By SGN | 9 Sep 2020
From working at Warner Brothers to founding his own snacks company (who says childhood dreams can’t become a reality?), Ian Seah has done it all. Here’s 5Qs with this NYC transplant.
Ian co-founded Tochi Snacks, an artisanal snacks brand in the U.S. while working full-time at Warner Bros., creating unforgettable digital experiences for fans of DC Comics and The Ellen Show. Moving to the Big Apple from Singapore 12 years ago, Ian proves his versatility by also teaching Vinyasa-style yoga as a certified instructor.
What is your favourite place in NYC?
I really love exploring New York City on my electric scooter, and I often do so with my brother, who rides an electric skateboard. Even after living in NYC for more than ten years, I’ve discovered so many new places or even new perspectives on familiar haunts like Central Park.
What is your favourite food in NYC?
Finding a good Singaporean dish is always a delight (and there have been many!), but I think at the risk of my Peranakan grandmother disowning me, I would say my favourite New York food is Pizza! For $3 a slice, pizza in New York to me is one facet of the street food scene here and a constant reminder of the hawker stalls I miss in Singapore not just for the taste, but for the idea of cheap and tasty food that is accessible and loved by all, regardless of socioeconomic status.
What is the most exciting part of your job?
As a product manager for Warner Bros, I love that the direction and strategy I set has a direct impact on enhancing the digital experience of our fans. One example of this was identifying that users who binge-watching DC Comics video content like Titans and Doom Patrol didn’t like to watch the episode intro and recap for every occurrence, so we implemented a ‘skip intro’ button. This might seem like a no brainer today as almost every video streaming service has the feature, but we were the second platform (after Netflix) to implement this two years ago!
Together with my co-founders at Tochi Snacks, we are working to make Singaporean/ Asian culture accessible in the US through snacks. It started with multiple requests from friends in New York to fill half our luggage with salted egg fish skins and potato chips when we were returning to the US from Singapore. Everyone knows that you can’t separate a TRUE Singaporean from his/her favourite foods! We were shocked that we couldn’t find these snacks in the US even 18 months after it first debuted in Singapore. This set us off on a quest to create our version made with high-quality ingredients (sourcing organic where possible), completely turning the notion that Asian snacks were highly processed and bad for you, on its head.
Today, our salted-egg potato chips are available in 20+ locations in the US! As consumers are becoming more educated and well-travelled, the demand for hyperlocal and exciting flavours from all over the world is in hot demand. Bringing new products to market is incredibly exhilarating, and we are in the process of introducing three more within the next six months!
What do you miss most about Singapore?
Friends and family definitely! Additionally, I never realised how lucky I was to live in Singapore until I left for the US to attend college after serving my National Service. I miss everything from the clean and efficient MRT vs the New York MTA (where rats and trash are a common sighting) to the seamless meshing of the old and new in Singapore. One great example of this is the National Gallery of Singapore.
I am close to my parents and brother, and family reunion every year is an important occasion for us since we are living in two different continents. We would spend some quality time together and reflect what’s uniquely wonderful about our family and friends back in Singapore.