By Ruchira Ramaswamy (20S03A) and Rachael Koh (20S07C)
Photos by Koh Jia Hao (20S06M)
“Healthcare is the toughest of all the sectors, should you decide to venture into entrepreneurship.”
Professor Lawrence Ho, an accomplished endoscopist cum co-founder of medical robotics company EndoMaster©, put forth his frank opinion as such in his keynote speech, standing at the podium in the Performing Arts Centre. Sharing briefly about his journey as an entrepreneur and the obstacles faced in this industry, he concluded his address by rallying youth to find their passions and innovate. Attendees of the Raffles Business Symposium 2019 applauded him, sitting in anticipation of what was to follow. The theme this year was Healthcare —which has always been applicable to our society, and is more so now than ever, in light of ballooning issues such as ageing populations, and antibiotic resistance. But finding solutions to these problems, and many more, is no piece of cake.
Firstly, it is extremely time consuming. It may take up to 10 years to even see any innovative efforts bear fruit. As a result, the sector sorely lacks investors as they are hesitant to take part in projects with such high stakes. Furthermore, strong evidence is needed to persuade everyone, from investors to customers, that your product is worth it. Even if you manage to push past these odds, get the necessary investors, and have ample research to back up your invention, you may find that while it works theoretically, it does not work in real life! As such, it is extremely difficult to adopt these innovations on a sufficiently large scale.
To allow students to truly understand and experience the entrepreneurial process, students from all schools aged 15-21 years were tasked to come up with a business proposal and plan under the overarching theme of healthcare. After a stringent round of proposal-vetting by the judges, the finalists had been invited to present their ideas.
Not only did the participants in the competition experience what it was like to face these problems, they also had the privilege of gathering insightful comments from the judges, who are veterans in the field of entrepreneurship. Professor Ho, Dr Beng Teck Liang (a leader in the information technology and healthcare sector across the Asia Pacific), as well as Mr Jed Senthil (co-founder of ONEathlete) comprised this illustrious judging panel.
Two teams from RGS, one from RI, one from SJI and another from ACS had made it into the final round, but who would clinch the honour of having the most comprehensive, compelling, and innovative business plan? Though the judging panel was accepting of the fact that these students are aspiring amateurs, their expectations of the teams were not unambitious. With just 10 minutes on the clock for pitching—inclusive of their product’s distinguishing features, finance, logistics and business execution—as well as five minutes of Q&A to further market their idea, the teams were faced with a daunting task. Intent on challenging the students and stretching their limits, the judges were particularly candid with their comments, both the good and the bad. Undeterred, all the teams put up an admirable defence by being quick on their feet and taking everything in stride.
The first team to present was Team Officium from SJI. Starting off their pitch with a crisp yet poignant video, they highlighted the national issue that no one is a stranger to—our ageing population, and particularly the struggles of senior citizens with deteriorating health who live alone. This set the stage for them to introduce their mobile application, Carebuddy, which offered affordable elderly care services. Determined to make themselves stand out, they conducted a mini demonstration with a mock-up of their app, and it was no surprise that the judges were impressed by this show of dedication!
Next, we had Team Ancora from RI. Extremely confident from the get go, they began by introducing their problem—the mental health taboo in Singapore. Currently, professional help, such as seeking psychiatrists or counsellors, is stigmatised, and online help may provide unreliable information. Hence, their solution was to develop an application, Psych. They hoped to nip issues like stress in the bud by creating virtual support groups as studies have shown that sharing problems alleviates stress. These groups could be formed either through a common organisation or a common issue. The team did not falter in their confidence as they introduced these features or even during the dreaded Q&A segment, giving compelling answers. It was evident that they had good knowledge of their sphere, and a well-thought-out plan. All their effort paid definitely off when they received glowing compliments from the judges for finding a good angle and niche to work from.
The third team was Team Chicken Wings from RGS, whose topic was podiatry, or more simply put, medical foot care. Despite Singapore’s imminent issue of an ageing population, podiatry needs are not sufficiently catered to. They proposed a foot care centre, including facilities like a reflexology path and electric foot massages. It would also offer both general treatment and specialised treatment for podiatric cases, which would be run by volunteers trained in basic procedures and a qualified podiatrist respectively. The group, consisting of some of the youngest competitors, had come extremely well prepared with extensive research done on the different costs of running a clinic, wowing the judges with their realistic financial breakdown.
Team Lucentive from ACSI followed, targeting the lack of medical adherence. They proposed an application where doctors can input the patient’s required medical dosage and monitor patients’ compliance through videographic or photographic evidence. This would, hopefully, prevent the relapse of medical conditions. Though they elicited praise for their attention to detail, the team received plenty to constructive criticism to mull over, such as the need to consider funding and launch timeline.
The final team was Team JCSX2 from RGS, with the project title ‘Ready, Steady, Baby!’. They began with a small and lively skit, humorously capturing the problems a pregnant woman faces, like body aches, frequent contractions, mood swings and inexplicable cravings. This was a welcome and much-needed bit of entertainment to keep everyone perked up for the last presentation of the day. Team JCSX2 strove to empower pregnant women with a maternity belt and an application, named after their project, that would work jointly to give mothers a peace of mind. The maternity belt, made of a flexible lightweight cotton, would track vital health levels of the fetus, while the application would have various functions, such as sending health data to gynecologists and engaging the mothers-to-be with bite-sized information about pregnancy. The team had thoroughly astounded with their attention to detail, further winning over the judges with their inventive introduction.
As the competition finally drew to an end, the judges stepped out to make their decision, giving the teams and the audience a well-deserved break. Casual chatter broke out as everyone was buzzing with tidbits of information and discussing the novel ideas presented.
Soon enough, the judges concluded their discussion and returned with the results in their hands. Despite this, the atmosphere in the Performing Arts Centre was relaxed and devoid of tension. This truly embodied the learners’ spirit and open mindset, which Mr Senthil later lauded in his post-competition address. Building up the suspense, he announced the rankings starting with the runners-up:
- 2nd runners up: Team Ancora from RI
- 1st runners up: Team JCSX2 from RGS
- Champion: Team Officium from SJI
Needless to say, the winning team was euphoric and bounded onstage to receive the well-deserved gleaming gold trophy and a cash prize of $400. In a heartwarming display of camaraderie, participants from other school congratulated Team Officium heartily, with excited handshakes and brotherly pats on the back.
When asked about the most gratifying part about this journey, “Winning, obviously!” was the tongue-in-cheek response that the team had. Amidst giddy laughter, the team members, Mark Chew, Martin Ng, Christian Asher Widjaja, and Joshua Lim, conceded that as friends, working together on their project was equally rewarding. Of course, they had their fair share of challenges leading up to this big win—staying up till 3am to pore over the project, filling out the nitty gritty details of a proposal and deciding their area of focus. “We only came up with this topic, like, a month before,” one of the boys admitted.