Thriving in the Age of Disruption

Mindset for Success - There is No Problem in the World that Cannot Be Solved: Prof. Inderjit Singh (Singapore)

October 26, 2022 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra & Prof. Inderjit Singh Season 1 Episode 24
Mindset for Success - There is No Problem in the World that Cannot Be Solved: Prof. Inderjit Singh (Singapore)
Thriving in the Age of Disruption
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Thriving in the Age of Disruption
Mindset for Success - There is No Problem in the World that Cannot Be Solved: Prof. Inderjit Singh (Singapore)
Oct 26, 2022 Season 1 Episode 24
Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra & Prof. Inderjit Singh

Dr. Ramesh meets with Prof. Inderjit Singh Dhaliwal, who brings his varied experience as a multinational company leader, a serial entrepreneur, a policymaker, an educator, and an author to this conversation.

An avid champion for entrepreneurship, Prof. Inderjit certainly walks the talk, having started multiple companies and being involved in social, political and educational initiatives to support entrepreneurship.

In this episode, Dr. Ramesh dives into Prof. Inderjit's mindset for success, especially his belief that there's no problem in the world that cannot be solved. Prof. Inderjit also shares about his book The Art and Science of Entrepreneurship, which details his entrepreneurial journey and translates his practical experience and insights into theory, to provide useful lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs.

To learn more about the entrepreneurial mindset, get your copy of The Art and Science of Entrepreneurship by Prof. Inderjit Singh on, and The Big Jump into Entrepreneurship 2.0 by Dr. Ramesh at

Host: Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra, Author, Podcast Host and Founder of Talent Leadership Crucible
Guest Speaker: Prof. Inderjit Singh Dhaliwal, President at WBAF Global Startup Committee, Founder & CEO of Solstar International Pte Ltd

#EntrepreneurialMindset #Singapore #Technopreneur #Entrepreneur #InderjitSingh #Dr.RameshRamachandra #TheBigJumpintoEntrepreneurship2.0 #CrisisReadyMindset #TalentLeadershipCrucible #Thriving #AgeofDisruption #Solstar #WBAF #NTU #WorldEntrepreneurshipForum #CEO #President #Founder #TexasInstruments #UTAC #NTUitive #InfinitiSolutions #MemberofParliament #MP

Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Ramesh meets with Prof. Inderjit Singh Dhaliwal, who brings his varied experience as a multinational company leader, a serial entrepreneur, a policymaker, an educator, and an author to this conversation.

An avid champion for entrepreneurship, Prof. Inderjit certainly walks the talk, having started multiple companies and being involved in social, political and educational initiatives to support entrepreneurship.

In this episode, Dr. Ramesh dives into Prof. Inderjit's mindset for success, especially his belief that there's no problem in the world that cannot be solved. Prof. Inderjit also shares about his book The Art and Science of Entrepreneurship, which details his entrepreneurial journey and translates his practical experience and insights into theory, to provide useful lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs.

To learn more about the entrepreneurial mindset, get your copy of The Art and Science of Entrepreneurship by Prof. Inderjit Singh on, and The Big Jump into Entrepreneurship 2.0 by Dr. Ramesh at

Host: Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra, Author, Podcast Host and Founder of Talent Leadership Crucible
Guest Speaker: Prof. Inderjit Singh Dhaliwal, President at WBAF Global Startup Committee, Founder & CEO of Solstar International Pte Ltd

#EntrepreneurialMindset #Singapore #Technopreneur #Entrepreneur #InderjitSingh #Dr.RameshRamachandra #TheBigJumpintoEntrepreneurship2.0 #CrisisReadyMindset #TalentLeadershipCrucible #Thriving #AgeofDisruption #Solstar #WBAF #NTU #WorldEntrepreneurshipForum #CEO #President #Founder #TexasInstruments #UTAC #NTUitive #InfinitiSolutions #MemberofParliament #MP

To learn more about the entrepreneurial mindset, get your copy of The Art and Science of Entrepreneurship by Prof. Inderjit Singh on, and The Big Jump into Entrepreneurship 2.0 by Dr. Ramesh at

Host: Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra, Author, Podcast Host and Founder of Talent Leadership Crucible
Guest Speaker: Prof. Inderjit Singh Dhaliwal, President at WBAF Global Startup Committee, Founder & CEO of Solstar International Pte Ltd

#EntrepreneurialMindset #Singapore #Technopreneur #Entrepreneur #InderjitSingh #Dr.RameshRamachandra #TheBigJumpintoEntrepreneurship2.0 #CrisisReadyMindset #TalentLeadershipCrucible #Thriving #AgeofDisruption #Solstar #WBAF #NTU #WorldEntrepreneurshipForum #CEO #President #Founder #TexasInstruments #UTAC #NTUitive #InfinitiSolutions #MemberofParliament #MP

