Our Grandfather Story

What started out as a class project has transformed into a thriving social media start-up for four NTU alumni. Our Grandfather Story, a digital publisher dedicated to telling timeless and overlooked stories from across Southeast Asia, now has more than 400 videos and over 200,000 subscribers on their main YouTube channel. Ng Kai Yuan, one of the four founders, admits none of them could have predicted the success OGS has achieved—and yet, it’s just the beginning for them.

How It All Started

Our Grandfather Story first took root as a photojournalism project by four third-year students of NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information – Ng Kai Yuan, Cheah Wenqi, Matthew Chew, and Carine Tan. The original submission consisted of two videos, one about Singapore’s ice cream sandwiches and the other about local kopi. To the students’ surprise, the videos went viral, achieving over 6,000 likes within the first two weeks.

Aware that they had created something special, the students decided to keep the channel running after the class project was over, having OGS registered as a company within the next year. Starting with solely Singaporean stories, OGS has since expanded to explore hidden gems found within Southeast Asian culture and heritage, such as tales of cockroach hunters in Vietnam or pineapple farms in Bintan.

In the early stages of the start-up, there were concerns over their lack of experience running a company. “Everything was very ground-up, we did everything from scratch,” explains Kai Yuan. However, with hard work and creativity, the OGS brand was developed and refined within four years. Today, the OGS team has grown to the size of 20, with the four founders taking on more executive or leadership roles. OGS is now considered a worthy competitor of other local digital giants, such as The Smart Local or Mothership. The key to this success is their openness and experimentation.

“We are always open to trying new things,” Kai Yuan shares. “We can’t keep doing the same thing, or else people would get bored.”

To keep things fresh, OGS constantly explores new formats. Having started with mainly micro-documentaries, OGS now traverses long form content with their Can Ask Meh? talk show series, which brings people together to discuss controversial or taboo topics. Besides the main OGS YouTube channel and Instagram page, they have also created the secondary channel O+, which focuses on producing animated videos on YouTube and comics on Instagram. Just last year, the team started their first Spotify podcast, Something Private, which explores topics surrounding women’s health and wellness.

In working with clients, Kai Yuan reveals how lucky they feel to have been approached and collaborated with a great variety of clients, including Grab, Facebook, Google, and government clients such as MCCY and HDB. However, the team is strict about keeping their content authentic and meeting their standards of quality. They ensure all client work is done as a partnership, working together to craft a story, with a shared goal of bringing the brand’s campaign to its fullest potential.

Kai Yuan admits they have rejected a number of projects in the past, when they knew the campaigns would not sit right with their audience, a testament to how much OGS values their viewers and makes the viewers’ entertainment a top priority.

OGS & NTUitive

Kai Yuan then shares how NTUitive gave OGS a much-needed boost that propelled them into the business. NTUitive awarded OGS the Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) Fund of $10,000, which allowed them to kick-start production.

Starting out as undergraduates, the grant was essentially all the four students had, and allowed them to hire employees and set plans into motion, including operations, production, and building their social media presence.

“I think we were quite fortunate that our application was approved, because the grant usually goes toward tech companies,” says Kai Yuan. Besides its functional value, being awarded the grant was a symbol of NTUitive’s faith in OGS and their potential as a start-up.

What’s Next for Our Grandfather Story?

Kai Yuan shares that the next phase of growth for OGS involves expanding production on the regional side. Having been temporarily set back this year by COVID-19, the team plans to work on more region-wide stories in time to come.

In addition, while the OGS brand has been relatively well built-up, the team aims to work on elevating their secondary projects, O+ and Something Private. “They are still in the infancy stage, and we want to continue to push them.”

Our Grandfather Story is a start-up which has grown immensely from its humble beginnings. And yet, with the team’s ambition, tenacity and openness to change, it appears OGS is on a trajectory that won’t be slowing down any time soon.

Visit their website for more information.