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Rallying behind a common goal paying off for PBA

"PBA is made up of a pack of hungry wolves. We argue, we fight, but at the end of the day, we still come together for the common good of the company," says Mr Yap.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP is an inherent zest and desire to take calculated risks. And it is risks that differentiate a company, a "me too" laggard from an industrial leader, according to Derrick Yap, chief executive officer of PBA International Pte Ltd, which has won the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year - Diversified Engineering award.

"There is exponential gain from the society when an entrepreneur succeeds, so, individual, company and society all gain from entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur inspires others to do much more than they previously thought was possible. One entrepreneur can drive an entire industry. Steve Jobs drove the entire mobile phone-related industry in the world. Imagine the impact just one person can make to the world, and to future generations."

On being named as the EY EOY Diversified Engineering award-winner, Mr Yap says he "is honoured and humbled. I represent the PBA group in saying that we are motivated by the award and will continue to pursue our goals".

According to Mr Yap, as he is still young, he has a lot to learn from the other winners and the people from the industry. "I am very fortunate to have many good mentors to help me in my personal development, and have been also helping the PBA staff members to find mentors of the relevant fields to help them grow. I hope that this will create a positive cycle for the ecosystem.

"As much as we learn from our mentors, PBA would also like to share our experiences. PBA is very involved in mentoring students, entrepreneurs and fellow business people. The society has given PBA a lot, and we are blessed."


PBA has an incubator and accelerator through which the company makes both financial investments and more importantly its professional managers and engineers mentor the incubatees through their entrepreneurial journey.

"PBA has a school, RACE that we use to bring INDUSTRY 4.0 awareness to the masses, and retool the engineers for future industry and economy. We also help the attendees find permanent or temporary jobs if that is required," explains Mr Yap. "All these are PBA's efforts to contribute back to the community. With the publicity that PBA will gain from me winning this award, I hope to be able to outreach to more people."

Mr Yap says he won the award because the team has rallied behind a common goal. "A company is a community of people with a common vision and mission. We remain connected to one another because of the culture that ties us together. We are very conscious of the culture we want to develop and retain in the company. PBA is made up of a pack of hungry wolves. We argue, we fight, but at the end of the day, we still come together for the common good of the company."

PBA believes very much in the empowerment of its staff, shares Mr Yap. "We dare to break new grounds constantly. We are nimble, we celebrate failure, and we come back stronger every time. We encourage diversity of opinions and positive friction. The management tries constantly to balance between encouraging failures, and yet progressing forward rapidly. There may be differences of opinion, yet we rally everyone to work towards a common goal.

"What I have done well is constantly try to bring out the best in everyone in the company and to ensure that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole."

For Singapore to promote entrepreneurship, in Mr Yap's view, the country needs to promote a culture of accepting and celebrating failure. "Encourage society and people to dare to venture and fail. Failure in business should be seen as a feather in the cap, rather than a mark on the record. The education system has to be structured differently, and must change rapidly. The mindset of the future generations is hardcoded in school. And the educational system has to always be ahead of time. We need to update the education system to one that equips the students with the skills to react to the unknown.

"Singaporeans are very good at working with the known, being great managers, or complex project leaders. However, the world of the future is largely unknown, and the pace of disruption will only become quicker. For Singaporeans to be entrepreneurs, they need to unlearn the qualities that made us "good Singaporeans"; we need to stop following rules, and be encouraged to break them. We need to challenge authorities, rather than be resigned to our fate of only being able to play a supporting role," points out Mr Yap.

As the CEO of the company, he says that his role is to ensure that its many different parts are headed in the same direction.

PBA has close to 30 companies in the group, all of which are technology firms. And it is present in 10 countries around the world. "Because all the companies are growing very rapidly, we have to make sure that they will pivot according to the future needs as well as head towards the general agreed-upon direction so that all members of the PBA group can enjoy the synergistic benefits," notes Mr Yap.

PBA is a robotics and automation company. It builds robots, robotic components, and provides turnkey project solutions. "We are the enabler of INDUSTRY 4.0 on various fronts; to the machine-builders, to the traditional factories and also to the Smart Nation projects like autonomous intelligent vehicle or robots used in F&B," adds Mr Yap.


PBA helps companies transform from the traditional way of doing businesses to the technology empowered INDUSTRY 4.0 way. "We help machine-makers with technologies to upgrade their machines, we help factories automate their manufacturing processes, we help businesses link processes to business software, and we also have the ability to link end-customers via e-selling portals to enterprise resource planning software to automated factories to automated logistics or warehouse providers. Truly an end-to-end technology provider," says Mr Yap.

On the company's future plans, he reveals that PBA is going to do a round of fund-raising and acquiring debt. "We are growing at a pace of 30 to 40 per cent per annum. We want to fuel the momentum by means of mergers and acquisitions and reinvestments in our group of companies. The macroeconomics and the microeconomics of our group are very favourable. We want to capitalise on this and cement our position as the leader of robotics and automation in South-east Asia and prepare ourselves for global expansion."