Ho Lai Yun  00:00

Hello and welcome to Thriving in the Age of Disruption. Today, Dr. Ramesh meets with Prof. Inderjit Singh Dhaliwal, who has a rare combination of experiences as multinational company leader, serial entrepreneur, policymaker, educator, and author. Prof. Inderjit is an avid champion for entrepreneurship; and he certainly walks the talk, having started multiple companies and being involved in social, political and educational initiatives to support entrepreneurship. Amongst the many hats that Prof. Inderjit wears, he's currently President at the World Business Angel Forum, Global Start-up Committee, and Founder and CEO of Solstar International.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  00:40

I first met Inderjit Singh in 2001, when I was going to list my technology company, and he joined us on the Board. Today I met him to discuss "Thriving in the Age of Disruption" for the podcast series. So join me and hear more about what he has to say about his journey, as well as the book The Art and Science of Entrepreneurship, which is essentially about distilling his own experience into practical knowledge. 

 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  01:08

It's really our honour to have you here and to hear from you. 

 Inderjit Singh  01:12

Thanks, Ramesh for inviting me today. It's nice to meet again, after such a long time. I'm Inderjit, I'm an entrepreneur. In anything that I have done in life, I've thought like an entrepreneur. So whether I was working in a multinational, started a company, or in politics, I've thought out of the box and challenged the conventional and try to change. And that's what I am, that I believe that we can always make things better, that this is a philosophy that I practice. One of the most important things for me is that I believe that there is no problem in the world that cannot be solved. And I think as long as we can live with this kind of a spirit, then the world can become a better place. We won't just be stuck at where we are, we will go to do more things. Having done all of these things, I'm focusing on now trying to see others succeed, and this is what I work with start-up entrepreneurs, I work with some professors in the university to create companies out of the ideas that they have created. And so this are some of the things that I enjoy doing right now, while I focus on solidifying my African business.

 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  02:05

You have worn many hats, you've been a career-preneur, and demonstrated that in a very big way in how you have monetised ideas in organisations. You've done that as a founder and an entrepreneur, from raising money to building out large companies. And you've done that in a social context as well, both as a community leader, politician, and later on as a global advocate for entrepreneurship. 

 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  02:29

Let's start off with asking you what do you think about an entrepreneurial mindset? And more importantly, how did you unleash that for yourself?

 Inderjit Singh  02:39

I know how entrepreneurs think. It is one that does not think like an ordinary person. Alright, so for you to be able to do things that are different from what others will normally do, I think that defines an entrepreneurial mindset. Another way is that it defies logic. So, I call it 'thinking with the heart and not with the head' sometimes. You cannot kind of explain the logic behind some of the decisions that entrepreneurs make. But the end of it, the outcome is good, right? So, I think doing things differently from others is probably the best definition of an entrepreneurial mindset.

 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  03:08

So how did it happen for you?

 Inderjit Singh  03:09

I did have the pioneering spirit in me. I started many things. I took on a leadership position. If I go back a bit when I was going to junior college, I had the choice to go to an established JC or go to a brand new JC. At that time, I was the first - First batch of students in CJC. So, I had a pioneering spirit. We had to build everything - student organisations - from scratch. And then when I went to the university, I was also a pioneer in NTU, at that time was NTI. I had the choice to stay in NUS or go to NTI, I decided to go to NTI and again, started student organisations and many other things. Later on, when I did my MBA, which was done in Singapore with University of Strathclyde, I was also the first batch to do the MBA. So, I had many of these things going for me where the pioneering effort and spirit kind of also built in me. I just naturally did things that way. You know, they're not just following the order that was there, but to think differently and solve problems differently from what other people used to do, as engineers. 

 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  04:06

You've just highlighted something really insightful - that pioneering spirit. It was sheer coincidence, perhaps, that you had those opportunities, a kind of resourcefulness to cope with a new thing, to bring structure, to organise activities. How come we can't replicate that in our education system?

 Inderjit Singh  04:25

I think it's okay if we don't have everyone have a pioneering spirit, but we can have some form of entrepreneurship skills programs, if we can expose our children early, from secondary school onward. I think we still can develop some of these. And it's not just running a cafe business in the school, which many of them do but it's really to solve problems differently from how things are solved. For 13 years, I was in Texas Instruments, I solved many problems, created many things that normally many engineers would not have done. So similarly, I think if let's say we can have this creative or critical thinking kind of activities in school, maybe we can have many more exposed who can become entrepreneurs in the future.

 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  05:01

You're actually calling out to something more important in the sense that we have an innate curiosity about things and be willing to explore even out-of-the-box solutions for that, and perhaps invest in critical thinking or creative thinking skill sets.

