Innovative business ideas will get help to come to fruition

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling and Pro-Enterprise Panel director Eugene Toh taking part in an exercise conducted by The Gym Pod's founder Damian Chow (left) during a tour of its gym in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park yesterday. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Innovative business ideas are an important driver of growth, particularly in the current economic downturn, said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling.

To this end, the Government remains committed to providing resources and helping to bring these ideas to fruition, especially those that do not fit neatly into existing regulatory frameworks, she added.

She was speaking to reporters after a visit to The Gym Pod at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park yesterday.

The 24-hour unmanned container gym company's latest expansion into two public parks last month was a result of help from the Pro-Enterprise Panel (PEP) under the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).

The PEP, set up in 2000, collaborates with government agencies and businesses to streamline rules with the aim of reducing the regulatory burden.

Ms Low said that as the economy evolves amid the Covid-19 pandemic, more business models that cut across multiple domains might emerge.

"Each of these new business models with innovative business concepts may not fall neatly in any existing regulatory framework. It may cut across a few regulatory frameworks. So this is where the PEP will play a very important role," she said.

Since 2000, the PEP has received over 2,000 business ideas as well as feedback on regulations.

Other successful examples that have come to fruition with the PEP's help include the Decathlon Singapore Lab store, which opened last year, and Shipping Container Hotel, which offers stays in unusual locations and was launched earlier this year.

The Gym Pod's founder Damian Chow said that without the PEP's help, it would have had to talk to multiple agencies separately.

"It might have been a very long process because we don't know who to talk to. With PEP and MTI, it helped us to smooth out the communication and make this process much faster," he said.

  • 2,000

    At least this number of business ideas as well as feedback on regulations have been received by the Pro-Enterprise Panel since 2000.

He added that the whole process - from evaluation to rolling out the two gyms in public parks - took about nine months, although there were some delays due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Gym Pod was launched in June 2018 and now has eight gyms in total. Users can book sessions online and control gym facilities via a mobile app; only one or two people are allowed at a time in each pod.

Other Covid-19 precautions the gym has taken include requiring users to complete a travel and sickness declaration form and scanning their temperature with a no-touch device before using the gym.

The number of users has risen since phase two of Singapore's reopening began in June, compared with the pre-circuit breaker, said Mr Chow, 35.

"Our concept was meant for privacy. Fortunately, it also caters for safe distancing because you're not sharing the same space with another person. Because of this, we saw our bookings go up after the circuit breaker, compared with before."

While each pod was used for an average of 10 to 11 hours a day before the circuit breaker, this has increased to 14 to 16 hours a day now. The increase is also partly due to the gym's greater visibility at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio and Punggol parks, Mr Chow added.

The Gym Pod aims to evaluate and launch gyms in three more parks in the next few months, and to open 100 gyms in the next two years.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2020, with the headline Innovative business ideas will get help to come to fruition. Subscribe