Most Sri Lankans and Indians who visit Singapore is very familiar or make it a must go destination to Mustafa Centre. A shopping center is widely known for its availability of every product at competitive prices. We always wonder who could possibly own a whole street to retail and attract this many customers.
Mustaq Ahmed, born in 1951 is another successful entrepreneur from Uttar Pradesh, India. Last week, we wrote about an Indian American from the same central Indian state who rose from rags to riches trying to touch the sky to become the first trillionaire.
Mustaq Ahmed comes from a family, who lost his mother at a very young age. His father Haji Mohammed Mustafa, was a dumpling maker in Malaysia where he later decided to move to Singapore. With grievance in heart, Mustaq decides to join his father in Singapore following his mother’s death where they sell tea and bread for a living from a pushcart. Mustaq had been a determined individual to learn how to run a business from an early stage.
His determination helped him learn and experience how to set up a business by watching his dad with the pushcart business. To help his dad with more income to the household, Mustaq uses his pocket money to buy and sell a handkerchief at a fixed price next to his father’s pushcart. Fixed Pricing at the time was not a common practice. Customers were happy to buy his handkerchiefs without bargaining because his prices were hard to beat. This welcomed many passers to stop at his stall and to buy his handkerchiefs.
His father was memorized by the outcome of a fixed pricing of Mushtaq’s handkerchiefs which made people to get attracted. Taking the inspiration from his son, Haji Mohammed decides to stop his pushcart and to start his business on adult and children clothes retailing with his son. This retail helped them to get a temporary store in Campbell street to sell ready-made clothes.
The business gained a good growth, tempted Mustaq to stop his Secondary four education and join his father full time. He saw the possibility of his skills and experience selling handkerchiefs was enough. His faith made forced him to stop school and help his dad with the business. At the time, he says the government imposed a ban on the street stalls which forced him and his dad to take the best decision of their life to expand the business. They decide to include a relative and rent a 500sq ft space for their business and named it Mohammed Mustafa & Samsudin after Mustaq’s father and uncle. The 500sq ft shop at Campbell boomed businesses within two years where they started looking for more space. This helped them to secure two locations one at campbell street which was used as a warehouse and one in Serangoon Road.
The store in Serangoon road attracted many customers to buy from the store, where the name became quite popular among the locals for its fixed pricing. Although much can be saved through bargaining, his pricing was competitive to bargain for which gained heavy traffic to his store. Mustaq realized that if his niche was only concentrating on garments and helping his business grow averagely, then what was the possibility of making more money including a variety of other products. Later with a variety of products included, his growing business helped Mustaq to rent in the neighboring spaces.
But in 1985, the government acquired the shop buildings for conservation. This made Mustaq take a challenging step by shifting his business to a larger rented space in Sherangoon. He says it was quite risky and daring for him because the new place was away from the shopping line in Little India. But for his amaze, the flood of tourism in the 1980s, Mustafa thrived and benefited from the patronage of Indian tourists. It was not only known to locals but to international visitors became a one-stop shopping center with a wide variety of quality products at competitive prices. Many visitors who used Singapore as a hub to travel to other destinations, they made it a must visit place for there short transit to buy their needs. This made Serangoon plaza value to rise and shot up the rent by 70%, which lead Mustaq to decide that it would be more viable for the company to own its own building.
He later bought 20 shophouses, built 75,000 sq. ft department store, with 130 room hotel at a cost of $45 million. Opened in 1995, with a 24 hour open store, giving access to many traveller who transit in the country at any time increased their image and business which helped to expand to the building across Verdun Road, houses a supermarket, a jewel mart, a pharmacy, postal services, money-changing services, travel services, and carries over 300,000 products ranging from cosmetics, footwear, garments, televisions and home appliances which now gives them a turnover above $725 million.