 Inderjit Singh  05:17

So even in Texas Instruments, I was a problem-solver. So many problems that the engineers could not solve, I was assigned. I moved from one department to another to help people solve problems and the reason I could solve these problems that others could not is that I had one belief in me, that there is no problem in the world that cannot be solved. So, when I start with that mindset, that any problem that comes to me I'll solve it, the outcome may be different, but I'll be able to do that. So, this is something that I did along the way that allowed me to experiment and do things differently from others. In fact, even going earlier than that, when I was doing my six months of internship in Texas Instruments, as a student. I was assigned to a project by my boss, telling me that"Why don't you do this? It's a programming coding thing. After six months, if you can't finish, we will hand it over to an engineer to follow up." I finished that job in three months. And then I had nothing else to do. I went to automate their library system, and I did all of those things.

 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  06:07


 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  06:11

At Texas Instruments, you had a great opportunity to actually try out this pioneering, entrepreneurial mindset because you came up with a solution to recycle what was going to be waste. And it was before sustainability movement started, can you share a little bit about that whole experience? 

 Inderjit Singh  06:28

Well, coming to sustainability, the company was losing a lot of money. And we used to have regular meetings, we call it 'Quality Improvement Team', on how can we solve the problems to come back to profitability. Now, most of the companies was looking at the bottom part of it, which is the cost part of it. So, this was the kind of things that we used to do in our meetings. Then it dawned on me looking at our rag and bone men, the karang guni men. These people wearing Rolex watches, driving Mercedes cars, they were collecting trash from people’s houses, and then that became treasure for them, right? So, they became very rich. This was what came in my mind - that I have lots of scrap that I am throwing away. Why don't I try to create something valuable or at least, rather than just trying to look at the cost, instead of looking at the bottom part of the equation, I look at the top part of the equation? Can I create revenue now? And so that was the idea, looking at how trash can be converted. And then I started thinking about potential ideas. I'll give you an example, those days in our answering machine, you had recording tapes, that would be replaced by memory DRAMs, right? In Texas Instruments, when I test, even if one byte of a DRAM fails, I have to throw it away. Scraps, I cannot use it. But if there are even a few 1,000 bytes failing in the DRAM and I put them in answering machines, I will still be able to record - whatever failure, it's just noise only. So that's one example of a solution that I discovered, that I can still use it, I just have to test it a bit differently and make it pass, and then it can pass for that. So similarly, there were many applications like that that I had thought about, and that became almost 250 million US dollar business at 90% profit margin, because this was good. 

 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  07:55

Wow. That's huge. Because today there is this sustainability movement, circular economy, and how companies reuse, recycle or repurpose natural resources, which get wasted if you don't put it back into the system. And you've done that in the 1990s because you were curious, not just to look at, "How do I minimise the costs? How do I actually look at creating a new revenue stream?" And that's flipping the problem. 

 Inderjit Singh  08:23

Flipping the problem, yeah. So, our sustainability efforts, we all should be flipping the problem. And look at what we can do and look at what positive we can get out of it, not just how to solve the bottom part of the problem.

 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  08:33

That's right, we've become so immersed in that problem that we forget to zoom out. 

 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  08:43

How did you go about starting your first business? Because you were so successful in your corporate career, what had you said, "Okay, now I want to go and try something new?"

 Inderjit Singh  08:51

I spent 13 years in TI (Texas Instruments). And in 13 years, I did nine different jobs, some promotions, some lateral moves. I was very fortunate to have had a view of everything. At the same time, I was very much an expert in the Semiconductor industry. And I saw a change happening, which was that companies like Texas Instruments in the past used to invest in assets, wafer fabs, and factories. But then that investment is just too high sometimes. There was then an emerging group of companies just focusing on the value add of the IC industry, which was the design. They came up with ideas, that design, and they left someone else to do the production, like TSMC and GlobalFoundries. So, they outsource the manufacturing part of the whole process. And I saw this trend increasing in Texas Instruments when you're doing all internally, but I saw some of the new design houses that came about that they will never build a factory, but they'll need someone to build the product. There were already a couple of players in the industry, but that was still in the very early stages of this trend. And so that was an opportunity that I saw, and I started working on this plan, do my own start-up that will do, not a wafer fab, because I was more an expert in the packaging and testing - my domain knowledge that I have. So, I focus on that area, and I started up planning that and then the rest is history. 

 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  10:01

So then, you saw a change happening in the marketplace, the writing on the wall. 

 Inderjit Singh  10:05


 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  10:06

And that's the first for an entrepreneur. Because if you can't see the opportunity, then there is no way you can actually seize it.

 Inderjit Singh  10:13

Yes. So, entrepreneurs normally see it first before others, right?

 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  10:17

And then of course, obviously, you have to take action, which is what you did. You started planning and putting the pieces together of actually launching the business. Wonderful.

