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Family business Onn Wah Precision Engineering takes top E50 spot on first try

Accepting the awards on behalf of their companies are (from far left): Lee Yong Miang, managing director of Expand Construction; Lam Keng Yew, managing director of Onn Wah Precision Engineering; and Naarayan Raaghavan, chairman and managing director of Robust International.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat (left) with Ng Yat Chung, CEO of Singapore Press Holdings, at the E50 Awards dinner. In his speech, Mr Heng said that companies that wish to do well in a fast-changing environment must build key capabilities.


MANUFACTURING firm Onn Wah Precision Engineering catapulted straight to the top on its very first attempt at the Enterprise 50 (E50) Awards, proving that the family business has what it takes to compete with the very best in the industry.

Repeat winners clinched the next two spots, with agribusiness firm Robust International in second place, while Expand Construction rounded off the top three.

These companies epitomise this year's E50 theme "Innovate, Grow & Succeed: Staying Competitive In Today's Economy", with their ability to stay ahead of the pack at a time of challenging business conditions.

Now in its 23rd year, the E50 Awards recognises the top 50 local, privately-held companies which have contributed to economic development in Singapore and abroad.

The awards were presented by Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at the Resorts World Convention Centre on Tuesday.

In his speech, he told attendees that companies that wish to do well in a fast-changing environment must build key capabilities. They include innovation, internationalisation, harnessing technology, and developing human capital.

He said: "Ultimately, it comes down to whether a company's leadership is convinced that it needs to transform, and whether it has the will to transform."

It is this "spirit of enterprise" which will enable firms to stay relevant in the future economy, Mr Heng added.

The E50 winners are all examples of firms which represent this ethos.

Three enterprises that have stood the test of time are trading firm Sudima International, precision engineering firm Feinmetall Singapore, and tyre manufacturer and distributor Omni United. They bagged the prestigious Five-Year Award, which is presented to companies which have made it to the E50 list for five years.

First-time winner Vector InfoTech was conferred the "Enterprise 50 Special Recognition Award - Internationalisation". Launched last year, this award honours firms which are able to leverage their capabilities to seize overseas opportunities.

This year saw a particularly big jump in new winners, with 30 fresh faces across a diverse range of industries compared to the 23 seen in 2016.

The manufacturing sector made up a larger percentage of winners at 18 per cent as the sector kept up its strong pace of growth. There were also more food and beverage (F&B) companies among the winners, with an 8 per cent increase compared to last year.

Two of them - RE&S Holdings and YES F&B Group - made it to the top 10. The former is known for its Japanese brands such as Ichiban Boshi and Kuishin Bo, while YES F&B Group operates the Chinese restaurant chain Dian Xiao Er.

Winning companies have adopted an innovative mindset to do business differently for long-term growth, including relooking at their processes and business operations, said Jonathan Ho, partner and head of enterprise at KPMG in Singapore.

He said: "This suggests many companies are aiming to grow their businesses rather than simply focusing on managing their costs."

Wong Wei Kong, editor of The Business Times, also noted that the E50 winners have shown that they understand the need to transform themselves to compete. He added: "Despite this period of global economic disruption, they have positioned themselves well for success with their relentless drive and tremendous resilience."

Linus Goh, head, global commercial banking, OCBC Bank, concurred: "Against a backdrop of growing digitalisation and disruption, this year's E50 Awards winners have demonstrated their agility and perseverance."

Participants of the E50 Awards were evaluated against a rigorous set of quantitative and qualitative criteria.

Quantitative factors include financial performance indicators such as operating profit before tax, turnover and profit growth, while qualitative criteria include management and marketing strategies such as the applicants' business models and their innovations, management ideas and governance and overall potential.

E50 Awards is jointly organised by The Business Times and KPMG in Singapore, and sponsored by OCBC Bank. Supporters of the awards include the Singapore Business Federation, International Enterprise Singapore, the Singapore Exchange, and Spring Singapore.