Award for those who learn and earn

SINGAPORE - Before shuttling in and out of lectures at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), engineering undergraduate Jairaj Bhattacharya was also meeting clients and doing up business proposals three years ago.

Today, the 24-year-old is the boss of his own technology firm, which is expected to rake in a cool $250,000 in revenue by the end of the year.

Mr Bhattacharya is among a rare breed of tertiary students in Singapore who think big even though they are still in school. And this year, they will get a chance to be recognised for their work.

Entrepreneurs' Organisation, Singapore, a global network of entrepreneurs, has launched the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards, the first such award in Singapore.

It is open to students who have started a business while attending tertiary institutions.

The top winners from Singapore will receive mentoring from established entrepreneurs here and go on to compete with those from other countries for a cash prize of US$10,000 (S$12,750).

Runner-ups will get more than US$150,000 in business products.

Applications for the awards closed on Sunday and 84 applications were received from Singapore.

Mr Bhattacharya is one of those who applied for the award.

After convincing his professors at NTU to form his company in January, the firm created an app that allows teachers to disseminate homework or information in class through a local network without the need for Internet connection.

The lack of Internet connectivity is a bugbear in developing countries.

The company is now working with the Indian government to roll it out in public schools.

"While there are many business competitions and start-up grants out there for aspiring entrepreneurs, there isn't an award that actually acknowledges student entrepreneurs who have taken the plunge while in school and done well," said the chief executive of dating agency Lunch Actually, Ms Violet Lim, who is on the judging panel for the awards.

Other Singaporean entrepreneurs such as chief executive of Adam Khoo Learning Technologies Group, Mr Patrick Cheo and the founder of caterer Purple Sage, Mr Tony Seow, are also on the panel.

Mr Samuel Lim, chief executive of luxury fashion store Reebonz, said young entrepreneurs often face a lonely and uphill journey when they are starting out.

"This award will give them the opportunity to network and be mentored by prominent entrepreneurs and their peers around the world," he said.

Student entrepreneurs said they chose to start a business while juggling the demands of school because the timing was opportune.

"We need to strike when the iron is hot," said Ms Joyce Chee, 24, a recent NTU engineering graduate who runs eVida, a home automation company. "For me, I found the right people to work with and wanted to seize the opportunity."

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