Award to recognise Teochew businessmen in the region
Seven winners for inaugural Asean Teochew Entrepreneur Award
When banks stopped hiring during the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Mr Ronald Lee found that demand for his recruitment firm's services was shrinking.
The managing director of PrimeStaff Management Services, which at the time worked mainly with clients in the banking sector, was worried about the effects of the downturn on staff morale.
But rather than wallow in pessimism, Mr Lee, 65, decided to diversify.
He offered his firm's services to growing industries like the information technology sector, to ensure his business stayed afloat.
Last year, his firm, which now has more than 30 employees, recorded a turnover of $11 million, a far cry from the four-man outfit that raked in $750,000 in its first year.
Yesterday, Mr Lee was one of the winners in the top category of the inaugural Asean Teochew Entrepreneur Award, given out by the Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan clan association.
The award, earlier called the Teochew Entrepreneur Award, was first given out in 2016 to Teochew entrepreneurs in Singapore.
It has now been expanded to include those in Asean.
It aims to honour the achievements of Teochew businesses, and recognise their contributions to the community.
More than 20 businesses from Singapore and Asean were considered for the award, said Mr Neo Sing Hwee, organising chairman of this year's awards.
Award winners will be inducted into a Teochew entrepreneurs club, which will hold monthly events that allow Teochew businesses in the region to network and share expertise, Mr Neo said.
There were seven winners this year, including Mr Lee in the top Prestige category, and five in the Promising category.
There were three in the Honorary category, with two coming from Malaysia and Indonesia.
At the gala dinner and awards presentation ceremony held at the Resorts World Convention Centre, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, who was guest of honour, said Asean - with a significant market of about 650 million people and a combined gross domestic product of US$2.6 trillion (S$3.6 trillion) - is an important region of the world.
He said: "Throughout history, it has been a key international node for the exchange of goods, people, ideas and culture.
"Asean will continue to play this role, to bring the world closer, to facilitate nations working together and building bridges and linkages, especially when times are uncertain. To do so, we must remain united, and be open to all countries of the world that share our beliefs."
BreadTalk Group chairman George Quek's company is a household name in Singapore and has also ventured into the Asean region, while other notable entrepreneurs of Teochew descent include Lion Group Malaysia chairman Tan Sri William Cheng, said Mr Ong.