Last updated: 13 March 2023

Published on: 14 June 2016


By offering this free service, Mr Abbas has made it easier for people to secure the loan that best matches their individual needs.

Coming from a low-income family and watching his father, a roti prata seller and his mother, a hawker, work two to three jobs to make ends meet, Mr Mohamed Abbas understood from an early age the value of money. While doing his National Service, he got together with some friends to devise a business plan which helps people secure short-term loans from licensed moneylenders at the best possible rates.

Mr Abbas, 25, who has a degree in business with a major in banking and finance from the Nanyang Technological University, was named one of the 300 most influential young entrepreneurs in Asia by Forbes at its Under 30 Summit Asia held in Singapore recently.

Dr Janil Puthucheary, Minister of State for Communications and Information and Education, said Singapore has done well in the area of entrepreneurship. Speaking at the Summit, which was part of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore’s week-long Smart Nation Innovations programme, he noted that “40 per cent of start-up acquisitions in Asia are in Singapore, which is incredible given our size”.

“There were 230 start-ups last year at BASH (Build Amazing Start-ups Here – a facility in One North that provides low-cost incubation facilities for new enterprises) and 60 percent of them are getting follow-up funding," he said.

Of the 30 honorees on the Forbes list, six - including Mr Abbas - were from Singapore. Mr Abbas co-founded Onelyst, a one-stop portal that matches borrowers to licensed moneylenders. Since its launch last March, more than 40 of Singapore’s 170 licensed moneylenders have already registered with the site.

“People just assume that those who need cash quickly are gamblers or financially irresponsible but in truth, most just require a small short-term loan to get them through the rough spots like paying for funeral expenses of a loved one,” said Mr Abbas. “They would not qualify for bank loans and in a period of such distress, many don’t have the time to shop around for the best offers or understand the technical details associated with such loans.”

Mr Abbas

By offering this free service, Mr Abbas has made it easier for people to secure the loan that best matches their individual needs.

Explaining how Onelyst works, Mr Abbas said, “Based on the credit profile and needs of the borrower, the system pings our registered lenders and obtains the best quotes. We also ensure the terms and conditions of the loan are clearly spelt out. This eliminates the need for prospective borrowers to visit multiple websites or contact moneylenders individually, which can be both time-consuming and frustrating. By offering them this free service, people in need of a quick loan would now be able to secure one that best matches their individual needs.”

Like Mr Abbas, the other honorees on the list were also very focused on the social, environmental or business needs that they wanted to address.

  • Tengku Ahmad Syamil co -founded Skolafund, a web portal that helps students afford higher education through crowdfunded scholarships. He is also the cofounder of Urbane Academy, a teen mentoring and training program to combat delinquency.
  • Mr Ted Chen Chiu-Hao co-founded Evercomm Uni-Tech Singapore, a provider of energy management analytics solution. By modelling real-time equipment energy usage and external environmental factors, the company helps large organisations to develop energy saving strategies.
  • Mr Quek Siu Rui and Mr Lucas Ngoo built the popular app Carousell that enables users to post photos and descriptions of things that they want to sell
  • Ms Cynthia Siantar co-founded Call Levels, a finance tracking startup that helps monitor financial and business data.
  • Ms Chan Yi Wen co-founded Bolt Media, a content marketing platform that helps businesses find experienced writers and provides them with tools to effectively manage their content strategies.

Dr Puthucheary said the government will continue to invest in entrepreneurship and help start-ups compete on a global stage and across various domains. “There are some things which lie at the intersection of a number of domains such as Fintech, e-commerce, data protection and data analytics, so we're focusing quite a lot on those issues."

Education, too, plays an important role and the government is working on exposing more students to industry mentorship at an early stage as a way of stimulating Singapore to reinvent itself as a smart economy with jobs and growth driven by innovation.

"Reinvention is a playbook that we know well. We've done this again and again, whether it's trade, oil, water, or moving our manufacturing to high-end manufacturing,” he said. “We don’t want to be pushed about by the winds of change; we want to surf them."