Sim Eng Tong : Embracing Waste

Speaking on the importance of perseverance is easy but actually encountering one failure after another yet still hang in there without being discouraged – now that is true perseverance practiced.

Like many other great entrepreneurs, success did not happen overnight for Sim Eng Tong.

Early Years

Growing up, life was tough for Mr Sim. He was the second youngest child in the family and his father sold pineapples while his mother worked as a maid for a British family. Due to dire circumstances, Mr Sim dropped out of school at age 11 and started working. However, without any academic qualifications, proper skills and a poor grasp of the English language, he could only take up monotonous and labour-intensive jobs, earning as low as $1.20 a day.

He found a job in a welding factory, where he learnt the tricks of the trade quickly and this discovery triggered the entrepreneurial spirit in him.

Borrowing a sum of money from his godmother, Mr Sim set up a small welding company with a business partner. However, he had to sell the company two years later when it was time for him to serve in the army.

After his national service, Mr Sim was ready to embark on a new life.

However, things took a turn and his life went downhill. His father passed away, leaving only a dollar behind. This, coupled with the failure of his first business venture, left Mr Sim in heavy debt. He entered several business undertakings in various industries such as the animal drug industry and bed linen industry, where he earned a fair share of income to get by. However, misfortune fell upon him once more when a customer fled with a large order. Life was not progressing the way he had hoped for and in 1989, he was declared bankrupt.

“It was over 30 years of ceaseless business ventures… I almost lost faith in myself,” the 61-year-old explained.

For anyone, such experiences would have been enough to shatter their spirits, but Mr Sim told himself to view every failure as another learning opportunity.

“It was through these very experiences that I learnt various valuable lessons and prevented myself from making the same mistake twice,” he humbly added.

The Turning Point

Then came a turning point.

While working in the food trading industry, Mr Sim noticed enormous amounts of food wastage, where expired or leftover food would simply be dumped at landfill sites. Back then, Mr Sim understood that landfills in Singapore were diminishing and that propelled him to develop a new type of technology that could convert food waste into a substance that is more valuable. Despite the innovative idea, he did not know where to begin.

It was only in 2004, when Mr Sim met Dr Puah Chum Mok, who has 30 years of research experience in mircrobiology and biochemistry that the development of the technology began. After five years of intensive research and rigorous rounds of tests and trials, they came up with what is today the core business of Biomax – an enzyme catalyst, capable of breaking down organic waste into topgrade fertilisers within 24 hours.

In 2009, Mr Sim incorporated BiomaxTechnologies Pte Ltd with a simple mission toenhance waste management efficiencies and toconvert organic waste into high grade fertilisersin 24 hours. This system addresses the issueson waste management and agriculture in orderto continuously build a sustainable environment.

Come what may

Even then, things were not smooth-sailing. He recalled that one year after the business started, the new technology was still not widely accepted.

“Many people were doubtful as we were a young company and we lacked the track record… No one thought we would survive,” he said. Yet, through his years of experience, Mr Sim did what he knew best – persevere.

“Perseverance triumphs. You will never know how close you are to reaching your goal if you stop trying,” he explained.

“I have no concept of fear. Fear to me is just

a psychological factor that people tend to trap themselves in because of the endless uncertainties they may face. But for me, I was more focused on the desire to realise my innovation at every moment,” he added.

True enough, with his perseverance and fearless attitude, Biomax remains a leading player in the environmental technologies industry and plays a key role in helping the environment.

His efforts truly paid off when he attained double honours: as one of the winners of the Entrepreneur of the Year Award (EYA), and the winner of EYA for Innovation and Technology in 2014.

Today, when he finds himself working under challenging circumstances, Mr Sim is energised instead of discouraged, his spirits uplifted by the same principles he stood by throughout the years – persistence and perseverance. With these principles, he believes he can overcomeany obstacles that come his way.