-33/34 and the Antoinette Palais Renaissance branch is located at B1-08/09/10C. For more information, visit their official website at http://antoinette.com.sg/ and like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Antoinette.sg.
5. MILLE CREPE CAKE
Image: Lady M
Nine years (wow has it really been that long) after the initial crepe cake craze, this Japanese-French dessert is still going strong here, especially with the arrival of Lady M, original creators of Mille Crepe cakes, in SIngapore just a year ago. With cream sandwiched between 20 layers of crepe so thin it practically melts in your mouth, it’s no wonder why crowds flock to the famous chain, particularly for the Green Tea Mille Crepe cake ($8 a slice). Dusted with matcha on every layer of thin crepe, the mildy and earthy aftertaste offsets the super rich and sweet layers of cream.
Image: Dolce Tokyo Facebook
If you prefer a good old sponge cake, Dolce Tokyo’s Matcha with Goma Black Sesame Cake ($11.50 each) is not only sinfully delightful, it’s also absolutely Instagram-worthy.
Lady M is located at Marina Square Shopping Mall, #02-103 and One Fullerton 1 Fullerton Road #01-10 Singapore 049213. For more information, visit their official website at http://www.ladym.com.sg and like them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ladymsingapore.
Dolce Tokyo is located at 313 Somerset, #03-23. For more information, like Dolce Tokyo on Facebook at https://m.facebook.com/DolceTokyoSG?_rdr.
Image: Nana's Green Tea Facebook
While this combination of agar jelly, azuki bean paste and ice cream may sound ordinary enough, this classic Japanese dessert in fact harmonises a great mix of textures with the chewy jelly, creamy ice cream and smooth bean paste. Japanese-French restaurant, Nana’s Green Tea, serves their Matcha Anmitsu ($8.80) with syrup to add a hint of sweetness to the naturally bitter matcha.
Nana’s Green Tea is located at, Plaza Singapura, #03-80/81/82. For more information, visit their official website at http://nanaha.com/ and like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NanasGreenTea.
7. SHAVED ICE
Image: Dessert First
On sweltering, muggy days (ninety percent of the time in Singapore), I would like nothing more than to stuff my face with a huge, heaping bowl of my favourite cold dessert — shaved ice. There’s nothing more satisfying, I find, than feeling the icy cold relief spreading mouthful by mouthful through your entire body, especially when it’s a refreshing matcha flavour. Grab a bowl of your own Matcha Shaved Ice ($7.80) served with azuki beans and nata de coco at Tsujiri Tea House, the 150-year old Japanese Tea House from Uji, Kyoto. Taiwanese dessert house Desserts First also serves Green Tea Snow Ice with redbean ($5).
Desserts First is located at 8 Liang Seah St #01-04. For more information, visit their official website at http://www.dessertfirst.com.sg/.
Image: Nana's Green Tea Facebook
The Parfait may seem similar to traditional Japanese dessert Anmitsu, with the same ingredients of azuki bean paste, green tea jelly and ice cream, but its layered structure, on top of the added crunch of cereals, puts it on a whole new level (and that much more Instagram-worthy). Luckily, this pretty matcha dessert is available in a wide variety of restaurants and cafes in Singapore, including Tsujiri Tea House, Nana’s Green Tea, Maccha House as well as SUN with MOON Japanese Dining & Cafe, with each place adding their own extra ingredients to the mix.
With so many Japanese cafes and restaurants, particularly green tea themed ones, constantly popping up in the Singapore, there’s no need to worry about running out of Matcha desserts anytime soon. Just in case anyway, I’ll be sure to stock up on my Matcha Kit Kats and Haagen Dazs's Green Tea ice cream (I'm dying to try Cornetto's version too!). Hey, a girl has got to be prepared right?
Healthy eating is the hardest thing to do. Hands up, how many times you’ve opted for convenient fast food despite knowing that you will regret this decision when you have to run an extra mile the next day? I can’t be the only one who has the pizza delivery hotline on speed dial, right? But between juggling work, family and my social life, who has time to slave away in the kitchen for a wholesome meal? Plus, isn’t it much easier to open a bag of chips than to toss a salad together?
Well, that was my excuse until I met superfoods. You see, superfoods are so called because they are packed with vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants and more often than not, are also low in calories. Superfoods will help keep you feeling and looking healthy, inside-out and can be found easily in any supermarket. I’ve picked out four that don’t require any cooking!
Yes, healthy eating is easy like 1-2-3! Credit: Corbis images
The little blue fruits are the MPVs of healthy food. Flavonoids, antioxidants, soluble fibre, potassium and vitamin C are all found in blueberries. They help prevent diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and more. A study done by the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School has revealed that blueberries are also rich in anthocyanins, a kind of flavonoid that lowers blood pressure and makes blood vessels more elastic. These anthocyanins also aid in the anti-ageing battle by protecting the skin against harmful free radicals.
