Five leading entrepreneurs named winners of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 awards

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Singapore, 11 October 2012 – Professional services firm EY announced the five recipients of its 11th EY Entrepreneur Of The Year (EOY) 2012 awards:

  • EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Financial Services
    John Lim, Group CEO, ARA Asset Management Limited
  • EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Lifestyle and Retail
    Douglas Benjamin, COO, F J Benjamin Holdings Ltd
  • EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Commercial and Industrial Services
    Martin Gui, Managing Director, Facility Link Pte Ltd
  • EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Engineering
    Dr. Shahzad Nasim, Global CEO, Meinhardt Group International Ltd
  • EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Business and Consumer Products
    Mohamed Salleh Marican, Founder and CEO, Second Chance Properties Ltd

Please refer to Fact sheet A for profiles of the winners and their companies. 

One of the five winners will be named the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Singapore, and represent Singapore at the annual EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year (WEOY) award in Monte Carlo in 2013 to compete with contenders from over 50 countries. Singapore’s representative to the EY WEOY award will be announced at the EY EOY Awards Gala, to be held on 27 November 2012 at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore and officiated by Guest-of-Honor, Minister for Education, Mr. Heng Swee Keat.

The five winners emerged triumphant from a total of 70 nominations. An independent judging panel had selected the winners based on their merits in fulfilling the six global judging criteria, namely entrepreneurial spirit, financial performance, strategic direction, global impact, innovation and personal integrity/influence.

Please refer to Fact sheet B for members of the judging panel and details of the judging criteria. 

“This year’s nominees come from diverse backgrounds and fields such as engineering, hospitality, consumer beauty and financial services. Many are young, first-generation entrepreneurs – and that’s an encouraging trend. Others have made mid-career switches to take the entrepreneurial plunge. Among them, these five winners embody the business tenacity, financial credentials, courage and innovation that define an exceptional entrepreneur,” comments Mr. Max Loh, Country Managing Partner at Ernst & Young LLP.

“They are a source of inspiration for our peers and future generations. It is with this in mind that we launched the EY Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation globally in September, which aims to help entrepreneurs on their growth journeys with insights and guidance from fellow entrepreneurs, complemented by our global experience and resources,” he adds.

Chairman of the judging panel, Dr. Robert Yap, also Chairman and CEO of YCH Group, explains the judges’ choice: “These five homegrown entrepreneurs stood out for excelling consistently across the six judging benchmarks. How they relentlessly pursued their business vision and remained undeterred and successful despite seemingly insurmountable challenges resonated with many of the judges. Today, as leaders in their respective fields, they are strong advocates of innovation, which has enabled them to turn adversity into opportunities to sustain their business success.”

Innovation as a necessity
For these winners, innovation is embedded in their corporate DNA. Mr. Mohamed Salleh Marican, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Business and Consumer Products, Founder and CEO of Second Chance Properties Ltd, aptly encapsulates why innovation is important. “In business, change is always a constant and any business that does well will soon attract new competitors. Novel ideas, methods or marketing strategies, and thinking out of the box are necessary for survival,” he says.

Mr. Douglas Benjamin, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Lifestyle and Retail, COO of F J Benjamin Holdings Ltd adds that innovation is as fundamental as changing what needs to be improved: “It is only by looking at things outside of the box that one will be able to take a step back and properly gauge what is not working and needs to be changed. Once you ascertain what is wrong, you can act on it by changing your approach.”

At ARA Asset Management Limited, the team is not afraid to push the boundary during a time when REITs listing was still relatively new in Singapore. “ARA was an early leader with many ‘firsts’. For example, Fortune REIT was successfully listed in 2003 as the first cross-border REIT listed in Asia, and subsequently the only REIT with a primary dual-listing in Hong Kong in 2010,” shares Mr. John Lim, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Financial Services, Group CEO of ARA Asset Management Limited.

For Mr. Martin Gui, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Commercial and Industrial Services, Managing Director of Facility Link Pte Ltd, innovation is closely intertwined with environmental consciousness, which is a competitive advantage for their interior construction business. “We thrive on innovation in green construction. We went into sustainable interior construction very early in Singapore. We even had to bring in our own environmentally-friendly materials because it was not commercially available in the market then,” says Mr. Gui.

