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Let's Make Water A Glamour Business

I read the article by Ravi Velloor, "Water's the next big business in India" (ST, May 31), with great interest. It mentioned a "26-year-old marketing whiz" who moved from the glamour business of consumer goods to the admittedly unglamourous business of water. When asked why he had done this, he replied: "Water is the next big business in India."

What does the average Singaporean think of water as a career option? A quick check with a few friends drew more or less the same answer: What, Water? Unlike the more glamourous biotech sector, which the Government has shortlisted as a growth engine, no one thinks of water as an industry, let alone a career option.

One reason is the potential of water as a career has not seeped into schools and homes. Even with the example of Singapore's water darling, Ms Olivia Lum, our entrepreneurs have not rushed to establish water-related businesses.

That's a shame. If there was ever a sure winner in an uncertain world, it has to be water. Everyone needs it. And if available data is accurate, it's in short supply. Anyone in the business of supplying water should be minting money.

A water industry is not limited to the business of supplying water. The potential for developing water technologies is enormous. Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan identified water technologies as an area for research investment.

So what can we do? Water-related courses are a start. The universities, especially Nanyang Technological University which wants to create a niche for itself, should start to move into water quickly.

We should also provide water scholarships. The agency for Science, Technology and research has given thousands of scholarships which have nurtured the right talent. Why can't we do the same with water scholarships.

How about providing venture capital for water entrepreneurs? We've done it for other technologies. If we can have technopreneurs driving a tech industry, surely we can have hydropreneurs driving a water industry.

Let's start building water talent to develop the water industry of tomorrow.

Tang Li
- Published in the "Straits Times" (June 8, 2005)

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