Today, there are 170,000 small and medium enterprises in Singapore, comprising 99 per cent of all enterprises here. SMEs are a vital part of the Singapore economy, employing seven out of every 10 workers and making up nearly half of Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
SPRING Singapore officers dedicate themselves to helping SMEs upgrade their capabilities and providing them with the environment, connections and resources they need to grow and expand both locally and internationally.
SPRING Singapore Executive Development Scholarship (EDS) holders Kang Aik Meng, Senior Manager of Strategy and Policy in the Innovation and Start-Ups Group, and Jewel Ye Chuan, Manager in the Lifestyle Division in the Industry Development Group, tell us how SPRING is helping local enterprises grow.
Aik Meng, whose exposure to the dealings of his father’s renovation firm as a young child helped shape his understanding of SMEs, helps innovative start-ups grow through the use of the latest technology developments. His team keeps abreast with emerging technologies by doing in-depth research into technological areas such as life sciences, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), chemicals, advanced materials and social innovation, to name a few.
Jewel Ye Chuan
SPRING EDS Scholar
Designation: Manager, Lifestyle Division, Industry Development Group
Studied: Bachelor of Business Administration, National University of Singapore
The 28-year-old, who is an engineer by training, focuses on the technological aspects of the physical sciences and appreciates that he is able to watch an enterprise grow from its research to its business development phase. He tells us, “I have dabbled with additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, Cleantech and membrane technologies. Technology is a key enabler of growth for our local SMEs, and I am happy to be at the forefront of this area.”
Jewel, also 28, explains that SMEs in Singapore contribute significantly to the economy and being a part of an organisation mandated to effect change in this sector has always been an exciting prospect for her. In fact, Jewel has dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, and she is currently responsible for promoting enterprise development and growth in the Lifestyle Division. She shares, “As SPRING EDS scholars, we want to contribute to Singapore’s business environment. We hope to spearhead growth in the SME sector by continuing to work here at SPRING, by joining an SME after some time or by becoming entrepreneurs ourselves. For me, I look forward to learning and growing at SPRING and eventually developing and marketing my own brands.”
An Unrivalled Scholarship
Their passion to help dynamic local enterprises grow into globally-competitive companies is what made them choose to apply for the SPRING Executive Development Scholarship. SPRING has helped to shape both Aik Meng’s and Jewel’s development in the organisation by exposing them to SPRING’s work with businesses and the industry early on.
SPRING makes an effort to engage its scholars by organising dialogue sessions with senior management and networking sessions with industry partners, in addition to offering scholars invaluable internship opportunities. Jewel shares, “SPRING engages its scholars often during their school years, so entering the organisation after graduating felt like coming home to a familiar environment. I was already friends with my colleagues and this made the transition and learning in SPRING easier.
“My short internship stint during the school holidays also helped me to familiarise myself with SPRING’s work and culture. I was given the opportunity to organise the first Customer Centric Initiative symposium with my team during my internship, and in working closely with my team I felt a sense of belonging.”
For Aik Meng, the opportunity to meet the chairman of SPRING Mr Philip Yeo was a striking highlight of his scholarship journey. Scholars were given the opportunity to meet Mr Yeo, who spearheaded the development of Jurong Island and also attracted the largest oil refineries to set up in Singapore.
Kang Aik Meng
SPRING EDS Scholar
Designation: Senior Manager, Strategy and Policy Division, Innovation and Start-Ups Group
Studied: Bachelor of Engineering,
Nanyang Technological University
Aik Meng muses, “Who would have thought that this tiny island could attract top multi-national companies like Shell, ExxonMobil and P&G to set up their infrastructure here and create so many employment opportunities for Singaporeans? We had heard and read so much about Mr Yeo before securing the scholarship and meeting with him in person was an unbelievable experience.”
Furthermore, Aik Meng had the chance to give a presentation on a new innovation programme at an inter-ministry platform when he started working at SPRING, attended by permanent secretaries of the ministries and chaired by the Head of Civil Service. He shares, “The presence of top civil servants in the room was intimidating. Fortunately, I had supportive bosses who helped to front the tough questions that were raised. The programme was approved and my team is currently involved in its execution. It is a great experience to have been involved in the entire process, from the conceptualisation of the programme to finally being able to deliver it.”
On the Path to Realising Dreams
For Jewel, her dream of starting her own business one day has not wavered. She shares, “During my time at SPRING, my interaction with passionate business leaders in Singapore has strengthened my ambition to ensure that my business plans take off. I am constantly inspired by the strong passion and conviction that business founders have for their work. They are always open to share their knowledge and experience in the various business sectors and I have gained much insight into the jewellery and timepiece market in Southeast Asia. Right now, my goal of becoming a retail expert puts me in a better position to develop the industry and contribute effectively to SPRING.”
And being able to identify your passion and work towards growing in that area is what these two scholars feel strongly about. Aik Meng shares, “Because I was trained as an engineer, I initially faced many difficulties in understanding business concepts and financial terms. The important thing is to keep questioning and learning. Your superiors will not fault you for not knowing everything, but will not let you off if you are not trying.”
Jewel concludes, “At SPRING, it is important to put in your 100 per cent in whatever you do and keep an open mind. Being involved in the SME sector gives you privileged access to many SME bosses who are constantly seeking to do things differently and reinvent the wheel. It is important that you work towards understanding various perspectives, be open to new ideas and lastly, seek true innovation.”