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Wealth Giving Meet the 22 Richest Self-Made Billionaires in Singapore For 2021, According to Forbes

Meet the 22 Richest Self-Made Billionaires in Singapore For 2021, According to Forbes

(Image: Unsplash)
(Image: Unsplash)
By Camillia Dass
By Camillia Dass
April 09, 2021
We take a look at the 22 billionaires based in Singapore who worked their way to the top with no help

Forbes released their 35th Annual World’s Billionaires List this week and it was an exciting one as the exclusive list saw 439 newcomers despite the effects of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

This means there was approximately one new billionaire every 17 hours. 86 per cent of all billionaires were also richer than they were a year ago. 

In Singapore alone, there were 32 billionaires featured on the list. So, with these incredible numbers, we thought we would take a look at some of our local billionaires who are self-made and who climbed their way to the top through sheer grit, creativity and know-how.

Read on to find out how these 22 individuals did it. 

(Related: Who are the Richest Billionaires in Singapore Who Made the 2021 Annual Forbes List?)

1/22 Zhang Yong


China's richest restaurateur and now a naturalised Singapore citizen, Zhang Yong, is the founder of the famous hot pot chain Haidilao. The restaurant opened its doors in China back in 2018; today, Zhang has 768 Haidilao outlets in China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and the United States. 

Haidilao gained popularity quickly when it was introduced mostly because of the high-quality dishes they served as well as their highly attentive customer service. In fact, the restaurant offers manicures, hair ties, snacks and more for their guests.

Zhang never finished high school and did not actually know how to prepare a typical Sichuan hotpot when he first started out.

Financially, the billionaire was helped out by three friends, one of whom later became his wife, who provided him with the seed money.

2/22 Goh Cheng Liang


Goh Cheng Liang, who is currently 93 years old, founded Nippon Paint Singapore in1955. 

Though the company started out small, Goh quickly grew the company such that it became Singapore's first paint manufacturing plant. Today, Nippon Paint Holdings is the world's fourth-largest paint manufacture.

This year, Goh's son, Hup Jin, who chairs Nippon Paint, decided to sell their privately held ventures for US$12 billion in exchange for additional shares in Nippon. 

Eduardo Saverin (Image: B Capital Group)
Eduardo Saverin (Image: B Capital Group)

3/22 Eduardo Saverin


In 2004 Eduardo Saverin, who is currently based in Singapore, co-founded Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg. In 2012, the pair parted ways though Saverin continues to retain a small stake in Facebook which provides him with most of his wealth.

In 2016, Saverin launched a venture fund called B Capital with Raj Ganguly. This fund has since managed to raise S$766 million and they invest heavily in tech firms around the world. 

(Related: It’s Forbes-Official—Kim Kardashian West is a Billionaire)

Forrest Li Xiaodong (Image: Sea)
Forrest Li Xiaodong (Image: Sea)

4/22 Forrest Li


Forrest Li, along with David Chen and Gang Ye, other local billionaires, founded and run an online gaming and e-commerce firm called Sea. When Sea was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2017, Li's wealth skyrocketed and put him in the leagues of some of the richest in the world. 

Sea's investors include fellow billionaire, Kuok Khoon Hua and private equity firm General Atlantic. 

Li is also the founder of popular shopping platform, Shopee and was the person who managed to get Christiano Ronaldo (whom Li is a fan of) to be Shopee's brand ambassador on a number of occasions.

In March this year, this self-made billionaire was named Businessman of the Year at the 35th Singapore Business Awards.  

Gang Ye (Image: Sea)
Gang Ye (Image: Sea)

5/22 Gang Ye


Gang Ye is one of the three founders of online gaming and e-commerce firm, Sea. He started out as the group chief technology officer but moved on to assume the role of group chief operating officer in January 2017.

Before Sea, this self-made billionaire worked at the Economic Development Board of Singapore and Wilmar International.

6/22 Takao Yasuda


Takao Yasuda was the founder of discount retailer Don Quijote in 1980. Today, the company is known as Pan Pacific International Holdings and has about 600 stores. 

In 2015, Yasuda stepped down as the CEO and chairman. However, he returned as a board director in 2015. 

In 2017, Yasuda opened his first Japanese discount store chain outlet in Singapore in Orchard Central. However, they renamed themselves to Don Don Donki because Singapore already has a restaurant called Don Quijote in Dempsey. The brand currently has 360 stores globally.

(Related: Singaporean Bankers Laura Hwang And Tan Su Shan Are Empowering Female Leaders In Finance)

Kuok Khoon Hong (Image: Wilmar International)
Kuok Khoon Hong (Image: Wilmar International)

7/22 Kuok Khoon Hong


Kuok Khoon Hong is a Malaysian-born Singaporean entrepreneur and philanthropist who co-founded Wilmar International. Wilmar is one of Asia's leading agriculture groups and is also one of the world's largest palm oil traders. 