 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  10:25

When you look at your corporate career, and you look at your entrepreneurial journey, is there anything that you still want to do about that journey? 

 Inderjit Singh  10:34

I've been quite happy with the outcome of all in my companies that I've worked on. What I prefer to do right now is to enable the future-generation entrepreneurs. So, I'm actually working with some entrepreneurs to create companies and to work with them to share my experiences, and then hopefully bring the success that I've had to other entrepreneurs. So, I think that is more important than doing more of my own. Yeah, but there's also of course, the company that I started together with my brothers in 1997, it's my family business, even before I went to start UTAC. That company does business in Africa. There's huge potential in Africa. One of the things I want to do is to get that business foundation stronger, and then enable more Singapore companies to go into Africa. Entering to Africa is a very tough thing but using my platforms in Africa to go in will be easier for them so I want to enable other Singapore companies to enter Africa. 

 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  11:22

Through your platform. It's actually quite unique that you have started in your generation a family business. And a definition of a family business is that you at least have two members from the same family, and own at least a minimum 15% of shares, be involved in the ownership as well as in the management. What had you think about going into business with your brothers? 

 Inderjit Singh  11:44

This was in 1997, when the Asian financial crisis happened. At that point of time, my elder brother had African experience, he was already doing business in Africa, working for another company. So, he had that domain knowledge and deep connections in Africa and understanding of how to do business in Africa. And I think, in his career, he was kind of almost at the peak, he was doing okay. And I spoke with him because I saw the potential of Africa. By 2050, there will be 2 billion people in Africa, youngest population in the world, most resource-rich continent. And so the potential is great. So, I had discussed with my brother and asked if he wanted to do it together because I saw the potential, and then using his expertise, and my younger brother was also working with him. And so, we thought that with our expertise, if we can arrange the financing, that would be something worth doing for our generation. I saw the long-term vision, there was domain knowledge, and so the starting was not difficult. I've had the corporate experience in the start-up. 

 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  12:35

Yes, so you had a thinking process being developed over time, to navigate uncertainty.

 Inderjit Singh  12:41

Yeah, so my brothers were running most of the business, I was doing my own UTAC. And then I was in Infiniti Solutions, which was Silicon Valley based. After I exited all of those, I came back, trying to bring the corporate structures into the business. So they are experts in Africa, but I can bring in the corporate structure and the strategies. 

 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  12:58

So, in Tri-Star and Solstar, you started off as a distributor of other consumer electronic products. And then over time, you became a manufacturer and you've created a brand there. What was the biggest challenges that you had to overcome? 

 Inderjit Singh  13:12

The initial challenge for us was financing. When we started during the Asian financial crisis, no banks were willing to finance but we managed to gather our own family savings, and then used my house as collateral to high risk, and then that got us started. So that's the first challenge that was financing. Today, economy seems to be a challenge, because Singapore banks are reluctant to finance the African part of the business is a great challenge. Now we do business in 38 countries in Africa. So, at different times, different countries face difficulty, so we kind of almost balance out. But in the 2014 period when the oil prices dropped, and some of the African countries were very dependent on oil for their GDP, and their currencies collapsed, basically. And so, Nigeria and Angola collapsed so much that everyone lost money in those countries. So, we had to spend time recovering from that and recovered. 2019 COVID, the whole supply chain disruption is affecting us.

 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  14:04

So, then what happened was that consumers didn't have the disposable income. 

 Inderjit Singh  14:08

Right now, still, because of the whole COVID situation, yeah. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  14:11

So, what was the issue with supply chain as well?

Inderjit Singh  14:15

So that's what has happened. So, two things. One is when China locked down, and they did not ship out products, then there was a big pent-up demand in the West countries, right. And freight costs. So, in our case, in Africa, it went up five times. So, let's say I ship a container of refrigerators, the value of the refrigerator is 15,000, a container. Freight used to be 3,000, ran up to 15,000. So now imagine it just adds up to the cost of it, and by the time it arrives at the port, the poor African will have to pay triple the original cost of products to buy. So now the wages are not going up, right? This inflation and all these supply chains are causing buying power to come down and so it affects business. Those are inefficient places. So, all the logistics plays a very important part of the whole business process. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  14:58

Because you don't have the logistics going the other way around, right?

Inderjit Singh  15:01


Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  15:01

So, you had your manufacturing out in China?

Inderjit Singh  15:04

We are outsourcing our manufacturing. So, I'm now doing the same thing that I used to do. We basically are brand owners - we design and then we work with factories, and they manufacture for us. So, we focus, we own the brand, and we build the brand in Africa. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  15:17

Right. Would it have made sense for you to actually invest in doing something in Africa itself? 

