By Chen Hui Fen
(SINGAPORE) Organisers of the Emerging Enterprise awards are confident of drawing more applications this year, notwithstanding the great recession of last year which could have hit the financial strength of small and medium enterprises.
They reckon that if entrepreneurs can survive the tumultuous times of last year, they must have something that set them apart that is worthy of being documented in their submissions.
'I think for companies that can survive the (financial) tsunami, they must have something unique to offer,' said Lim Lee Meng, a senior partner at RSM Chio Lim, the official auditor of the award. 'And the financial performance is just one criteria. We (also) look at the management, the business plan, the business model, things like that.
'A company may suffer a slight setback in terms of sales or profit, but it does not mean that it's not a good company.'
Echoing his view, OCBC Bank head of emerging business Tan Chor Sen said that there were also similar concerns last year about falling application number 'since it was a bad year'. But the number of applications turned out to be three times higher than in 2008.
'We are talking to entrepreneurs, who are always optimistic - our experience is that,' said Mr Tan. 'So therefore on the same basis, my feeling is that this year, we are going to have more applicants . . . If you look at today's launch, (there are) more than 250 attendees - this is an indication of what this award means to them.'
Taking into account feedback from past year's and potential participants, the application criteria for this year's award has also been revised. The minimum paid-up capital of $50,000 for private limited companies will no longer be required. The minimum annual turnover criteria of $1.5 million has also removed, and firms that have been in operation for at least one year can now apply, instead of having to wait for two years.
Besides the changes to criteria, the prize pot has also been raised to $1.2 million, from $1.08 million previously. Each of the three winners stand to profit from $390,000 worth of prizes, comprising a $150,000 interest-free loan, education and development grants, business consulting services, and brand and product development research services.
Organisers have also introduced an Innovation Award, with the participation of SingTel as a new partner. The winner stands to take home a business IT solutions package worth $30,000. NUS Extension is also throwing in a complimentary course on business plan writing to help prospective participants.
The Emerging Enterprise award stands out from other business recognition platform with its tangible assistance and resources offered to winners. Prizes aside, past year's winners also said they gained in ways that cannot be measured.
'I think the priceless thing was the whole team morale,' said Leonard Tan, managing director of PurpleClick, one of the winning firms last year. 'Because the whole team was brought in to participate in this award, winning it gave us a few things - unity, morale and pride . . . These are what money can't buy.'
Into its third year, the Emerging Enterprise 2010 is jointly presented by The Business Times and OCBC. Apart from RSM Chio Lim and SingTel, the other partners supporting the award are Spring Singapore, NUS Extension and Acorn Marketing Research.
Interested SMEs with turnover of less than $10 million can go to www.asiaone.com/ee2010 for submission details.
This article was first published in The Business Times.