It Changed My Life: School dropout cleans up his act - and becomes CEO

Cleaning firm boss picks himself up after being made bankrupt and going to jail twice

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Mr Vernon Kwek dropped out of secondary school to become a cleaner. He went through bankruptcy and jail, but is now the CEO of a cleaning company with 3,000 employees and monthly sales of about $12 million.
After many trials and tribulations, Mr Vernon Kwek, 48, is now CEO of Primech, a cleaning company which hires nearly 3,000 employees and has an annual turnover of about $80 million. Its list of clients includes the Changi Airport Group, UOB and about
After many trials and tribulations, Mr Vernon Kwek, 48, is now CEO of Primech, a cleaning company which hires nearly 3,000 employees and has an annual turnover of about $80 million. Its list of clients includes the Changi Airport Group, UOB and about 25 luxury hotels including Ritz-Carlton and Fairmont. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE KIAT
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When he was a child, Mr Vernon Kwek's mother used to sing him a Chinese ditty.

"Na li die dao, na li pa," he recites the refrain in Mandarin. It is an exhortation to pick oneself up if one falls to the floor.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 28, 2019, with the headline It Changed My Life: School dropout cleans up his act - and becomes CEO. Subscribe