At Meinhardt Group International Ltd, Dr. Shahzad Nasim, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Engineering, Global CEO of the Group, encourages his engineering staff to embrace a commercial perspective. Teams are inculcated with the mentality to design award-winning projects, which in turn challenges them to find ways to innovate. “In 2011, we set up a Group Design Division whose role is to promote design innovations, and encourage the customization of engineering solutions and audit standards across the Group,” Dr. Nasim says.

Sponsors and supporters
Barclays is the major sponsor of the EOY awards. Didier von Daeniken, Head of Wealth Management, Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, Barclays, says: "The entrepreneurial spirit is one that triumphs against all odds, and the winners in this year’s EY Entrepreneur Of The Year awards are individuals who have successfully grown their business in the midst of the toughest operating landscape in decades. Their success is most commendable. I congratulate them for their extraordinary wins during these extraordinary times."

Other sponsors and supporters include Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Singapore, who has come onboard this year as the official car sponsor; The Business Times (official newspaper); The Peak (official luxury lifestyle magazine); The Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE); International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore), SPRING Singapore and Singapore Business Federation. For more information, please visit

The EY EOY awards program was launched in Singapore in 2002 to honor entrepreneurs who have created and sustained successful business ventures, as well as to coincide with the government’s focus on fostering entrepreneurship and grooming local entrepreneurs. Now in its 11th year, the awards has evolved into a leading business award in Singapore with an international presence and footprint. For more information about the EY EOY program, please visit


About EY
EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. Worldwide, our 167,000 people are united by our shared values and an unwavering commitment to quality. We make a difference by helping our people, our clients and our wider communities achieve their potential.

EY refers to the global organization of member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more information about our organization, please visit

This news release has been issued by EY Solutions LLP, a member of the global EY organization that also does not provide any services to clients.

About Entrepreneur Of The Year®
EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® is the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The unique award makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential, and recognizes the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. As the first and only truly global award of its kind, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 140 cities in more than 50 countries.

About Barclays
Barclays is a leading global wealth and investment manager providing international and private banking, wealth planning, trust and fiduciary services, investment management, brokerage services and research to private and intermediary clients across the world. Additionally our clients benefit from access to the breadth of personal, corporate and investment banking expertise across Barclays, one of the largest financial services groups in the world.

About Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Singapore
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Singapore, part of Eurokars Group is the authorized dealer for Rolls-Royce motor cars in Singapore. Since its dealership appointment in 2003, it has operated at the very pinnacle of super-luxury motoring. Combining visionary engineering and advanced technology with the finest materials and hand-craftsmanship, Rolls-Royce motor cars indulge and delight with their unique blend of opulence, refinement, dynamism and quality.

For over a century, every Rolls-Royce motor car has been adorned with the automotive world's most enduring piece of iconography, the Spirit of Ecstasy. From her position gracefully sat atop the radiator grille, she caps off the timeless yet contemporary aesthetic that contributes to the unrivalled grace and balance of Rolls-Royce design.

The pinnacle Phantom family represents the epitome of super-luxury motoring. Combining supreme presence with sumptuous cabin luxury and the hallmark Rolls-Royce “magic carpet ride”, Phantom continues a century old-tradition in positioning Rolls-Royce as the conveyance of choice for the most discerning of individuals. Ghost, inspired by the pioneering “Silver Ghost” models of the pre-war era stands a less formal Rolls-Royce, a car which owners like to drive as well as be driven in.

Every Rolls-Royce motor car is hand-built by the master craftspeople at the Home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood, England. In doing so, combining the very best of hand craftsmanship and cutting-edge engineering, while staying true to the founding principles of co-founder Sir Henry Royce to "strive for perfection in everything you do".

Fact sheet A: Winner and company profiles

a) EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Financial Services
Mr. John Lim, Group CEO, ARA Asset Management Limited

About John Lim
Mr. John Lim, 56, is Group CEO of ARA Asset Management Limited, an Asian real estate fund management company listed in Singapore. Since its establishment in 2002, the company has been focused on the management of public-listed real estate investment trusts (REITs) and private real estate funds.

Building on the foundation of ARA’s core values of “Respect, Excellence, Integrity and Teamwork”, which incidentally spells REIT, Mr. Lim carefully shaped ARA’s culture and championed the establishment of strong risk management and corporate management systems to create a robust organization that can effectively manage large and growing assets in a prudent manner.

