“Singapore is placing a key focus on encouraging entrepreneurship as its economy moves into the future” (Entrepreneurship Is Not A Silver Bullet For The Singapore Economy, Kelly Ng).
Most will agree that while entrepreneurship has a role in Singapore, it is far from a silver bullet, and that a romanticised notion of entrepreneurship not only disregards the pragmatism needed to operate a business, but also the sacrifices made or failures experienced by the successful individuals. Yet the scepticism expressed by Banyan Tree Holdings executive chairman Ho Kwon Ping – anchored by his belief that Singapore “is constrained by its small size and lack of immediate access to global markets”, and that those who have gained experience and formed networks in multinational companies (MNCs) can fit into “the food chain of the Singapore economy very well” (TODAY, Jul. 11) – should be scrutinised.
At first glance the size of the Singapore economy and the consequent lack of access to markets appear to limit the potential of local businesses. On the other hand, enterprising entrepreneurs have pounced on these opportunities, by first taking advantage of talent or resources within the country, before expanding their products and services in neighbouring cities. The tech and startup scene in Singapore – for instance – while nascent, has fostered connections between companies, investors, and corporates, in search of breakthroughs and traction. Furthermore, the adoption of disruptive technologies has helped their cause too.
These undertakings may not be a panacea at the present moment, yet in this environment of competition foundations are built for the future.
And it is also not accurate to posit that Singaporeans who have worked in MNCs would necessarily be well-suited to endeavours related to entrepreneurship. Mr. Ho himself quipped that “entrepreneurship is not just (about) lawyers leaving law firms to set up cafés”, and as an activity more should be encouraged to venture – perhaps even from a young age. Doing a business is more than “networks in MNCs”. Through its agencies the government has encouraged more to abandon conventional pathways or careers, which should be embraced.
In a broader sense, beyond the conception of entrepreneurship as an activity per se, it seems the intent is to inculcate entrepreneurship as mindsets too. Mindsets of innovation and lower aversions to risks, that is. In other words, the notion of entrepreneurship is not just about getting more to launch their own enterprises, but – against a background of low productivity growth and threats from abroad – galvanising Singaporeans to take greater responsibility in their own fields of work, raise personal standards, and strive to do their best in the face of growing global uncertainty.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.