The co-founder of Jigger & Pony Group, best known for its award-winning cocktail bars in Singapore, describes the challenges the country's F&B industry is facing and what she is doing to help

In the What Matters To Me series, a Generation T honouree describes what they do, why they do it, and why it matters.

The F&B industry has been greatly affected by the pandemic, with nightlife businesses among the worst hit. Cocktail bars such as Jigger & Pony, which Gan Guoyi started with her husband Indra Kantono in 2012, have had to close for several months as part of Singapore’s fight against Covid-19. Many have pivoted their businesses and started offering delivery or takeaway services.

The team at Jigger & Pony introduced new offerings such as pouches and bottles of its signature cocktails for customers to buy online and consume at home—and it proved a success.

For 12 weeks from the start of the lockdown period in April, Jigger & Pony, which was recently placed ninth on the World’s 50 Best Bars 2020 list, delivered over 16,000 cocktails to customers.

(Related: Singapore's Cocktail Haven Jigger & Pony Is The Best Bar In Asia)

Gan, who is a 2017 Gen.T honouree, is also extending a helping hand to the wider cocktail industry. In May, she established the Singapore Cocktail Bar Association (SCBA) with four others, including 28 HongKong Street director Paul Gabie and Asia’s Best 50 Bars academy chair Vivian Pei, to work with member bars to identify growth and learning opportunities as well as raise funds for the cocktail bar community.

In August, the non‑profit organisation, where Gan is founding president, raised $60,000, which was matched by the Singapore Business Federation Foundation through its Compassion Fund, to provide financial relief to bar staff. SCBA is seeking to raise two more rounds of donations to further support its member bars.

In her own words, Gan shares what she has learnt about leading a business through a crisis.

The pandemic has made me rethink and appreciate my relationships.

"In this new normal, where people can’t travel as freely as before but still wish to form new experiences together, is where I see opportunities. Indra and I call this the “relationship economy”."

Establishing SCBA was a way to help our fast-growing cocktail community stay alive while weathering the pandemic together.

Singapore was impacted later by the pandemic, allowing us to learn from our peers in other cities. In particular, we learnt much from the struggles of cocktail bar owners in China when they were in lockdown and how they pivoted their businesses.

Keeping an open mind during this time is key.

It’s clearer than ever that we need to be focused and flexible in order to keep our business going. We must capitalise on new opportunities in ways that we may have not thought possible before. 

I’m optimistic about the future of Singapore’s cocktail bar scene.

The surge in availability of cocktail deliveries in Singapore has expanded our customer base, including those who drink cocktails at home. In a way, we have the [lockdown] to thank for this.

See more honourees from the Food & Beverage category of the Gen.T List.

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