Inderjit Singh  15:22

We have started in one country, and we are going to start two more doing some local manufacturing. It makes sense for some of these things because the duty savings, there is also some of logistics saving when we have bulk coming in, and we are able to at least produce more efficiently, and then margins can improve. But Africa is not ready for mass production compared to the rest of the world, they don't have the infrastructure, they don't have the people. So, we can do it small scale. Now that we have started, over time, we can continue to build up. So, we'll push it to the point where it makes sense. We don't try to be doing manufacturing, and then fail, so we will do slowly. In the meantime, we are focusing on doing where it makes sense. So, China is a good place, India is coming up. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  16:02


Inderjit Singh  16:03

We also do production in Turkey, and they have good quality. Then slowly we'll add the African manufacturing. But that currently is a pretty small proportion of what we do.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  16:10

How has it been working in the family business? What's the difference when you work with your brothers and family members versus when you're working with other professionals who are not necessarily related by blood or marriage? 

Inderjit Singh  16:23

You need a lot more consensus, that top-down approach, when you do a family business, right? I have got an elder brother and I've got a younger brother and I am in the middle, right? So, a lot of consensuses. What we try to do is that we also try to divide our roles so that we cannot get in each other's way. Fortunately, as a family, we are very closely knit, just the brothers, but the wider family- 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  16:41

The extended. 

Inderjit Singh  16:42

Extended family. So, we are quite close - so I think that kind of the foundation we have does not allow us to create a relationship from when we have work stress, right? So, we do argue over things, but I think we leave it down there in the office and we don't bring it back. So that I think is one of the strengths. But we try to divide the roles, so for example, I am expert in manufacturing, so I focus on Solstar, and I'm building the brand. And my other brothers, they actually are experts in distribution,  so they take care of a greater portion of those things. I try not to get involved in the day-to-day, but I get involved at a strategic level, and they know that I come from a corporate environment and that kind of things I do is useful. So, I think, "Don't get in each other's way." But also, '"Bring the value that you can bring more than the other person." I think then the other person will respect you for that. So, I think this is something that we are (trying to do. We have been doing this for 25 years. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  17:28

Are you all in the process of bringing in the next generation? 

Inderjit Singh  17:31

My two daughters, one is a doctor, one is a lawyer. My son is still studying, and the rest of them are still young, for the other brothers. So, we have not started. But we've got professionals that we hire, and they are working with us. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  17:41


Inderjit Singh  17:41

I think we are also not at the stage where we want to hand over yet because we have to build that foundation now for the future. So that's what we're focusing on.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  17:49

Thank you for sharing with us your family business journey. We work a lot with family businesses. And you pointed to something which can actually be a stress point, which is when they have their issues at work. And if they don't resolve it, or don't leave it at the workplace and take it home, it can then damage the relationship. And the successful family businesses have learned to resolve their issues at work. 

Inderjit Singh  18:13

In fact, we almost never talk about work at home. So, we get together every weekend. My mother stays with me. My brothers' family comes to our home, so we do that, but we don't talk work at home. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  18:21

Seriously, that's so different from a lot of the family businesses that we worked with in Vietnam, Thailand. For them, they live as an extended family - they eat, they breathe business. But I think when you can have a demarcation between 'this is work', and 'this is our personal life', it actually creates space for people to wear different hats and to interact differently. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  18:46

Let's move to another topic, and this is about crisis-ready mindset. I feel that this is also an essential skill set to develop. In fact, I'm just putting the final touches to a book about crisis. As part of doing the book, I interviewed many people. And I realised that the key difference between a person who's successful in a crisis and who's not is that you have the ability to be able to zoom out even though you are dealing with the crisis and to see "Okay, what is it that I can fix? Where did I go wrong?" - A sense of personal responsibility, and then go back into the game and fix it. And then you talked about it earlier on, about being this problem-solver. So, I wanted to ask you to share a crisis that you went through, how you dealt with it, and what do you think are some of the qualities that one needs to have in dealing with a crisis?

