Building a Smart Nation

National Day Rally 2017: Dropout seizes tech advantage

Mr Syafiq Yussoff started his firm with four workers and two vans.
Mr Syafiq Yussoff started his firm with four workers and two vans.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

When online retail giant Amazon's Prime Now service landed in Singapore last month, it picked home-grown logistics firm Riverwood as its main delivery company.

The brainchild of school dropout Syafiq Yussoff, Riverwood had a rocky start seven years ago, with four workers and two vans. Competition was stiff, but Mr Syafiq pressed on, often joining workers to make deliveries and upgrading operations by tapping technology.

Today, it has more than 60 vehicles, over 120 workers and big-name clients like Sephora.

Mr Syafiq, 33, was one of several success stories in the new economy that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted at his National Day Rally last night.

In his Malay speech, Mr Lee noted how, like Mr Syafiq, more young Malays are taking advantage of IT, and starting new companies in a range of sectors.

Mr Syafiq said Riverwood was born out of a hunch that e-commerce would be the next big thing. He dropped out of a mass communication diploma course because of financial problems, and later attended night classes for a business studies diploma, but stopped out of lack of interest.

He started work as a personal trainer, but after six years saw fresh potential in online shopping: "I may not have much when it comes to formal education, but I am a hard worker and, when I saw the opportunity, I was willing to adapt and learn."

Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2017, with the headline 'Dropout seizes tech advantage'. Print Edition | Subscribe