Capitalising on comfort


Melissa Tan now spearheads Gethá as its CEO, a role that she assumed in 2019. — AZLINA ABDULLAH/The Star

WORLD Sleep Day was celebrated on March 15. Organised by the World Sleep Society since 2008, the global awareness event is a celebration of sleep and a call to action on the important issues related to it. After all, getting proper downtime and a good night’s rest is essential to every process in the body, and it also helps improve brain performance, mood and health, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Despite its importance, sleep is often overlooked by most of us. However, its significance is not lost on Melissa Tan, the CEO of Gethá.

Most Malaysians recognise the brand for its mattresses but in our tête-à-tête with Tan, we discover the brand is more than just about beds. As a business, Gethá is inherently focused on not just selling you a mattress but sleep itself, or rather, the quality of it.

This is apparent the moment you walk into any of its stores or Sleep Therapy Centres. Inside you’ll find an impressive array of sleep-related products all crafted with quality and care for a better sleep experience.

“The idea for the Sleep Therapy Centre was actually from my dad (Vincent Tan Kai Long),” explains Tan.

“My dad was exposed to brands and he wanted to create this boutique store to give consumers a brand experience. He understood that when you walk into a high-end watch store or luxury boutique, you expect an exceptional brand experience. He wanted to bring that to our brand and give Gethá an identity.”

Changing the game

Prior to this, mattresses were traditionally sold in furniture shops but the company soon redefined the retail sphere for the segment.

“With the Sleep Therapy Centre, we wanted to focus on the five senses — touch, taste, scent, sight and sound,” elaborates Tan. “My dad did a lot of research and engaged sleep specialists to better understand how we can give you better sleep, not just through our products but also by encouraging better practices and habits.”

Tan explains that spas provide a perfect example of this as they take care of the five senses automatically for its customers.

“From the touch of the materials like the bed to the tea, the smell of the fragrance used and the music being played, these products are designed to calm you and put you at ease. This is why when you step into our store, you’ll find these elements and items on display to help give you that same feeling because we care about your sleep.”

Gethá was incorporated over 50 years ago but as Tan walks us back to its origins, the company initially wasn’t rooted in the business of sleep. Since 1969, it has been specialising in manufacturing 100% natural latex for mattress and home living but at the very start, the company plied its trade in rattan cushions.

“Back then most Malaysians didn’t have sofas but rather rattan chairs and furniture, and the question was always on how to make them more comfortable,” she states. “When my grandfather started the company, that was the focus of the business. Foam wasn’t introduced yet, Malaysia was rich in natural latex and our factory was churning out all these cushions, so that essentially was how it started for us.”

Generation to generation

From rattan cushions, the company soon started making other products like mattresses and pillows. As the company diversified, it slowly established itself as a trusted name in 100% natural latex foam. “My grandfather was more of a traditional businessman — he was all about cost and price,” explains Tan.

“However, my dad was a marketing and branding sort of guy. He studied in the US and he was exposed to the Apple and the Walmart era, so he came back with all these ideas because he understood the positioning of luxury.” Tan elaborates that her father understood the position of the industry that natural latex, being a natural material, is more high-end.

“This is one of the reasons why my dad chose the name Gethá — which was inspired by the native word getah — to represent a brand that is inherently from Malaysia, a tropical country renowned for its high quality rubber and natural latex.”

It is something that cannot be produced or priced for the mass market and to emphasise that fact, she points out that to produce a full latex mattress, up to 1,000 rubber trees needed to be tapped.

“That’s why our mattresses are priced the way they are because if you factor in the work behind it, it is impossible to price a natural product that is not easily derived at a mass price,” she explains. “The challenge is to always educate the consumer on the value of the product developed and that has been our goal ever since.”

Tan now spearheads Gethá as its CEO, a role that she assumed in 2019. She tells us that she first joined the business about 15 years ago — rotating between departments — but like her dad who took over the business, it was a role that she eventually fell into.

“We’re a third-generation business. There was no succession plan per se but I think my dad about six or seven years ago felt that my husband and I should be given the opportunity to work our vision. He wanted us to do things our way for the company while we were still young and have the energy and drive to grow the business.”

Making her own way

Given the opportunity to helm the company while in her early 30s was a daunting task, Tan admits.

“I had experience working for the company for well over a decade but in the first few years, it was more of trial and error. Now, after five years, I have a more solid idea on how to bring the company forward.”

Today, Gethá is a globally recognised brand that’s available in over 25 countries. Its expanding footprint has also seen the brand impressively extend its product portfolio. Alongside a wide variety of mattresses and pillows, the company also offers bedframes, bedding as well as home accessories. It also has a baby and kids collection, along with premium baby bedding, as well as aromatherapy products, essential oils and lightings.

The company has also embarked on a successful strategic partnership with Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC) for its flagship ultra-luxurious boutique cinema, Aurum Theatre, since 2019. Aimed at bringing the ultra-luxe entertainment experience to greater heights, GSC and Gethá worked together to offer cinematic opulence at the recently-opened Aurum TRX.

At the new best-in-class cinema, Gethá promises an opulent end-to-end journey with its plush, new facilities at each touchpoint. Dedicated exclusively to the three Gethá Lux Suites at Aurum TRX, these cinema halls feature all-new Gethá recliners complete with built-in mini-fridges. This continued partnership will also see the availability of the brand’s amenities throughout the premises.

“We’re consistently introducing the newest trends and technology to the industry,” she tells us. “It remains our goal to promote awareness for a better, natural and healthier lifestyle.”

As we spend a third of our lives sleeping, it goes without saying that the quality of your bed dictates the quality of your sleep and, by extension, that of your waking hours, but Tan is looking beyond just the mattress segment to drive Gethá forward.

“Our brand experience has always been comfort, that’s number one for us. We’re known for our mattresses but we are also looking at how we can extend the Gethá experience, not just during night time but also throughout your daily life,” she adds.

“This is why we have come up with products like our lumbar support cushion, because we want to touch every point of your day. The message we want to deliver ultimately is, when you think of comfort you think of Gethá.”

This article first appeared in Star Biz7 weekly edition.


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