Mr. Lim was conferred “Outstanding CEO of the Year 2011” at the Singapore Business Awards 2012, “Brendan Woods International – SIAS TopGun CEO Designation Award 2012” at the SIAS Investors’ Choice Awards 2012, and together with the Board of Directors of ARA, was awarded the prestigious “Best Managed Board (Gold) Award” at the Singapore Corporate Awards 2012.

With Mr. Lim’s strong leadership, coupled with the excellent ARA business model, the company is poised to continue to be the preferred partner for investors, serving as a bridge between funds from the West and real estate investment opportunities in the booming Asian economies.

About ARA Asset Management Limited

ARA, an affiliate of the Cheung Kong Group, is a real estate fund management company listed on the Main board of the Singapore Exchange. ARA’s business is focused on the following primary segments:

a) REITs: The Group is one of the largest REIT managers in Asia (excluding Japan) and currently manages six REITs listed in three countries namely, Fortune REIT dual-listed in Singapore and Hong Kong, Suntec REIT and Cache Logistics Trust listed in Singapore, Hui Xian REIT and Prosperity REIT listed in Hong Kong and AmFIRST REIT listed in Malaysia.

b) Private real estate funds: The Group manages several private funds investing in real estate in Asia.

c) Real estate management services: The Group provides property management services and manages the award-winning Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre.

d) Corporate finance advisory services: The Group has an in-house advisory arm providing corporate finance advisory services to related corporations.

b) EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Lifestyle and Retail
Mr. Douglas Benjamin, COO, F J Benjamin Holdings Ltd

About Douglas Benjamin
Mr. Douglas Benjamin, 48, is the Chief Operating Officer of F J Benjamin Holdings Ltd, a leader in building brands and developing retail and distribution networks for international luxury and lifestyle labels across Asia.

In addition, Mr. Benjamin is also the Co-Creative Director of the Group’s in-house brand RAOUL, heading the Creative & Licensing division where he directs the international expansion of the label and helms the design team in his capacity as Co-Creative Director. Launched in 2002, RAOUL began as a men’s shirt label and has since evolved to include a full collection of complete ready-to-wear for women and men, with uncompromising standards of design and quality. Today, RAOUL has established a strong presence with company-owned stores in Asia, and a wide international network distribution across the US and Europe.

During the last 23 years at F J Benjamin, Mr. Benjamin has been acknowledged as a reputable industry leader who has been instrumental in managing and directing the growth of some of the most iconic global fashion brands. He is well-respected in Singapore as well as the fashion capitals of London and New York for his experience and expertise.

Mr. Benjamin is the co-founder and board member of Kidz Horizon Appeal, which helps children with chronic illnesses. He also sits on the board of trustees for the KK Hospital Health Endowment fund.

About F J Benjamin Holdings Ltd
With a rich heritage dating back to 1959, Singapore Exchange-listed F J Benjamin Holdings Ltd is an industry leader in brand-building and management, and development of retail and distribution networks for international luxury and lifestyle brands across Asia.

Headquartered in Singapore and listed on the Singapore Exchange since November 1996, F J Benjamin has offices in nine cities, manages over 20 iconic brands and operates 166 stores. The Group employs over 2,000 employees and runs four core businesses.

a) Luxury and lifestyle fashion retailing and distribution: F J Benjamin exclusively retails and distributes brands such as Banana Republic, Catherine Deane, Céline, Gap, Givenchy, Goyard, Guess, La Senza, RAOUL, and Sheridan across various territories. Its retail footprint includes Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Australia. It distributes inhouse labels RAOUL and Catherine Deane through points-of-sale across Europe, the US and the Middle East.

b) Timepiece distribution: F J Benjamin exclusively distributes timepiece brands – Bell & Ross, ChronoSwiss, DeWitt, Girard-Perregaux, Gc, Guess, Marc Ecko, Nautica, Rado, Sottomarino and Victorinox Swiss Army across Asia.

c) Creative and design: F J Benjamin’s Creative & Design division has conceptualized and developed house label RAOUL and handles the design and manufacturing of RAOUL.

