Deeply humbled and honoured
I am deeply humbled to have delivered a speech at The Divinity School, which is 800 years old. It is the oldest surviving purpose-built building for discussions on theology and it is a great honour to speak on behalf of the Executive MBA; especially at the world’s oldest English university. I have walked in complete awe, following in the giant footsteps of Oxford’s incredible alumni and their global achievements.
28 British Prime Ministers, at least 30 International Leaders, 55 Nobel Prize winners, 120 Olympic medal winners and still counting.
Confucius says, 'at age 30 one will be independent, at age 40 one will be discerning and unconfused, at age 50 when one knows heaven’s will and his purpose.'
Coming from a modest background in Singapore, I was brought up with Confucius values that are intertwined with Christian faith. Even at the ethnically diversified and metropolitan Singapore. I marvelled at the diversity of our current Executive MBA cohorts with 40 nationalities and more than 24 industries. The richness of the ethnic fabrics, interwoven with the sectoral experiences straddling across multiple continents provides a perpetuating and intellectual discourse and insightful exchanges.
I supposed all of us on the January 2021 cohort are at various stages of our lives. We are a group of 30-60 individuals that are aspiring for different objectives. Some are business owners, some are establishing their start-ups, some have sold their businesses, others are professionals and specialists in MNCs and NGOs with various life objectives.
Igniting the world
Why did I join the Executive MBA? While I was the Chairman at the United Nations Global Compact focusing on the 17 SDGs, I found many in equitabilities. For instance, small-hold farmers in South-East Asia were squeezed by the middle-man in profit, bullied by landlord’s and as a result sinking into the poverty cycle. These farmers constitute 17% of the global workforce.
I volunteered after my undergraduate at a charity called Association for Persons with Special Needs and became the Chairman of that organisation 10 years ago. I established schools and social enterprises, addressing 1,500 special needs across the ages of 7-62 years old; I noticed that the vulnerable groups that were unable to access resources and scale the social ladder. I had a deep realisation that the prevalent capitalist system is inequitable and unsustainable.
I was hoping that the valuable education that is provided at Saïd Business School will extend to a greater platform, allowing me to learn from international peers and catalysing a cross-pollination of ideas all while unlocking solutions to the global social issues that exists.
The Executive MBA learning
I was not disappointed.
I have learned tools to analyse systemic issues, allowing me to identify the root cause and break the mental and vicious cycle to address Bangladesh’s flooding issues. I could create a virtuous cycle for employment for vulnerable groups. Saïd Business School’s focuses on tackling complex world-scale challenges. Just last month, the World Economic Forum hosted a meeting at Davos with the theme on 'History at a Turning Point: Government Policies and Business Strategies'. I have loved defying convention and wisdom with the founder of Nidan, an Indian social enterprise cited by the World Economic Forum, who left an impressive during a panel discussion.
The January 2021 Cohort has matriculated at Oxford amidst an unprecedented era with a number of global challenges; the Covid-19 pandemic, the US-China trade war, the Russia-Ukraine war, the fintech disruption and the unimaginable crash of stable crypto-currencies.
We are at a historical crossroad, but with many unresolved situations. I believe the Executive MBA programme is a platform to catalyse our collective competence to ignite and spread significant impact to illuminate and advance mankind.
As the University of Oxford motto highlights 'Dominus Illuminatio Mea' this is translated as 'the Lord is my light'. I am thankful to God for this opportunity. Dare to dream and challenge the inequitable norm.