Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) play a significant role in driving Singapore’s economy. They comprise 99 per cent of all local enterprises, employ seven out of every 10 workers and contribute to nearly half of our nation’s Gross Domestic Product. Singapore’s efforts towards industry transformation and upskilling our workforce are at the heart of how SMEs continue to create growth opportunities and good jobs for our people.
Fast changing global environments and the speed of innovation can only compel SMEs to reinvent their business models and be ready to seize growth opportunities to stay sustainable. As the enterprise development agency, SPRING takes pride in supporting SMEs with various sources of help such as industry insights, financing, capability development, technology and innovation, and access to markets.
The vision and mission to help SMEs grow are what attracted SPRING Executive Development Scholarship (EDS) recipients, Aruna Charukesi Palaninathan and Han Dinghong to the organisation. They tell us how their work contributes to a vibrant and resilient business community, and provides a strong sense of purpose for their career with SPRING.
Aruna Charukesi Palaninathan
SPRING EDS Scholar
Standards (Quality and Excellence)
What drew you to apply for the SPRING EDS?
Aruna Charukesi Palaninathan: Back when I was looking for scholarships, my lecturer recommended me the SPRING EDS. When I researched further, I became intrigued by SPRING’s role in helping local enterprises – I wanted to be a part of that. That marked the starting point of my career in SPRING and the rest, as they say is history!
Han Dinghong: My father is an entrepreneur and often shared stories about the challenges he faced in growing the company. I remember him putting in extra hours and having many sleepless nights to think about how to keep the company afloat during the financial crisis.
This exposure helped me appreciate and understand how the government can play an important role in supporting local enterprises. After completing my ‘A’ levels, I was looking for a scholarship that could help me secure a job that supports Singapore’s economy - particularly the SMEs. When I chanced upon SPRING’s EDS, SPRING’s mission of helping Singapore enterprises grow resonated with me and I immediately applied for the scholarship.
Tell us more about your role and responsibilities at SPRING.
Aruna: I am a Senior Officer with the Standards department. My role involves working with key stakeholders (e.g. government agencies, institutions of higher learning, professional bodies and industry associations) to developing standards. This process includes integrating stakeholder input, influencing outcomes so that national and industry needs are met, and promoting good business standards to the public.
I also identify key stakeholders to develop and maintain a wide network, and the key policies and strategic issues that need to be reviewed. Although work can be challenging at times, knowing that my work contributes directly to the growth of local enterprises gives me an immense sense of pride and satisfaction.
Dinghong: My roles and responsibilities can be explained through two perspectives – depth (Enterprise Development) and breadth (Industry Development). I go “deep” in engaging enterprise leaders to hear their growth plans and support them through financing, facilitating market access and providing know-hows. In addition, I think “broad” to formulate strategies and initiatives to support different industries, and develop sector plans such as the Industry Transformation Maps.
SPRING EDS Scholar
Food (Industry and Enterprise Development)
What qualities should SPRING scholars possess?
Aruna: SPRING scholars need to be strong team players, remain calm in stressful situations, and have good interpersonal skills. They must also be able to persevere through challenging times. This will not only help them find success in their role, but also help them become better leaders.
Dinghong: Similar to my job scope at SPRING, I feel that SPRING scholars and officers need to have both “depth” and “breadth” in their understanding of the Singapore economy. It is important for officers to read widely and think deeply so they can understand how the economy and industries are changing. This knowledge will enable them to better engage companies and formulate impactful plans to tackle current and future economic challenges.
Any advice for those looking to follow in your footsteps?
Aruna: Aspiring scholars should first evaluate if they are interested in the economic development before plunging into a scholarship. If they are certain that this is the career path they wish to pursue, they should equip themselves with the relevant skills and knowledge in order to adapt to the environment and work.
Dinghong: Make sure that your head, heart and hands are ready by equipping your head with knowledge, having a heart for SPRING and training your hands to be adept in doing!