Tip: Have at least three half-cup servings of blueberries a week to reap heart-loving benefits. Don’t worry about using frozen ones – they are as good as fresh ones. Remember that the bluer the blueberries are, the more antioxidants they have!
These nuts are a good source of antioxidants, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, copper and manganese. Researchers from the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in the US have found that adding walnuts to one’s diet can help protect one against diabetes and heart disease. An extra incentive to chomp on walnuts are that they are highly satiating – you feel full longer – which plays a major part in weight control!
Tip: Just seven – yes, seven – walnuts a day will help you load up on all the omega-three fatty acid, protein and anti-inflammatory polyphenols you need, especially after a particular tough workout.
Here’s another superfood that helps with portion control – tiny chia seeds. Add them to any drink and they will swell to more than five times their original size to help your stomach feel satisfied faster. Apart from being rich in antioxidants, protein and insoluble fibre – the latter to help your digestive system running – the chia seed has the richest source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, based on a study published in the Nutrition Research journal. That’s super news for vegetarians. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and more.
Tip: To hit your daily recommended omega-3 intake, all it takes is one or two tablespoons of chia seeds. I like to mix them with water whenever I get the mid-afternoon munchies.
Yoghurt’s known for being full of calcium and full of active probiotics that help both your digestive and immune system. Did you know that it has also got protein and minerals like potassium, iodine and zinc that keep the body functioning at tip top level? In fact, the calcium and amino acid content (protein) in yogurt helps keep your stomach fat under control. A study done at the University of Tennessee in the US showed that calcium will help with regulating cortisol production – the hormone cortisol is produced by fat and aids in the accumulation of more fat – and amino acids burn off fat.
Tip: If you aren’t the sort to chug down milk, eight ounces of yoghurt equals a cup of milk – and you need three one cup servings of dairy products each day. Not a fan of the tart taste? Add a piece of dark chocolate – chocolate with at least 70 percent of cocoa is another superfood that’s rich in flavonoids and antioxidants.
Wave goodbye to plastic lunch boxes or expensive Thermos containers that office drones use to tote their lunch in.
And say hello to electric lunch boxes, which reheat or cook food using steam.
Simple dishes can be cooked in under 30 minutes.
There are at least two brands in the market now.
Yoei Group Singapore, which imports a range of kitchen products, introduced the Yoei Electric Lunch Box here early last year and has sold up to 10,000 sets.
The lunch boxes are available at selected FairPrice Xtra hypermarkets.
A single-tiered one costs $49.90 and a double-tiered one is $69.90.
A local company, Kessler, which sells household wares and appliances, also launched the Kessler Multi- Function Electric Lunch Box early last year.
Mr Mike Chan, 50, a director of the company, says it has sold more than 20,000 units.
The company has a permanent counter at People's Park Complex that sells its brand of single-tiered electric lunch box at $50.
Lunch boxes from both brands carry the Safety Mark certification by Spring Singapore.
Apart from these two brands, which have a physical presence in stores, electric lunch boxes can also be found online.
A search for "electric lunch box" turned up hundreds of results from a variety of brands and deals at online marketplaces such as Qoo10 and Rakuten.
Other online retailers include S.O.T.A Innovation, Sparknet Retail and smaller blogshops such as Mingoshopping.
Prices range from $16.50 to $69.
These lunch boxes appeal to busy office workers with tight lunch breaks, small families who want to do minimal cooking and travellers who want to cook food such as porridge for young children while on vacation.
Managing director of Yoei Group Singapore, Mr Joseph Liew, 32, says: "Eating out during lunch is not as healthy as eating home-cooked food, and heating food brought from home using a microwave oven often dries up the food and makes it lose its nutritional value as well."
Kessler's Mr Chan adds: "Some people who live alone do not want to buy bulky home appliances. This lunch box does not take up a lot of space."
Owner of blogshop Mingoshopping, Ms Tham Kuai Meng, 40, imports Self-Heating Happy Lunch Boxes from Hong Kong.
A double-tiered one costs $33.90 and a triple-tiered one goes for $45.90. She says she sells about 30 sets a month.
The electric lunch boxes are easy to use.
Add water to the heating plate, place the food in the stainless steel bowl over it, clasp the box securely, plug it into an electric socket and leave it to steam.
The device will turn itself off when all the water has evaporated.
The Yoei and Kessler lunch boxes come with a measuring cup and guide on the correct amounts of water to use and approximate steaming times for different dishes.
Ms Sherlynn Tan, 37, a housewife, recently bought a double-tiered Yoei electric lunch box.
The mother of two children aged 11 and seven, says: "Sometimes my kids will stay back after school and I eat lunch alone.
"I think this lunch box makes it more convenient to cook one-portion meals for myself."
Whipping up a hot meal on-the-go are other reasons people are buying the lunch boxes.
Ms Chen Xiaguang, 60, is thinking of buying an electric lunch box to cook meals for her one-year old grandson while on vacation this month.
She says: "My grandson needs to eat soft foods such as porridge. I thought this would come in useful for cooking food for him on the go."
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on March 9, 2014. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.