The entrepreneur speaks to e27 about the challenges Singaporean startups are facing, and how entrepreneurship can help the youth
In 2014, Prakash Somosundram took a sabbatical year that has proven to be beneficial not only to himself, but also to people who need his help.
“The whole idea was to connect with myself and re-look at what to do next,” he says, explaining the reason behind it.
“During the period, I was involved with startup development in Singapore, and I also spent a lot of time with business owners. I learned that a lot of them had trouble getting access to capital. When they go to banks, even if they got approved, they only got a percentage of what they needed,” he adds.
He was then inspired to build Pealo, an SME-focussed fintech platform to help companies access more working capital. Launched this December, the company helps startups connect with potential partners across the region so that they can start monetising from their own platform.
Pealo also provides Executive Dashboard, a single tool that helps entrepreneurs collect data and manage their businesses more conveniently.
“With the tech startup ecosystem, one of the biggest challenges is that a lot of companies have raised money, and they have built a platform, but they are struggling to scale the platform to the point where they can actually monetise it … to actually build a business around them,” Somosundram explains.
Somosundram himself is not a new face in Singapore’s entrepreneurship scene. He co-founded digital agency Yolk in 2001, which handled clients such as Microsoft SEA, Singapore International Foundation and BMW Asia. The agency was later acquired by WPP in 2010, which Somosundram deemed a strategic move.
“Being a part of a larger network means we got to be invited to pitches which are usually not that accessible to independent agencies. It definitely opened up a lot of opportunities for us,” he says.
Entrepreneurship, youth’s saviour
Somosundram is also an advocate of youth issues and of startup promotion in Singapore.
He serves as Vice Chairman of Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE), as well as Board Member of SCAPE with a focus on Youth and Entrepreneurship. He is also serving his second term as District Councillor with North East CDC, particularly in the Children and Youth Committee.
He sees entrepreneurship as a solution to many youth-related issues today.
“The most exciting thing about entrepreneurship is that it allows people to live their dreams, to do impactful work everyday and, at the same time, make money to support their lifestyles,” he says.
He claims that the youth that he has been working with are in businesses for more than just the money.
“They want to make a difference in the world … supporting poverty [alleviation], supporting environment [conservation]. I see that a lot of youths these days do not just want to join the corporate world and scaling the corporate ladder. They want to go out, see the world, and live life to the fullest. Entrepreneurship allows them to design their life,” he explains.
Stakes are high; here’s what to do
Competition is getting tougher nowadays, with Singaporean startups expected to play a greater role in shaping the country’s economy.
Even at his level of experience, Somosundram admits that managing cash flow has always been the greatest challenge.
“Overcoming the challenge of cash flow to grow your business, for us at Yolk when we got acquired and became part of the bigger group, our cash flow becomes more manageable … Without their financial backing it would have been a challenge to grow the business,” he explains.
However, he believes that starting a business is relatively easy nowadays with all the available resources. What really matters is how one can expand it.
“Starting the business itself is not the biggest challenge. The biggest challenge is building a business that is beyond Singapore, minimal in ASEAN, is really where the challenge is,” he said.
Instead of starting from zero, he encourages businesses to look at existing ecosystems and see where they can jump in to help by becoming a partner.
“Build a business around partnership with small and large companies. Something that is highly scalable, that can bring you throughout the region,” he says.
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