The man whose company runs the largest collection of business awards in Singapore has spoken up to defend his business.
"We are a legitimate business, not a scam," said Mr Alex Yeo, chief executive of the Singapore Enrich Group, which has created 10 business awards such as the Singapore Excellence Award and the Singapore Trusted Quality Brand.
He made the remarks after a Sunday Times report identified him as the biggest player in the unregulated business of creating and handing out "industry" awards.
These awards are not handed out by industry associations or endorsed by government bodies, but are created by private firms. Companies typically pay $5,000 to $15,000 to have their businesses featured in a journal and to attend a dinner if they accept an award.
The 46-year-old said the report has hurt his business, with as many as 15 award winners cancelling their contracts within days after the report was published.
"My competitors showed the newspaper report to my clients and said I was running a scam," said Mr Yeo. He declined to name his competitors. "If I was running a scam, I would not have more than 500 companies supporting me since I started the business."
He acknowledged that the business of creating awards may be seen as controversial, but he noted that the award winners knew they were paying for publicity.
Mr Yeo said he had only four employees when he started his business and there are now about 40 people working for him. "I am running a serious business. My staff would not have stayed with me if I was not," he said.
Business registry records showed that the businessman registered the Singapore Enrich Group in 2012 with a paid-up capital of $100,000.
On having MPs hand out the awards at lavish dinners, Mr Yeo said the dinners were held for business networking purposes. In the past four years, at least seven MPs have attended dinners organised by his company.
He also defended the increase in the number of awards, saying this was to meet the demand of his customers. "They said that if they were to hang their awards on the wall, they would all be the same every year, so they asked me to create more awards ," he said.
The company contributes to the community, said Mr Yeo. He said he has donated $6,000 to $30,000 to charities such as the Jamiyah Children's Home, Lee Ah Moi Old Age Home and the Singapore Children's Society.
Other private companies that have created business awards not supported by the Government include the Singapore Resource Association, Promising SME 500, Singapore Business Incorporation and Asia Business Journal.
Statutory board Spring Singapore has advised firms to check before accepting any award.