Her Success Story

Her journey to become one of Asia’s top business women running a multi-million dollar business is a typical entrepreneurs’ delight. Although she wanted to give up on a number of occasions, in the first two years after startup, she never did . . .

Lum graduated from the National University of Singapore in 1986 with a degree in chemistry and joined Glaxo Pharmaceuticals as a chemist, where she was tasked with looking after wastewater treatment. About three years later, she moved forward with her dream to start her own business. She offered her services as an agent for large water companies.

During this time, she developed a firm conviction on the potentials of the new membranes technology at the time. She believed the membranes were  the most effective way to clean up water and she became determined to create and sell her own technology.

With support from her lecturers at the National University of Singapore, she built a small membrane-based pilot project in 1992. It was this foresight with a then unproven technology that could be attributed to much of Hyflux’s success today.

In spite of reservations and early drawbacks, in 2005 Hyflux was put on the map. It built and opened Singapore’s first major desalination plant – the 136,380 m3/day SingSpring project, which was a huge challenge at the time, but because Hyflux were handling membrane systems for a long-time they were able to deliver a hugely successful plant. It was a breakthrough for the company. The company has gone on to successfully deliver projects around the world in China, Southeast Asia, The Middle East, and Algeria.

Today, Hyflux takes advantage of its strength as a membrane technology company to identify niche applications in several sectors other than water – moving into the field of clean energy in environmental applications. They maintain more than 10 research laboratories in Singapore with extensive research partnerships and collaborations across the world.

Much of her success is attributed to perseverance. A lot of entrepreneurs may have a great idea, good products and good suggestions but they give up easily. They don’t persevere enough. As an entrepreneur, perseverance is a must have attitude – Lum Olivia for WWi

Water Technology Businesses Today

The annual revenues for water industry products and services are in the excess of $600 billion. Just like energy, water is one of those things that form the very basic requirement of communities and companies especially as we tend towards more pollution and scarcity. This provides huge opportunities for entrepreneurship as the need for more innovation and paradigm shift increase in the water market.


Who is Olivia Lum?

  • Olivia Lum Ooi Lin is a Singaporean businesswoman. She is best known for being the founder and CEO of Singapore-based Hyflux Group.
  • Lum was adopted at birth, and never knew her biological parents; she was brought up by a woman she called her “grandmother”.
  • She graduated in 1986 with a degree in chemistry from the National University of Singapore.
  • Lum started corporate life as a chemist with Glaxo Pharmaceutical. After working for three years at Glaxo, she left in 1989 at the age of 28 to start up Hydrochem, the precursor to Hyflux.
  • By 2005, she had a net worth of over US$240 million, which earned her a place as the only woman on Forbes’ “Southeast Asia Rich List”.