Inderjit Singh  19:35

Most of the time when you're immersed in the crisis or you are immersed in the work that you do, you end up neglecting the strategic and the longer-term thinking. So, I've gone through failures too, right. UTAC, after three years, we got approval to lease on NASDAQ and SGX also joined listing plan. And we got approval, we were about to go but then the tech market collapsed, and so we had to abandon the IPO process and then it got delayed. And at the same time, I had to leave UTAC because there were some issues that were happening, I wrote about it in my book, about some of the things that some of the Board members wanted to do, I could not agree. Ethically they were not right. And so, I was forced to leave my company. And that was a biggest crisis for me, I started a company highly successful, being the unicorn, then I had to leave. But instead of worrying about the problem that it's gone, I can't do anything about it. So, detach yourself from there, and then start thinking about how to now restart your journey that you had planned for yourself, right? So, I think ability to take a step back, have vision of the future, still. Don't lose sight of the vision that you have. And then just that now it's going to go to another route, it wouldn't be the same route anymore. And how can you build that route to continue on your journey. So, in life, as we know, there are many obstacles, you don't stop when an obstacle comes, you just find a way around it. Keep an eye on the long-term goals and the vision. So that's what I did, and I created another company - Infiniti Solutions, which also got a NASDAQ approval. We also pulled the plug, and we did not do the listing on the day that we were supposed to price. So, I got through all of these journeys. But I think one of the important things I believe that some things are not in your control, but there's always light at the end of the tunnel. And just keep focusing on that light. And I think once you can do that, don't have a defeatist kind of attitude. I believe in the first mantra, that 'winning spirit', a 'can-do attitude'. And so, I think this is something that making UTAC successful alone, that is not the end game. That's a good thing to do. But my endgame is personal satisfaction. And focus on that personal satisfaction, and I think that you won't go wrong.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  21:32

So that's the thing because I've been through this failure myself. And it is hard at times. You've got to deal with not just your own self-censoring of the situation. But you've also got to do with how people react to you, how people talk about you, and you hear about it anyway, right? I guess what you're saying is that if we focus on that big vision that we have for life, and we focus on finding that new pathway, then we may be hurt, we may be disappointed, and we may be even upset or angry, we'll be able to get the courage to let go of that, and maybe learn also what we could better manage, so that we can move on. 

Inderjit Singh  22:12

Correct, yeah. And I would say that you'll never will satisfy everyone. So, we should not worry about what people think. I think it's important to have your own inner feeling and treat the rest as noise that it's not important, right. Because there will always be negativity. If you let that affect you, then you're going to slow down a lot. So, I think don't let it affect you, just look ahead and move on. But also, it's important to have a supportive environment. So, family support, for example, close-knit extended family, right, so that has been a very useful thing. When I was busy with politics, and with my career, my extended family helped my wife with the kids. And of course, my wife, she had to take on the burden because I was out, doing other things. So generally, I think having friends and family. And it doesn't have to be huge numbers, just some of them who understand you and are with you. That helps you to at least, mentally, stay calm.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  22:55

So, the second piece that you've called out is actually building a good support structure. 

Inderjit Singh  23:00


Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  23:01

And also, I think you've pointed out, we need to invest in that support structure so it can't be a one-way traffic, right. Because they have to feel empowered and nourished, and they have to get the attention as well. So, it's not a one-way traffic.

Inderjit Singh  23:14

And that support structure, when you build, you should be thinking about it, that it is something that will last a lifetime, not just for this moment. So, I think when you think about lifetime, then you will have to sometimes compromise, they have to compromise. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  23:25


Inderjit Singh  23:25

And so that kind of relationships are hard to build. But I think at least you can have it with a few people - close friends and family. That I think could come in very useful because we will always face stress. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  23:34


Inderjit Singh  23:34

And of course, the other part of it is spirituality, I think that is also important. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  23:42

Where are you in your spiritual journey? And how do you practice that?

Inderjit Singh  23:45

So, for us, very simple. Belief in God and the winning spirit of winning, and not giving up. I wouldn't say I'm a very religious person, but I think the foundations of my religion - Sikhism - are very simple taught by Guru Nanak. Work hard, number one. Number two, share your earnings with others who need it. And number three, Naam Japna, it is remembering God, meditate on him. So, in the morning after I wake up, I do my prayers as what the religion practice is. In the evening, I do that. And so, I go to temple regularly. I believe in God. So, I think that has also my biggest, greatest support. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  24:21

It keeps you grounded. 

Inderjit Singh  24:22

Keeps you grounded. Yeah, you know, at the end, if everything else fails, there'll be someone up there. So that, I do believe.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  24:27

Wow, thank you for sharing that. And do you think it's possible for us to live a simple life today? 

Inderjit Singh  24:32

In Sikhism, we are also to live a simple life. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  24:34

Tell us more. 

Inderjit Singh  24:35

Very simple life. So, material wealth is not important. I am not that spiritual yet, right? So, but the foundations are that. That what do you need to survive - simple things. You need simple meal, relationship, remember God, and help others. So, I think you can, if you want, you can do it. Right. Most of us are distracted by other things that you want to do in life, but I think at the end of the day, it can be done.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  24:57

One of the things that we hear, you could go to Sikh temple and have a meal anytime of the day, right? So important that we are able to share our meal or make sure that someone else is not hungry. And how does the temple operate that way?

