SINGAPORE - The ballroom belonged to the heartlands on Friday as Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam honoured 56 small business owners for their enterprise and service to the local community.
The second annual Singapore Heartland Enterprise Star awards, organised by the Federation of Merchants' Associations Singapore and evening paper Lianhe Wanbao, was held at the Shangri-La Hotel.
Calling Friday's awards the "most meaningful" of all business wards, Mr Tharman said: "Our heartland enterprises are not just economic enterprises. they are economic, they are social, and they are part of our culture."
But Mr Tharman also emphasised that these small businesses must be a source of innovation, as Singapore presses forth with its "restructuring journey".
"In order to make sure that heartland enterprises are part of our future, we have to make sure that they are able to innovate and survive," he told the dinner gathering in a keynote speech.
"We must focus more on real innovations, not just simple solutions such as purchases of basic IT devices like laptops," he said, adding that the Government will step up support for innovation through targeted help for firms.
Mr Tharman also lauded some of the awardees for their innovative approaches to traditional business. Among them was incense and candle company Lijay Tradings.
"They realised they needed to capture a younger customer base in their traditional business segment, so they created a range of creative and personalised products such as mandarin orange, peach and pineapple-shaped incense targeting younger customers, and grew their sales in the process," said Mr Tharman.