Mr Mohamed Abdul Jaleel, 55, went from doing odd jobs to founding a company with an annual revenue of more than $100 million. But he has never forgotten those who might get left behind.
Yesterday, he received the third tabla! Community Champion Award, given every year to a member of the Indian community who has contributed significantly towards the less fortunate.
His construction logistics company, Mini Environment Service, builds and operates dormitories for foreign workers in Singapore and the Middle East. The school dropout also heads the Shaik Mohamed Jaleel
Foundation, supporting causes related to children's education and families, and he aims to donate almost $1 million every year to charities and individuals.
His interest in supporting education is related to his own childhood. After moving to Singapore with his family from Chennai almost 50 years ago, he dropped out of secondary school to help ease his family's financial burden.
He took on odd jobs like cleaning cars, washing toilets and helping his father run his convenience store, before eventually finding work in a construction firm.
Mr Jaleel said children should study hard but play hard as well.
He added: "It is important for children to save in their early years - not only in terms of money, but they should also (remember) their culture and traditions, and have respect for their elders."
His award comes with a $10,000 donation from the State Bank of India, to go to the charity of his choice, the Singapore In-dian Development Association.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office S. Iswaran presented the award to Mr Jaleel at a ceremony held in conjunction with the Singapore International Deepavali Shopping Festival.
The shopping event, which features more than 250 vendors, is hosted by Indian publications tabla! and Tamil Murasu. It is held at the Singapore Expo until Sunday.