Feature

Young and in Asia’s Top 30 list

Chinmay Malaviya, co-founder of foodpanda, and Mohamed Abbas Seyed Ebramsa, the brains behind Onelyst, were among four from NTU named in Forbes’ inaugural 30 Under 30 Asia lists. Their time in NTU left them with much food for thought for their ideas to flourish today, as Derek Rodriguez finds out

Top of the food chain

If you live to eat, then making a career out of food seems like a no-brainer.

But for Chinmay Malaviya, a 2012 graduate of NTU’s School of Computer Engineering, things weren’t always so crystal-clear.

Chinmay, 25, could have easily landed a plum job in the banking and IT industries just like his classmates.

But his view of success changed after he went on two overseas exchanges. This led him to take the plunge at foodpanda, a small start-up that has since grown into a global food delivery service operating in 24 countries. In Singapore alone, customers can order food from over 300 different restaurants in the country through foodpanda.

“My parents were engineers and I had believed that success was to become one as well. This changed during my two exchange programmes to the United States and France while at NTU. While travelling, I realised how narrow my world view was.”

“With my eyes opened, I knew I wanted to do something that made me happy, instead of what was expected by society or my family. The problem was, I didn’t know what exactly this was.”


PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES © SINGAPORE PRESS HOLDINGS LIMITED. REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION

He spent the next few months dipping his toes into different jobs, but was unable to find professional fulfilment. Then, he joined foodpanda, a start-up that was still in its infant stage. And immediately, he was thrown in the deep end.

“I had to improve the food ordering system, make sure the orders were processed smoothly, and act as the call centre. It was overwhelming at first, but I was given the responsibility and freedom to streamline and expand the operations, and that gave me a sense of purpose.”

foodpanda had just 20 food orders when he joined the company. Within two years, this figure grew to a few thousand a day, and has continued to expand since.

Chinmay was made Managing Director in 2013 and built foodpanda up in other countries such as Hong Kong. Today, he holds the position of Co-founder and Vice President of Business Development (Global), focusing on promoting foodpanda in new markets.

“I had plenty of setbacks and my decision was initially received with a lot of negativity from my friends and family, but I worked hard and always believed in myself. I’m glad to say that I’ve truly found my calling.”


Chinmay built foodpanda from ground up in cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore.
In the interest of time

It all started with a school project at NTU.

While researching for his project, Mohamed Abbas, 25, a business undergraduate, noticed a flaw in the local finance industry and was inspired to come up with his own solution.

“People from the lower income group weren’t able to access mainstream financial services, and were turning to licensed money lenders to get short-term loans. With more than 170 licensed money lending companies to choose from, the process of researching, collating and comparing loan offers was tedious and time-consuming. They would have to go down to the lender’s office to decipher their approved loan amounts and interest rates.”

In 2014, Abbas and his army buddy devised a platform, Onelyst, to give personalised loan offers to customers in minutes. Since then, it has helped over 10,000 people find loans for their medical bills and rental expenses, among other big ticket purchases.

Juggling school work and his commitments to Onelyst stretched him thin. “I worked long hours and my social and family life was affected. I’ve had to take three Leaves of Absence from NTU, and I’m planning to take another. I hope to complete my final semester this coming January.”

“I’ll really miss NTU then, especially since it has given me so much. From my freshman year, Ms Tricia Tan from the Nanyang Business School’s Undergraduate Programme Office has acted as my mentor. She and the school went the extra mile for me and I’m grateful for the numerous opportunities they created for me.”

On the A List

The Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list is an annual compilation of the most promising and inspiring millennials who are making their mark in various fields. The 2016 list includes K-pop singer G-Dragon and Hollywood star Liam Hemsworth. Aside from Chinmay and Abbas, flying the NTU flag are EverComm founder Ted Chen and singer-songwriter Joel Tan (aka Gentle Bones).

As the CEO of EverComm, Ted built a business that uses data analytics to help large companies save on high energy bills. His company has to date generated over $3.4 million in energy savings and $1 million in revenue. The Class of 2012 Electrical & Electronic Engineering graduate credits his NTU mentor, Assoc Prof Gan Woon Seng, for teaching him the basics of data analytics back when he was an undergraduate.

With the rare honour of getting signed by Universal Music Singapore, first-year business student Joel, better known as Gentle Bones, takes his spot on the list. His debut single, Until We Die, topped the local iTunes charts within a day of its release. The 21-year-old recently released his new single and music video, Geniuses & Thieves, and will hold his first solo concert in June at the Esplanade.