He is the chairman of Perennial Real Estate Holdings Ltd and has set up and funded three schools in Indonesia.


8/22 Peter Lim


Peter Lim is a Singaporean business magnate who is also one of Singapore's leading stockbrokers and private investors, specialising in medicine and palm oil. 

In 2019, Forbes ranked him as the 10th richest person in Singapore. 

Lim is currently a private investor of Rowsley, Valencia CF, Thomson Medical Group. He is also in the process of redeveloping the Northon Stock Exchange into a boutique hotel. 

9/22 Choo Chong Ngen


Known for being the founder of Hotel 81, a chain of budget-friendly hotels in Singapore, Choo Chong Ngen has achieved success in the hotel industry both locally and on an international stage. 

Choo's first venture into real estate investment began when he was only 21. Using a bank loan, he was able to acquire a shophouse unit at that time. In nine years, the tycoon has managed to invest in almost 30 other shop units. He then rented them out and earned his living that way.  

In 1992, Choo began working in property development when he built twenty apartment units in Geylang. He later went on to build about a hundred more units around the same area.

Today, Choo manages hotel properties in places such as Malaysia, Korea, Thailand and Australia. 

(Related: Hotel 81 Founder Choo Chong Ngen And His CEO Daughter Carolyn Have Lofty Ambitions Of Going Global With Their Company)

10/22 Richard Chandler


Richard Chandler is originally from New Zealand, but in 2006, he moved to Singapore where he further developed his passion for investments. Currently, his major interests lie in healthcare, financial services and electric aerospace.

The self-made billionaire originally co-founded Sovereign Global, an investment firm, with his brother.

He is now the chairman of the Clermont Group, his personal investment outfit. He also has stakes in an Indian small business loans provider and the largest private healthcare group in Vietnam. 

David Chen (Image: Sea)
David Chen (Image: Sea)

11/22 David Chen


David Chen is the co-founder of Singapore-based gaming and e-commerce firm, Sea. The company is best known for its wildly popular mobile game, Free Fire, which is a battle royale game. It was also the most downloaded mobile game globally in 2019.

Chen founded Sea in 2009 with Forrest Li and Gang Ye, who are both billionaires as well. 

Currently, Chen is the Chief Product Officer of Shopee, the e-commerce unit of the NYSE-listed company. He has also worked closely with PSA Corp, which is a Temasek-owned port operator as a computer engineer. 

12/22 Sam Goi


Sam Goi is the son of a Fujian farmer and he owns one of the world's largest makers of popiah skins, Tee Yih Jia Food Manufacturing.

When he was younger, Goi dropped out of school to work in his father's grocery store. He later bought a food unit which sparked his interest in frozen foods. 

Today, aside from popiah skins, Goi also has real estate stocks and is Singapore's non-resident ambassador to Brazil.

Martua Sitoru (Image: The Westin Jakarta)
Martua Sitoru (Image: The Westin Jakarta)

13/22 Martua Sitorus


As the co-founder of Singapore-based company, Wilmar, which is one of the world's largest and most prominent palm oil traders in 1991, Martua Sitorus was once the fourth richest person in Indonesia. 

He has since stepped off the board at Wilmar and now owns Gama Corp, a plantation firm, with his brother. 

His company has partnered with Ciputra group to build 15 apartment towers and a shopping complex in a project in Jakarta. 

Arvind Tiku (Image: Atcapital)
Arvind Tiku (Image: Atcapital)

14/22 Arvind Tiku


Arvind Tiku, who was born in India and currently lives in Singapore, has always been interested in oil and gas as well as renewable energy. 

When he was 18, he left India to study mechanical engineering in Russia. He then went on to work as a commodities trader before moving into the oil and gas industry.

Tiku has invested heavily in renewable energy sources in India as well as in solar power projects. 

He is currently working on developing a 100-acre township in India.

(Related: Who is Nikhil Kamath? 5 Things to Know About India's Youngest Billionaire)

Robert Friedland (Image: Ivanhoe Capital Corporation)
Robert Friedland (Image: Ivanhoe Capital Corporation)

15/22 Robert Friedland


Robert Friedland is an American-Canadian billionaire in the mining industry. He started specialising in funding the exploration and development of mineral and energy resources in the 1980s. 

Since then, he has gone on to start and chair his private and family-owned firm, Ivanhoe Capital Corporation. He currently operates his company from its corporate headquarters in Singapore. 

Asok Kumar Hiranandani (Image: Royal Group)
Asok Kumar Hiranandani (Image: Royal Group)

16/22 Asok Kumar Hiranandani


Asok Kumar Hiranandani is the co-founder of the Royal Brothers property group. His company, which is currently being run by his son, Bobby, owns properties such as the Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort and the So Softel Hotel in Singapore.

