Singapore-based entrepreneur, executive coach, and guide to the road less traveled

Ashok Melwani started his career as a teenager, working in his family’s fashion retail stores during the school holidays. In 1982, he joined the business full-time, working his way up from brand manager of monobrand stores like Etienne Aigner and Loewe to executive director of the fourth-generation family business.

Running the family company taught him invaluable lessons about retail and distribution, international business, stakeholder management, and ultimately, the importance of forging your own path. In 1996, he realized that he didn’t love fashion enough to be running a fashion company. Leaving the family business wasn’t easy, but he negotiated an exit, and struck out on his own two years later—right in the middle of the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis.

The next year was both a trial by fire and a stint in the wilderness, but Ashok came out of it with increased clarity about his passions, goals, and values. In 1999 he became a restauranteur, opening an Italian restaurant in Singapore—Modesto’s—and helping to bring the Dome cafe chain to the United Arab Emirates.

Modesto’s would be a fixture in Singapore’s F&B scene for 23 years. During that time, Ashok also helped advise medium-to-large companies across Asia. For 10 years, he was an independent director at Sumida, a Japanese electronic components manufacturer listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. He served as independent chairman of Prestasi Retail Innovation, a Indonesian sports retail chain which owns the Specs brand of football gear. He also served as an advisor for several years to Kempfort, a family-owned department store in Bangalore, India.

He has been a shareholder and active director of Melium Sdn Bhd, Malaysia’s leading luxury retail group, and for two years a director of Insas Berhad, listed on the KL stock exchange. He remains highly active both locally and globally in the [YPO]( organisation, championing many events and workshops for over 25 years.

With the closure of Modesto’s in 2020, Ashok is shifting his focus to sharing his decades of experience and hard-won lessons with a younger generation. He’s passionate about guiding entrepreneurs through crises and challenges, helping them find clarity and balance as they grow their ventures.

Ashok Melwani has been a guest on 1 episode.