Inderjit Singh  25:11

Donation. So one of the things in history, Guru Nanak was given some amount of money. Father told him to go and do business. Instead of doing business, he spent the money giving meal to holy men. He came back, he got scolding from his father. So let's say, it was 10 rupees or whatever that was. That is an investment that we see that until today is paying the interest. So my point is all our dollars, and whenever there's a need, donations come in, and we don't run out of it. So that principle that Guru Nanak had planted for us during his time, until today, we believe that will never run out it. So I've seen when we take on some projects for the community, for the society, and during COVID, not just in Ukraine war, during COVID, if you looked at all around the world, the Sikhs were out there. Even down here, we had many foreign students who were stuck in Singapore. And every weekend, we were giving out 2 to 3,000 packets of food every weekend, uncooked food. And every day, we were giving cooked food three times a day. By the way, there were no open temples of course. So we did not have the regular donation, but money keeps on coming in. So I believe that when we do a good cause, not just for religion. For a good cause, you'll always find support. And I think when you do work in this area, just get the cause right, your support will come. And so we have not to face any problems. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  26:24


Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  26:28

What I want to do now is to talk a little bit about your book. I'm so excited to get this autographed by you The Art and Science of Entrepreneurship, the second edition.

Inderjit Singh  26:37

So why is it Art and Science of Entrepreneurship? Entrepreneurship is not just about starting a company, but it's also about a mindset, right? 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  26:43


Inderjit Singh  26:44

And mindset is an abstract thing. And so, I call it the 'art', Art of Entrepreneurship. So, my book, the first section - I talked all about mindset about the three mantras, the three beliefs, the three realities - 'Thinking with a heart and not with a head', passion, your stars must be aligned... And so, I talked about those things in the first section. Then 'science'. The second section, I talked about, okay, now you have an idea. What do you do with that idea? How do you grow from the idea, to business model, to a business plan, raising funds? So that Science of Entrepreneurship, just the technical part of running. The third part of my book, I shared experiences of the Dot-Com bust - what lessons have we learned? Actually, I created a new chapter on how to survive this COVID downturn, and how to survive bad times in general? Team dynamics - how to create a good entrepreneurship ecosystem in a country, in a city? What are the ingredients? So, it's really lessons learnt and ideas that can help people, governments, companies to create ecosystem. Many people say, 'convert theory to practice'. What I did in this book was to 'convert my practice to theory' so that it's teachable. Many entrepreneurs, when they write their book, they'd write it like a biography. And then you have to pick up the gems yourself. What I did was I distil all the gems, and I put in all as theory from beginning to the end - whether it's Section A, B, or C, I've got many stories, so that you can relate and my personal experiences. I also talk about Steve Jobs when he had to leave Apple and when he came back, and so many stories like that, that can help you relate to some of the things that I talked about. 

Inderjit Singh  28:08

So, there are two stories that I added in this book that I did not have in the past was my experience when I was doing my Officer Cadet course in the army as an ADO, I went in there. First day I went in, I had so much of scolding and vulgarities thrown at me. I hated it. Because I hated it, I performed very badly because my attitude was bad. So, after one month, I was probably one of the worst performers in my platoon - platoon over 40 people. Then something happened I was charged for something that's written in my book. I was punished and I was confined, the force going back home, and the army was very important. We. So, I could not go home, I was all alone in my room, and I started crying as an ADO, right, cried. And then I said to myself, I'm gonna have to do this for two and a half years, I have no choice, right? This is Singapore's rules. And I either enjoy it or hate it. That was my turning point. I said, "I'm gonna enjoy this now." And I became from the worst performer to the top performer in that platoon. I was given an appointment, and this was all mindset, right, so I have that story down there. And I have another story on the marathon. At 45, I never did a marathon. I was so unfit because I was in politics, I was not exercising. Almost dying, but I completed a marathon. At about 30 kilometres, I was going to give up. A minute later, I changed my mind, I said "To give up is easy, but to finish is special. And I'm going to finish it, even I have to crawl all the way, I'm going to do it." And I finished a marathon at my first effort. So, these are the kinds of things that I've added, stories like that, and many more on examples of UTAC and other companies that I did, so that you can relate to some of the theories that I put up.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  29:29

You've actually brought together the principles of entrepreneurship, and you've shared your own personal experience. But more importantly, you have helped people to understand how entrepreneurship can be a journey in life. You can embrace it in life. I wrote my book on entrepreneurship as well. What struck me at that point was that for years I was thinking about being an entrepreneur. I saw entrepreneurship was about having a vision. Over time, it was these small steps that I took, it seemed like a big jump, but when I look back at that big jump was actually the small steps that I took, along the way. And so, I call that The Big Jump into Entrepreneurship. And I think in life, we all take small steps, and then it becomes a big jump. That's a theme that I use, and I want to encourage people that we don't need to compare ourselves to the Elon Musk, and the other luminaries of entrepreneurship, we can do our own version of it.

Inderjit Singh  30:21

And in this book, I stress a lot that, actually, it is not just about starting companies, right? It's about way of thinking. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  30:26

Mindset, yes. 