Currently, Hiranandani is in the process of setting up what will be Singapore's second Raffles Hotel in Sentosa. The property is expected to have 61 villas. 

(Related: 5 Youngest Billionaires in Asia, According to Forbes' 2020 Richest List)

Zhong Sheng Jian (Image: Yanlord)
Zhong Sheng Jian (Image: Yanlord)

17/22 Zhong Sheng Jian


As the chairman of one of the largest real estate developers in China, Yanlord Land, Zhong is certainly a prominent figure. In fact, his business partners include Ping An Insurance, China Merchants Property Development and Poly Real Estate Group.

In 1988, Zhong moved to Singapore. Currently, his shares are publicly traded in Singapore.

Sukanto Tanoto (Image: Royal Eagle Group)
Sukanto Tanoto (Image: Royal Eagle Group)

18/22 Sukanto Tanoto


Sukanto Tanoto is the owner of Royal Golden Eagle, a resource-based industrial group that works with paper, palm oil, construction, energy, property and asset management. He started the company over 50 years ago as a small spare parts supply shop called Toko Motor.

Today, Tanoto's group has earmarked US$200 million to create feedstock that is plant-based. He is also developing a clean way to make textiles. 

(Related: Dwayne Johnson Tops Forbes List of Highest-Paid Hollywood Actors for 2020)

Dr Shi Xu (Image: Nanofilm Technologies)
Dr Shi Xu (Image: Nanofilm Technologies)

19/22 Shi Xu


In 1999, Dr Shi Xu and his wife founded Nanofilm Technologies International with US$300,000. 30 years later and Xu has become a billionaire thanks to his company. Most recently, his wife made the news for acquiring an exclusive Good Class Bungalow in Nassim Road.

Nanofilm Technologies International is a company that provides nanotechnology solutions for smartphones and other electronic devices. It started out as a tech start-up from Nanyang Technological University. At that point, Xu was working as an associate professor. When Hitachi reached out wanting to adopt Xu's coating technology for its hard-disk drives, NTU decided to create a company to sell this technology with Xu at the head of it. 

Today, Nanofilm has expanded into countries such as Japan, China, Vietnam and Singapore. It has more than 1,400 employees internationally and continues to grow as it works with mega clients such as Fuji Xerox, Microsoft and Huawei Technologies.

Ron Sim Chye Hock (Image: V3 Group)
Ron Sim Chye Hock (Image: V3 Group)

20/22 Ron Sim


Ron Sim is the founder of Osim International, the company responsible for luxury massage chairs. He also created V3 Group which owns V3 Brands, V3 Capital and V3 Assets. V3 Brands in particular owns luxury brands such as Osim and TWG Tea.

In 2018, Sim donated SGD$3 million to the Singapore Management University’s Business Families Institute to set up the V3 Group Professorship in Family Entrepreneurship.

(Related: Kylie Jenner Has Been Dropped From Forbes’ Billionaires List—Here’s Why)

Dr Chua Thian Poh (Image: Ho Bee Land)
Dr Chua Thian Poh (Image: Ho Bee Land)

21/22 Chua Thian Poh


When he was younger, Chua Thian Poh dropped out of high school and joined the logging industry making hooks and spikes. He later went on to start Ho Bee Land, a property developer which is well-known for building luxury condos in Sentosa. 

 Since then, the company has expanded to work with commercial property in places such as Munich and London. 

Chua's son, Nicholas is currently the deputy CEO of Ho Bee Land. 

Binny Bansal (Image: xto10x)
Binny Bansal (Image: xto10x)

22/22 Binny Bansal

A former Amazon executive, Binny Bansal decided to join forces with a friend, Sachin Bansal, to become an online seller of books. Together, the pair found Flipkart which is currently India's biggest online store for mobile phones, clothing, electronics, home appliances, furniture, grocery, books and more. 

In 2018, Walmart bought a 77 per cent stake in Bansal's company. The deal amounted to US$16 billion and was reportedly the world's largest deal for an internet firm. 

Today, Binny, who continues to maintain a small stake in Flipkart, mentors startups in Singapore through his firm, Xto1ox Technologies. 

(Related: Haidilao's Billionaire Founder Zhang Yong Tops Forbes Singapore’s Richest List Again in 2020)


Wealth & Giving Forbes Binny Bansal 35th Annual World’s Billionaires List Eduardo Saverin Goh Cheng Liang Zhang Yong Forrest Li Shopee Gang Ye Takao Yasuda Peter Lim Richard Chandler David Chen Sam Goi Richest in SIngapore Billionaires in Singapore Martua Sitorus


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