The charismatic CEO of Asia Pacific University Sdn Bhd Datuk Parmjit Singh has been named the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year (EOY) 2021 Malaysia. Emerging victorious from a coterie of 13 top entrepreneurs in four categories, Parmjit, 63, will represent Malaysia and join more than 60 other country winners to compete for the coveted EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year (WEOY) award at the annual WEOY event in June this year. Held virtually for the second consecutive time, the EOY Malaysia 2021 awards celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
“I didn’t expect it, but I am delighted and excited and, also, gratified for the recognition,” says Parmjit, who emerged winner of the Master Entrepreneur category as well. “This win is not an individual win; all successful entrepreneurs are supported by a good organisation and excellent staff and I would like to say I have had a wonderful community supporting me — they are the major part of my success. The participation experience was really rewarding, as it gave me the opportunity to reflect on previous experiences, what I’ve been through, and this doesn’t normally happen. It was rewarding to think back over the last 40 years, challenges, fortunate events and opportunities that we came across and seized or let go — it was an interesting journey.”
Led by his pioneering spirit, Parmjit conceptualised the establishment of Malaysia’s first technology focused institute — the Asia Pacific Institute of Technology & Innovation (APIIT) — in 1993. Under his visionary leadership, the APIIT Education Group has evolved into the country’s leading education enterprise and a globally recognised brand, boasting a portfolio of over 100 academic programmes and more than 13,000 students. Today, APU’s global footprint extends to over 130 countries, attracting more than 6,000 international students with its high-quality and affordable education.
Philip Rao, partner, Ernst & Young Consulting Sdn Bhd and EOY Malaysia programme director, says, “Datuk Parmjit’s story is one of inspiring vision, perseverance and determination. A pioneer in technology-focused education, he has successfully grown APU into an education powerhouse. Today, APU is recognised globally for significant talent output, skills development and high employability for the global digital economy. Datuk Parmjit also plays an instrumental role in advising and influencing Malaysia’s policies and strategies in the areas of technology, human resource and talent development in the higher education sector.”
The other winners are Ang E Xing Xian, Darrel Ang, Dion Tan and Edwin Tan of financing platform Bay Group Holdings, Ooi Lay Pheng, who founded Penang-based Berjayapak Sdn Bhd, and Datuk Foong Wei Kuong of test solution interface provider JF Technologies, representing the Emerging, Women and Technology categories respectively.
Winners were selected by an independent team of judges headed by Datuk Hazimah Zainuddin, managing director of Hyrax Oil Sdn Bhd. “Datuk Parmjit is a transformative leader, who is committed to purpose, innovation and charting new paths not just for his business, but for the industry at large. The judging panel was impressed with his deep passion for education, technology and in developing the next generation of skilled talent. His dedication to the pursuit of purpose beyond profits and creating impact locally and far beyond our borders is a great example of the power of an unstoppable entrepreneur who is helping to build a better working world for all. We have no doubt that Datuk Parmjit will do Malaysia proud at the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year.
“Overall, we were very impressed with the quality of the Top Nominees this year. They have shown great foresight, resilience and determination to pursue their purpose to build and grow their business sustainably despite the unprecedented challenges facing them today,” she adds.
The seven-strong judging panel consists of industry experts as well as former EOY winners, who include Karex CEO Goh Mah Kiat and founder and CEO of Aerodyne Group Kamarul A Muhamed. They join executive director of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Secretariat Tan Sri Dr Rebecca Sta Maria, CEO of Bursa Malaysia Datuk Muhamad Umar Swift, AEON Group chief merchandising officer, WOMENgirls founder Low Ngai Yuen and Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) chief marketing officer Raymond Siva.
“All the nominees are really top-notch entrepreneurs — I was so inspired reading about their challenges and successes,” Kamarul, who was last year’s EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Malaysia, says. “I believe they represent the top echelon of entrepreneurs in Malaysia and it was so exciting to engage with them. I’m very happy for the winner this year and I would say to him: go out and enjoy the win and, as part of our journey is to give back and now that the spotlight is on us, it’s up to us to bring about change to the society and the industry we are in.”
Indeed, this is something Parmjit has been doing since the start of his career in higher education. “Contribution to society is the crux of what I’ve been doing for the last four decades,” he shares. “I have always wanted to give back to society, and I knew a long time ago that when it comes to education, not everyone can get a place in a public university. There was already a cry for an alternative system from the late 1970s. My journey has been to provide top-class education at a level that will remain affordable for the middle-income group — they need the help as they are not adequately endowed to send their kids away for university, but also do not qualify for help.”
His win is a meaningful one indeed as the EOY programme celebrates 20 years in Malaysia, and Rao is pinning the trajectory of its evolution on a new generation of innovative entrepreneurs with a hunger for success beyond our borders. “I’ve seen the evolution of this programme from the time we didn’t have as much digital technology. In its 20th year, we see a significant move to digitisation, even bricks-and-mortar companies are online now. To me, this is hugely significant!
“When the pandemic started, we were considering cancelling the programme, but lo and behold, so many businesses have actually thrived! I believe it’s because it has given them an opening to capitalise on new technology to grow. It is going to really change the business models for this country. Entrepreneurs are going to become more global than ever before because there is no reason not to be.” To many more years of change, disruption and creativity ahead.
The Edge is the media partner of EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Malaysia 2021. To find out more about the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year (EOY) Malaysia awards programme, click here.
This article first appeared on Feb 28, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.