d) Investing in lifestyle concepts: F J Benjamin strategically invests in iconic lifestyle concepts as part of its search for meaningful value creation opportunities for shareholders and customers. The Group has a significant investment in Catalist-listed St. James Holdings Limited.

c) EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Commercial and Industrial Services
Mr. Martin Gui, Managing Director, Facility Link Pte Ltd

About Martin Gui
Mr. Martin Gui, 37, Managing Director of Facility Link Pte Ltd, established his office furniture supply organization in 1999. Their mission to provide “distinctive quality and unparalleled customer service” garnered them a strong following of repeat clients. Clients recognized these strengths as complementary to their requirements in developing their workspaces, and were supportive when Mr. Gui expanded his suite of services to include interior fit-outs.

Customer service, quality, sustainability, and investment in the future and people are the values Mr. Gui has sought to inculcate. The fact that Facility Link has diversified and evolved into a company with more than 120 dedicated staff and a strong portfolio of multinational clientele providing repeat projects, is evidence of the culture he has established.

A self-motivated and driven man, Mr. Gui engineered the development of a team of staff dedicated towards the achievement of professional and personal goals. His personal motto to “find a way, or build one” has become the operating philosophy for the company. Each staff is focused on overcoming the potential pitfalls, problems and stumbling blocks inherent in all project work with minimal impact to the client.

The desire to succeed, foresight to understand future trends, and boldness to grasp opportunities that arise have propelled Mr. Gui and Facility Link to their present success.

About Facility Link Pte Ltd
Established in 1999, Facility Link Pte Ltd is one of the leading commercial interior fit-out specialists in the market. A strong team with abundant experience in managing the needs of multinational clients has kept Facility Link at the forefront of the office fit-out industry.

Facility Link maintains an extensive in-house factory, certified to ISO and OHSAS standards to deliver the highest standards of precision workmanship, quality assurance and cost control. This dedication to quality and attention to detail extend throughout the entire fit-out process, from site mobilization to final delivery.

Participation in the pilot project for BCA’s Green Mark for Office Interiors has afforded critical insights into sustainability requirements from the builder’s perspective for interior works, and Facility Link has had the privilege of constructing landmark projects certified to the highest local benchmarks. Facility Link is well-poised to be the leader in the local sustainable construction industry.

d) EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Engineering
Dr. Shahzad Nasim, Global CEO, Meinhardt Group International Ltd

About Dr. Shahzad Nasim
64-year-old Dr. Shahzad Nasim's career as a Professional Structural Engineer spans more than three decades. He is responsible for the overall coordination of multidisciplinary professional teams, leading the conceptual designs and overseeing the detail design and construction of major and complex projects undertaken by Meinhardt. He has built a regional reputation for providing highly innovative, buildable and cost-effective solutions for tall buildings and complex infrastructure projects.

As the Global CEO, Dr. Nasim is responsible for the performance of all Meinhardt offices across the globe, client management and providing input to all the major projects undertaken by the Group. Dr. Nasim has been highly instrumental in the Group’s expansion and diversification of its international business as well as forging strategic alliances with other international companies – in complementary areas – to strengthen the company’s market positioning.

The projects led by Dr. Nasim include some of the landmark commercial offices, as well as residential and retail and entertainment complexes such as The Marina Bay Financial Centre (Singapore), The Sail @ Marina Bay (Singapore), One Raffles Quay (Singapore), One Raffles Place (Singapore), The Dubai Mall (Dubai), The River (Bangkok) and Ocean Heights (Dubai).

Dr. Nasim is regularly invited to speak at local and regional conferences and has numerous papers to his credit. He is also actively involved in educational, professional and statutory boards related to the construction industry.

About Meinhardt Group International Ltd
Meinhardt Group, with 35 offices worldwide, provides engineering consultancy in Infrastructure and Environment; Structures; Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP); Project Management; and Planning and Urban Development. Its specialist capabilities cover Façade Engineering; Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD); Specialist and Architectural Lighting; Fire Performance Engineering; Integrated Design Management; and Mission Critical Facility Design.

