Skip to content

Overcoming the Odds

20 Jan 2017

  • Oss 2

    During the Asian Bankers Summit 2016 in Hanoi, Vietnam, Abbas presented his company, Onelyst’s initiatives on how it can accelerate financial inclusion in Southeast Asia.

  • Oss 1a

    Abbas represented Singapore at the 2016 Y20 Summit in Shanghai, China. Y20 is an international conference that brings together young leaders representing the Group of Twenty (G20) as well as guest countries. The policy recommendations of the Summit were presented to global policymakers in the form of a communique, with an aim of shaping global policies.

”There is no barrier to success which diligence and perseverance cannot hurdle.” This was what Mr Mohamed Abbas s/o Sheyed Ebramsa lived by.  

Abbas had it rough while growing up. Along with two other siblings, he lived with his parents in a one-room rented HDB apartment. His parents juggled different jobs to make ends meet. They sold roti prata in the day and worked as drink stall assistants in the evening.

“Seeing my parents work really hard to support our schooling, pushed me to work harder. I am motivated to do well so that I can help my parents and others who are currently in the same situation as my family were” said Abbas.

While his peers were deciding on their career paths, he was busy working as a part-time waiter. Abbas was determined to ease his parents’ financial burden. The poverty-stricken environment that he was in resulted in his lack of confidence and low self-esteem. It lead him to become socially awkward and constantly felt like a failure.

It was only after joining the National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) Programme that his life took a new turn.

Bringing joy to others

Abbas joined the NYAA programme because he wanted to help and give back to the community after receiving numerous assistance in the form of bursaries and free tuition when he was facing financial issues. With NYAA, Abbas had the opportunity to do community work. The NYAA programme, set up to help develop our youths’ personal qualities of self-reliance, perseverance and a sense of responsibility. Eventually, under the guidance of the NYAA, Abbas became more confident after realising how he can make a difference to the lives of others around him. The structured NYAA programme also enhanced his leadership skills and pushed him to go beyond his limits.

“The programme transformed me into a socially responsible individual and fuelled my spirit of persistence. It taught me to be patient and calm when managing difficult and challenging situations,” said Abbas.  

Lending a helping hand

While working in the programme, Abbas noticed the financial issues faced by a lot of people who lack financial education. Most of the times, their problems escalate when they take the “easy way out” by turning to illegal loansharks and unlicensed moneylenders for help.

He encountered a case of a person who was paying 14% interest per month on 2 different loans for medical expenses. The person was not able to repay his loan in full as he was paying just the interest alone. Unaware of the cheaper loan alternatives that were available, the person could have paid a lower interest rate on the overall amount owed rather than paying 14% interest per month.

“He was clueless on the financial loan options and did not research on them. Instead of just paying for the interest, he could have saved the money and use it for better purpose”, said Abbas.

Abbas felt the need to create a solution in order to help people escape this poverty trap. Together with his friends, Hizam Ismail and Prakash Raja, set up Onelyst, an online platform targeted towards low-income earners, offering them the various personalised and sustainable loan options by licensed moneylenders.

“I am fortunate to have benefited from society. Now it’s time for me to pay it forward through my online loans portal Onelyst.”

The success of Onelyst has helped those who needed financial assistance, make informed financial decisions. Within the first year of business alone, S$75 million worth of loans were requested through the online loans platform and in the first half of 2016, the amount increased to over S$100 million.

Righteousness leads to success

For his contributions to the society, Abbas was awarded the NYAA Gold Award by the President Tony Tan, in 2015.

His achievements did not end there. He was featured on Forbes Magazine’s 30-Under-30 Asia list for his work and contributions in the financial sector in January 2016. Later that year, he shared his experiences at the Asian Bankers’ Summit in Vietnam and also represented Singapore at the Y20 of the G20 Summit in China.

His perseverance and hard work allowed his family to lead a better life. His parents are proud of his accomplishments and constantly commend him for his deep sense of compassion for people around him.