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Are you ready for the future?

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IT'S been a tough year for the economy in general, and local enterprises across the board have felt the effects of slowing growth and new disruptive technologies.

But while some throw their hands up in despair, those that made it to the Enterprise 50 (E50) Awards list this year are proof that companies here have what it takes to survive - and even thrive - in today's uncertain business climate.

The environment may be constantly changing, but these E50 winners are ensuring that they are innovating and evolving even faster to keep up.

To reflect future potential as well as performance, the E50 Awards not only looks at quantitative criteria such as financial performance indicators, but also includes other factors in the evaluation such as business model and innovations, management ideals and governance, market branding and overall potential.

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To put some context to Singapore's local business landscape, it seems that the report card on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in general has been a mixed bag.

In the latest SME Development Survey 2016 by DP Information Group, close to three quarters (74 per cent) of firms have indicated their intention to pursue productivity improvement, up from 71 per cent in 2015. Almost all (98 per cent) have adopted some form of automation in the business, while more have answered the call to innovate, which rose 6 per cent to 49 per cent this year.

But findings also show that there are plenty more areas that enterprises can improve on. In today's age of digital disruption where more should be investing in innovation, the percentage of companies that strengthened their in-house technology innovation capabilities has actually gone down by 6 per cent to 58 per cent this year.

One unique quality that sets apart the E50 winners featured here is the fact that they embrace change and new technologies as an inevitable part of the business landscape. Not only do they recognise the need to future-proof themselves, but they are also taking active steps to adapt their business strategy and leverage innovations to grow.

For example, Mahesh Sivaswamy, chairman and managing director of first-place winner BLPL Singapore, says: "We have always believed in investing in our IT systems which continues to remain as one of our pillars."

The company even invested in an application which it had developed for one of its logistics centres to track and allocate manpower resources efficiently, which in turn increases productivity.

BLPL Singapore is also among six companies which have been included in the E50 list for five years - no easy feat. A roundtable featuring all six winners of the 5-Year Award on page 18 shares valuable insights on how their firms have stood the test of time through their commitment to evolve.

But, as the saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. The established winners of the 5-Year Award all began somewhere - very much like the 23 firms which have made it to the E50 list for the first time.

Cleaning Express is one such company that is making a traditional sector sexy again through innovation. From using machine automation to upgrading the skill sets of employees through training, its CEO Abdul Aziz says that the company aims to "attract and compete effectively for young talents and carve career paths for them".

Another way that winners of the E50 Awards are setting themselves apart from the field is by venturing abroad. To recognise this, the "E50 Special Recognition Award - Internationalisation" is a new accolade launched this year to acknowledge excellence in a company's overseas growth and expansion strategy. The inaugural prize went to Linnhoff Technologies.

This year's theme, "Building future-ready enterprises", is an apt one in today's context, where digital disruptions and changes become the norm. In the next few pages, we share the stories of some of the winners' triumphs and struggles.

The E50 Awards is jointly organised by The Business Times and KPMG in Singapore. OCBC returns as the sponsor for the eleventh year. Supporters of the awards include the International Enterprise Singapore, the Singapore Business Federation, Spring Singapore and the Singapore Exchange Ltd (SGX). It is the first time that SGX is supporting the E50 Awards.


Supplement coordinator: Vivien Shiao Sub-editors: Naveen Verghese, Lilian Lee Cover design: Sarah Chua Advertising sales: Rix Low 9620 1365; Nancy Kan 9761 6215; Matthew Chang 9620 1341; Janet Wee-Ng 9619 0208; Tom Yuen 9623 1128

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