Annually, Meinhardt undertakes projects worth an estimated US$15b and ranks among the largest independent engineering firms globally by revenue. They have over 3,500 professionals working in offices across Australia, Greater China, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, South Korea, Turkey, Middle East and North Africa, and the UK. Some of its key projects include Marina Bay Financial Centre (Singapore); Gardens by the Bay (Singapore); Changi Airport Terminal 1 Upgrading (Singapore); Xintiandi (China); TAMAR Development (Hong Kong); World Trade Centre 2 (Indonesia); The Dubai Mall (UAE); Virgin Atlantic Hangar (United Kingdom); Essendon Fields - Northern Access (Australia); KL Sentral Station (Malaysia); Saigon River Water Supply - Stage 1 (Vietnam); and the Greater Bangalore Water Supply Distribution Network (India).

e) EY Entrepreneur Of The Year – Business and Consumer Products
Mr. Mohamed Salleh Marican, Founder and CEO, Second Chance Properties Ltd

About Mohamed Salleh Marican
Mr. Mohamed Salleh Marican, 63, is the Founder and CEO of Second Chance Properties Ltd, which retails Malay ladies’ fashion wear and gold jewelry, and invests in property. His entrepreneurial journey started in 1974, when he followed his late father’s footsteps by going into menswear tailoring. However, the business did not take off since he did not have prior experience in tailoring. In 1979, he started Second Chance, retailing men’s ready wear.

The business was extremely successful and by 1983, he had four stores in Singapore, and 25 outlets by 1988 through franchising, with 18 in Singapore and seven in Malaysia. With declining business subsequently, Mr. Salleh decided to change his strategy and moved into the retail of Malay ladies’ fashion wear and later, retail of gold jewelry. Under his leadership, the Group now employs about 200 staff and runs 42 outlets in Singapore and Malaysia. The Group then ventured into the property market in 1999 after the Asian financial crisis and now manages over 70 properties, which contribute significantly to its income stream.

About Second Chance Properties Ltd
Second Chance started as a sole proprietorship in 1975 engaging in the tailoring of men’s garments. Today, it owns the First Lady chain store, which retails traditional Malay ladies fashion wear and Golden Chance, which retails gold jewelry.

In November 1996, Second Chance Enterprise was recognized as one of the Enterprise 50 companies, ranking 14th among Singapore’s top 50 most enterprising privately-owned companies. Andersen Consulting and the Business Times, with the support of the Economic Development Board, compiled the list.

On 24 January 1997 the company was listed on the second board of the Stock Exchange of Singapore known as SESDAQ. It was upgraded to the Main board on 2 March 2004.

In 1997, the Asian financial crisis let to the plummeting of property prices. As prices bottomed out in early 1999, the Group seized the opportunity to invest in retail properties. Thereafter, it changed its name to Second Chance Properties Ltd to reflect its new core business.

Fact sheet B: Judging panel and criteria

Judging panel

  • Dr. Robert Yap
    Chairman and CEO
    YCH Group
    EY EOY 2007 Singapore
  • Tay Liam Wee
    EY EOY 2004 Singapore
  • Olivia Lum
    Executive Chairman and Group CEO
    Hyflux Ltd
    EY WEOY 2011
    EY EOY 2010 Singapore
  • Kenneth Cheong
    Managing Director
    Baring Private Equity Asia Pte Ltd
  • Professor Patrick Turner
    Affiliate Professor of Entrepreneurship
  • Jennie Chua
    Immediate Past Chairman
    Singapore International Chamber of Commerce
  • Png Cheong Boon
    Chief Executive
    SPRING Singapore

Judging criteria

The following six judging criteria sets the global standard adhered to by each and every country participating in the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year awards.

  • Entrepreneurial spirit
    The individual is a risk-taker who sets very high standard and demonstrates an unflinching
    desire and determination to succeed despite significant obstacles.
  • Financial performance
    The business has demonstrated strong financial performance and maintains a good track
    record in raising finance. Coupled with quality investments, the business has the potential for
    long term sustainability.
  • Strategic direction
    The individual not only creates and turns business visions into realities, but also builds strategic
    alliances and empowers talents to achieve common goals.
  • Global impact
    The business has expanded or plans to expand into international markets and has made global
    impact in terms of job creation and improved living economics.
  • Innovation
    The individual has pioneered a new approach or technology, embraces changes and
    continuously innovates.
  • Personal integrity/influence
    The individual earns great respect and is able to communicate ideas and influence the wider
    community. The individual’s enforcement of socially responsible practices seeks to improve the
    quality of life.