AFTER 10 years working as a technician for a local construction company, Mr Shanmuganathan Sinniah decided it was time for him to be his own boss.
He risked pretty much every cent he had on the venture, but his gamble has more than paid off.
His firm Asia Tunnelling and Construction has become a booming business with annual turnover of around $10 million.
Started in 2001, the company is involved mostly with drilling and blasting on construction sites. Its projects include the Downtown 2 and 3 lines, plus work for Singapore Power and JTC Corporation.
It has also carried out rock blasting at the National University Hospital construction site as well as services such as seismic testing and consultancy.
"I started this business with only $50,000... My savings, my endowment policy, it all went into the business," Mr Shanmuganathan, 53, said.
The company, which has two offices and up to $5 million invested in machinery, will move to its own building in Jalan Buroh, in the western part of Singapore, in two years' time.
Mr Shanmuganathan said the company would not have been possible without support from family and friends.
His wife, three children and son-in-law are all active in the firm.
"My wife has been really supportive. She ran her own cafeteria business before this, but now the whole family is working together," he said.
And their 18-year-old son, Madhavapandian, helps out during his school holidays.
But Mr Shanmuganathan insists that despite familial ties, they all have to learn from ground up.
He added that most of his staff have been with him for more than 10 years.
The firm's 160 staff include Singaporean supervisors, engineers and managers as well as foreign employees. There are plans to hire at least 50 more as the company takes on bigger projects.
It has also taken advantage of the Productivity and Innovation Credit scheme run by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore to purchase more equipment and machines.
Besides taking advantage of government policies, Mr Shanmuganathan has been actively seeking out better opportunities through advisers from Hong Leong Group.
He said that they helped him increase resources in order to secure the Downtown Line projects as well as other cable tunnelling jobs, which will be responsible for a 70 per cent increase in sales by the end of this year.
I started this business with only $50,000... My savings, my endowment policy, it all went into the business.
- Mr Shanmuganathan Sinniah, on his tunnelling and construction business
My wife has been really supportive. She ran her own cafeteria business before this, but now the whole family is working together.
- Mr Shanmuganathan, on the involvement of his family in the business