I assisted a very exciting workshop on Wednesday 13th of July at NUS Enterprise as part of the Asia Innovation and Entrepreneurship Immersion Program.

This three-week program enables 60 students from NUS Business School, Tsinghua University and The Indian School of Business to understand the startup ecosystems of three cities – Singapore, Beijing and Hyderabad.

Students’ motivations were very different.I wanted to see for myself what is happening outside China”, said Christine, a Chinese student from Tsinghua University in Beijing.

An Indian graduate shared that this “programme is giving (him) the opportunity to understand the different cultures and how we can set ourselves apart or mutually cooperate with the help of Singapore.”

Another girl from the same school explained that “the 19 Indians taking part in this course are young graduates that have already launched their startup or at least have an idea. I have the developer and designer on hold in India for my education startup, but I want to be exposed to more startups before launching it”, shared an Indian young graduate.

Their first week in Singapore was dedicated to acquiring knowledge on entrepreneurship and seizing the startup dynamism in the country, through lectures, visits – like the Impact Hub tour – and workshops. “I had never been to Blk71 to meet startups, but through the programme, we got to meet not just one, but three different startups in one afternoon. It is really eye-opening for me, I’m learning a lot from connecting with the students from India and China and their perspectives are so different from what we are used to – even in multi-cultural Singapore”, said Ankita Panda, a second-year student at NUS.

NUS track

The students met the founders of:

  • PearComm, a CRM SaaS solution for SMEs and sales professionals in Asia,
  • Trakomatic, specialized in video analytic technology for visitor counting and tracking
  • TransSwap, a P2P currency exchange platform.

At the end of the day, students shared their learning and key takeaways from their discussions with the founders: “I was impressed by PearComms’ founder, who already had this idea in 1997, and waited 2014 to launch it, when the market was mature enough”, shared an NUS student.

Kapil Aiyer, 22, just left his job and is looking to start his own venture. He analysed that “India and China are going to be competing as the world’s largest markets in the future. I now understand that policies across the markets can really be so different. For example, something that isn’t very regulated in India or China is highly regulated in Singapore – this means that when I’m looking at putting together a plan for a global business, I know now that there are all these different regulations that I need to keep in mind.”

Payal Varmah has recently completed his Bachelor’s degree at the Indian School of Business. He explains, “The programme has taught me that going gLocal is the new trend and every business needs to aspire to do that as it is no longer possible to survive in a vacuum. Being in Singapore and meeting people from different countries has helped me to contextualize what you see in your own environment vis-à-vis what is out there in the world. It has helped me appreciate the diversity of the business world a lot more – all the students have such varied backgrounds: business, policy, healthcare and social enterprise. I think through this programme, it will help us, as Indians, to look beyond what we are used to and understand the different nuances around the world and create businesses that will work across the markets.”

Another student asked herself the subtle difference between ambition and what people can actually achieve, between big and smart innovation. Prof Neo Kok Beng insisted that “At the end of the day, success is how you define it.” Another student defended that “Success is less a question of how the world perceives you than what value you bring to the table.”

This workshop was full of bright insights and fostered a true, individual thinking on what it means to be an entrepreneur and a successful one, in markets as diverse as the Singaporean, Chinese or Indian ones.

On their last day in Singapore, they worked on developing a smart city solution together, before heading to Beijing and Hyderabad the following weeks.