Inderjit Singh  30:27

The example I shared about how I created this scrap, the sustainability thing. As an employee, I did it, right. And I talked about Lee Kuan Yew starting Singapore, J.Y. Pillay, who started Singapore Airlines. So, no matter what you do in life, if you think like an entrepreneur, you can create many new things, you can solve many problems. Even as a parent, even as a family member, you have a problem at home, you have a child with a problem, think like an entrepreneur - How are you going to solve the problem of the kid that you're facing? I think as long as we are willing to think that way, then we can solve any problem in life. So, that is the most important message I have in this book.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  30:58

Wonderful. So, I want to ask you, what are you grateful for, in this life?

Inderjit Singh  31:03

I have been very fortunate that my experience base is very diverse, right. So, I worked in a multinational, I had opportunities on that. So, I'm very grateful to the people in my company who gave me the opportunity. When I started UTAC, I had a great team that came with me, I'm very grateful to this team of people who followed me to UTAC. And then some of them also followed me to Infiniti Solutions. And I'm grateful that I had the chance to serve the country. I was already serving the country as a Grassroots Leader, and I was invited to become a member of Parliament. And so, I thought I could serve at a different level, and so I decided to come in. I did 20 years of that, four terms, together with the Prime Minister. So, I'm very grateful that I had the opportunity to serve, and I had to do a good job. I needed many volunteers, I'm very grateful to all the volunteers who spent endless hours not getting paid, helping me to help me serve my residence. And of course, I'm grateful to my family who have been with me all along. And my wife and my children, they miss me a lot because I spend most of the time outside, but we are still close, so I am grateful for that.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  32:00

Yeah, wonderful. What's that one thing that you still wish to do?

Inderjit Singh  32:04

I wrote in my book that the day that you think that you're successful is the day you stop being an entrepreneur. I don't know when I'm gonna end my journey. It's a very difficult question to answer. But I think, slowly, I'm shifting the age I am at. Seeing your children being successful. I think that is something that I am now leaning towards, rather than me doing more for myself. It is how to help them succeed. My girls are doing well. My son is still in the university. And I think helping the rest of the wider family. These are the kind of things I prefer to do than to do it for myself.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  32:35

Wonderful. Well, thank you so much, Inderjit, for being open and candid with our discussion here. We've enjoyed having you.

Inderjit Singh  32:42

It was my pleasure. Ramesh. Really nice to meet up with you. Thank you.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  32:45

Thank you. 

Ho Lai Yun  32:46

Thank you, Dr. Ramesh and Prof. Inderjit Singh, for sharing your thoughts around having an entrepreneurial mindset and your practical experience and insights as useful lessons for our listeners. Next up, Dr. Ramesh chats with a new entrepreneur in Vietnam, Ms. Minh Giang, who's left a Human Resources corporate management role to fully focus on pursuing her life purpose of building up a social impact business to empower Vietnamese in transforming human beings and human experiences. Thank you for listening. And be sure to follow Dr. Ramesh on LinkedIn, so you'll be alerted every time a new podcast episode comes out.

Inderjit Singh Dhaliwal 
President at WBAF Global Startup Committee
Founder & CEO of Solstar International Pte Ltd

Inderjit Singh has a rare combination of experiences as a multi-national company leader, a serial entrepreneur, a policy maker, and educator. He is an engineer by training and has worked for Texas Instruments Singapore for 13 years, holding the post of Director of Operations from 1996 to 1998 before he started his entrepreneurship journey at age 37, founding his first Unicorn company, United Test and Assembly Center, a large semiconductor company. Inderjit currently runs a multinational company, Solstar International, doing business in 38 countries in Africa, Middle East and Asia.

Inderjit was Member of Parliament, Ang Mo Kio GRC from 1996 to 2015 and was a Deputy Government Whip, Chairman GPC for Finance and Trade & Industry Ministries and was instrumental in shaping policies in support of entrepreneurship, start-ups and for SMEs.

Inderjit has actively started and run companies around the world, including in the Silicon Valley. He has invested in start-ups, helped to create a good ecosystem through policy changes and educated rising entrepreneurs on building their business. He was the Deputy Chairman for Action Community of Entrepreneurship (ACE) in the initial years.

He was the Co-president of the World Entrepreneurship Forum, is a current Board Member of the World Business Angel Forum (WBAF), and is the President of the WBAF's Global Startup Investment Promotion Agency (WIPA). He was a Board Member of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Chairman, of NTUitive, the Innovation company of NTU. As a professor, he teaches Strategy at the NTU Master of Science (Technopreneurship and Innovation Programme).

Inderjit received his B Eng (EEE, Hons) degree from NTU (NTI at that time), his MBA from University of Strathclyde, and an Honorary Doctorate from Amity University in 2018.