SHASHIKIRAN MULLUR: Ten years ago, here in Singapore, I’d suffer at the sight of fellow Indians shopping. At Mustafa, where they were a major source of revenue, the staff would disdain them though they mostly bought the things they asked about. At the circular counters in Changi Airport they’d receive a verbal rap on the knuckles when they pointed and asked the price. When sometimes told the price, the Indian line was, “I’ll think about it”—promptly scorned by the attendants. Here ten years ago, the color of Indians was a poor shade of brown, pallid as the rupee.
Today, I sat in an office in Raffles Place, on the twenty-fifth floor, with a view of the ocean up to Bintan. The lovely office belongs to a Kannada couple from Belgaum, and their partner from Maharashtra. They wouldn’t end their praise for this city, repeating examples of all things here that are so easy and stress-free, not like in India. They have been in business in Singapore for six years. They told me Kumaraswamy was here a few weeks ago; that he made a terrific impact; that a lady-officer made an impressive presentation; that all the civil servants looked good; that Kumaraswamy summed things up saying, “I’ll do some things for Karnataka, I won’t do some things for Karnataka, so you investors tell me what you want, and I will clear or reject your proposals here and now.”
It was afternoon and though clouds hid the sun, light poured in through the large windows and lit up the faces of my hosts: a wheaty healthy brown. We were waiting for the phone to ring to confirm an appointment at the Economic Development Board. They were relaxed, happy. Why, I was so relaxed myself.
Shashikiran things have indeed changed as far as the perception of Indians goes. I lived in Singapore from ’92-’95 and can concur with what you say. I remember that only Indians used to shop at Mustafa now its a virtual “United Nations” of shoppers.
Indian tourists are very important to Singapore. Why even Hong Kong is now trying to woo Indian tourists for the “HK Shopping Festival”.
I guess we’ve come a long way…but I am glad to be back in India. No knocks on Singapore though..
I lived in Singapore between ’03-’05. Local people used to buy most of the items in Mustafa as prices are chepaer than other places.
I was curious to learn lot of things about Mustafa. Owner of the Mustafa is one of the top tax payer of Singapore. He is very simple and still one can see owner himself busy organizing things at Mustafa.
It is a story of a man from rags to riches….A poor muslim indian (From UP) came to singapore and started rice import business in his initial days (’80s)..And now..Mustafa sells from small pin to Merc Benz…
Indians have to learn lot of things from the people behind Mustafa.
Coming back to wooing Indians to Singapore…Singapore govt is promoting Hindi movi Krishh in full swing. Indians are getting multiple entry visas to singapore without any questions these days…Good indication that Indians are spending lot of money in shopping in Singapore…
A few years back there was a story of a person ( I think a UK national) who filed a lawsuit against a Singapore hospital supposedly because his wife who was of Indian origin was not treated well in comparison to others & she died due to that. One has also heard of many cases where passengers requests were routinely ignored by airlines officials and staff at airports from that region. The number of such incidents is coming down thankfully. Goes to show that economic clout does do wonders.