A former journalist with TOC and The Independent, PSP's Kumaran Pillai wants to take fight to Parliament

Among the new batch of Progress Singapore Party (PSP) candidates unveiled earlier today (June 25), one name might be familiar to those who’ve been paying close attention to socio-political sites here. 

Kumaran Pillai, 49, is a known figure in the media industry as the former chief editor of The Online Citizen before he left to join the team behind the formation of The Independent Singapore as a stakeholder and its publisher. 

PSP chief Dr Tan Cheng Bock introduced Kumaran alongside two former Singapore Armed Forces officers Michael Chua and Nadarajah Loganathan as well as lawyer Wendy Low and customer service manager Damien Tay. 

Kumaran, however, holds the experience of being embedded in the media industry and the startup scene with a portfolio of fledgling companies under his management as the Chief Executive Officer of Apple Seed, a venture accelerator.

As an experienced technopreneur, he launched a finance software company after losing his job during the dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000s, a company which went on to win multiple awards. Kumaran went on to launch Apple Seed and incubated dozens of tech start-ups across Asia-Pacific. 

But it was his experience in socio-political websites that saw him speaking out about the issues and affairs that he believes in. During his time in The Online Citizen, he conducted investigations into the treatment by Panasonic Singapore’s local employment agent of its workers as well as the SMRT bus drivers' strike in 2012. 

Leaving his post as TOC’s chief editor, he went on to become the publisher of The Independent Singapore, where Kumaran continued reporting the affairs of the day, including political commentaries on Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing and the formation of PSP. He stepped down from The Independent earlier this year to join Dr Tan’s team. 

“When I spoke to Dr Tan, I said ‘I’ve been commenting and writing about politics for close to seven years. And I’ve been championing a lot of issues’,” Kumaran stated during the press conference earlier today. 

“One of the things Dr Tan said was ‘writing and championing online is not enough. You need to take the fight into Parliament’.” 

I have been walking the ground in Kebun Baru - it is a quiet neighborhood. Made new friends, listen to their stories and...

Posted by Kumaran Pillai on Wednesday, June 24, 2020

In response to media queries on how his background could help him in his path into politics, Kumaran stated that he can’t just rely on his experience as a digital journalist to do the job. Online campaigns are no substitute for walking the ground, he affirmed, adding that he's determined to learn from Dr Tan to gather and listen to the concerns affecting the community. 

Kumaran confirmed that he will be running in the newly carved-out Kebun Baru SMC, a constituency that is being eyed by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and by the People’s Action Party’s Henry Kwek. 

ilyas@asiaone.com