Image Source: The Straits Times

For Raman Singh, Singapore has made it possible for his passion for enriching lives.

The CEO of Mundipharma came to the city-state in 2011 to set up the company’s emerging markets’ headquarters. With operations in just six countries then, it has since expanded to its current 128. The pharmaceutical company had 350 staff when he arrived and it now employs 5,000.

“I always say I’m very fortunate to be working in an industry that can truly change the world, and I think everybody in healthcare is,’’ said the American citizen. And while Mundipharma’s astounding growth is a testament of Singh’s capabilities, he credits Singapore for that.

“Singapore gave us the capability to expand very rapidly,’’ said Singh, 46. “Today, the manufacturing plant, which we broke ground on a year and a half ago, is running eight months ahead of schedule...where else would you yield something like that?’’

Many a pharmaceutical company would choose Europe as its base because of its equal proximity to both Asia and Latin America, but Singh bucked that trend and has not looked back since.

Singapore’s progressive outlook and vision – which is not restricted to just five or 10 years, but the next 20 or 50 years – is, said Singh, aligned with “the kind of vision I have for Mundipharma as well’’.

This ability to think far ahead and “the right ecosystem’’ which the island-republic provides is a winning combination, he added.

Image Source: Biotechin.Asia

As an innovator, having already introduced augmented reality to complement Mundipharma’s medicines (the company launched Breatherite, a free app, in April 2017 to help asthma patients use their inhalers correctly), Singh is now determined to transform the company into a top digital healthcare business.

Mundipharma will have a heavily-automated consumer healthcare hub in Singapore by 2018. The company’s research & development, product development and manufacturing centre will be housed there.

“It was a no-brainer to build it in Singapore with the talent, technology, universities and research centres available,” said Singh. “Also, the government is open to collaborating with private industries.’’

His advice for new start-ups: “Come to Singapore with an ambition. Singapore gives you the tools that you need to fulfil these dreams.”

And passion, of course.

He mused: “Sometimes we make decisions which may not be too rational, where you rely on your gut and when you are in that space, it’s a beautiful space to be in because that’s when you get confidence in your belief, in your passion and that’s when you make passion possible.’’

Image Source: The Straits Times

Meanwhile, Singaporean Peter Ho, CEO of HOPE Technik, has seen his passion for innovation take him from race car pit lanes right to the edge of outer space.

Ho and three university mates started HOPE Technik in 2006 with just $10,000, producing equipment for racing pit lanes. Their first break came in 2009 when they won a contract from the Singapore Civil Defence Force to develop the Red Rhino emergency vehicle. Lighter and more compact than traditional fire engines, Red Rhino vehicles are designed to respond swiftly in the event of a fire or rescue mission.

Ho’s company has since built five generations of the Red Rhino and is now planning to export 200 units of the vehicle to five countries. The company also launched an advanced hybrid of a Red Rhino and an ambulance in May 2017.

Innovation is very much a part of the company’s DNA, and they have delivered 400 projects across 18 countries over the past 11 years – from exoskeletons that teach stroke patients how to walk again, to sky-surfing drones, and even a space plane prototype for aerospace giant Airbus.

It was no walk in the park for Ho, though, who went without a salary for 18 months in the fledgling days of the company. But he was never going to walk away from his passion.

“We kind of like the thrill of going against mission impossible,” he explained.

Describing HOPE Technik as a “Singapore-proud” company, he said the opportunities for collaboration that the country afforded helped propel it to where it is today.

Image Source: HOPE Technik

An example is the plane prototype HOPE Technik designed for Airbus that could reach the edge of space. When it learnt that the aerospace company was looking to fly a commercial plane into space by 2024 and was keen to develop prototypes to test different engineering techniques, Singapore’s Economic Development Board put Airbus in touch with HOPE Technik.

After 27 months of hard work and experimentation, the prototype, which was a quarter of the size of an actual space plane, successfully launched in May 2014 some 100km off the shores of Singapore. It’s a mark of how collaboration between the authorities and Singapore-based businesses can create new opportunities together.

With Singapore being this natural hub, many companies have set up regional and global headquarters here creating a truly global marketplace, remarked Ho, hence opening the door to new possibilities worldwide.

 

“Networking (in Singapore) is just amazing,” said Ho. “We’ve got a culture where we speak freely with each other across different languages so it’s easy to communicate.”

The number of exhibitions and conferences Singapore hosts – many of which are recognised global events – also helps to build a network of contacts.

“The quality of these events is extremely high in this little country, and through these kinds of events, you start to understand how big the ocean is,” said Ho.

And there’s a parallel between Singapore’s ambitions and Ho’s own.

“As a growth technology company, we create unique solutions here and then export them around the world,” he explained. “Similarly, as much as Singapore seems like a cute little red dot on the map, its influence past its borders is huge.”