Mr. Pillai obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Malaya, Singapore in 1961. He has had a varied career as an entrepreneur and diplomat. He is the founding Chairman of the Management Board of the Institute of South Asian Studies, Ambassador-at Large in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since August 2008, and Singapore’s Special Envoy to Andhra Pradesh. He served as Singapore’s longest serving Non-Resident Ambassador to Iran between 1989 and 2008, and as Singapore’s High Commissioner to Pakistan between 1994 and 2001. He is also Chairman of the Indian Heritage Centre Advisory Board.
His business interests include education, logistics, and information technology. He is Chairman of Malvern international Plc, listed on AIM in London, UK.
For his manifold contributions to public service, the Singapore government has awarded him the Public Service Star Award (BBM) in 1999, BBM (BAR) in 2009 and The Meritorious Service Medal in 2015. For his efforts in bridging and advancing Singapore-India relations, the Indian government conferred him with the Padma Shri Award at the 2012 Republic Day. The National University of Singapore has bestowed on him the Outstanding Service Award in 2015. In 2016, the National University of Singapore Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences has bestowed on him the Distinguished Arts and Social Sciences Alumni Award.