Mustaq Ahmad



Mustaq Ahmad (b. 8 June 1951, Uttar Pradesh, India–) is the co-founder and managing director of Mustafa Centre, a popular 24-hour shopping centre in Little India frequented by many Singaporeans and tourists.1 The success of Mustafa Centre has earned Mustaq Ahmad accolades such as the Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Award for 2003.2

Early life
In 1956, Mustaq, then aged five, joined his father, Haji Mohamed Mustafa, in Singapore after the death of his mother. Haji Mohamed grew up in a family of farmers in Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh. He came to Muar, Johor in 1950, and made a living, peddling dumplings. Two years later, Haji Mohamed moved south to Singapore, and ran a business selling tea and bread from a pushcart. Mustaq would help his father with the pushcart business, and this experience taught him the skills of running a business at an early age. Mustaq also displayed a flair for entrepreneurship from young. Next to his father's stall, he started a business selling handkerchiefs bought with his own pocket money. Seeing the potential in Mustaq’s venture, his father switched from selling food to garments for adults and children. Later, the family set up a makeshift store at Campbell Lane to sell ready-made clothes.3


Because of his strong interest in business, Mustaq discontinued his Secondary Four studies at Christ Church School to work for his father full-time.4 When the government imposed a ban on street stalls, Mustaq convinced his father to rent a 500 square feet shop space at Campbell Lane where they continued their clothing retail business with a relative. Established in 1971, the store was named Mohamed Mustafa & Samsuddin, after Mustaq's father and uncle.5

Building a family stall into a multi-million dollar business
Business took off at Campbell Lane and within two years, the family was looking for new sites to expand their business. They were able to secure two locations, one at Campbell Lane, and the other at Serangoon Road. The site at Campbell Lane was used to store their goods, while the site at Serangoon Road, which enjoyed heavier human traffic, functioned as its retail store.6

With the larger retail space, Mustaq decided to add electronic goods to its range of products to meet customers’ demands. Mustaq also made a pioneering decision to sell his products at fixed prices. This was an uncommon practice at that time.7 The move went well with customers who found the store's products competitively priced, and that time could be saved by doing away with the bargaining process. Customer traffic continued to grow and the store soon extended to the rented space next door.8

In 1985, the government acquired the shop buildings for conservation, and Mustafa (as the store is commonly known) shifted to a larger rented space in Serangoon Plaza. It was a daring step that Mustaq took because the new location was away from the main shopping belt in Little India.9

Buoyed by the tourism boom in the 1980s, Mustafa thrived and benefited much from the patronage of Indian tourists. It was able to attract overseas visitors by positioning itself as a one-stop shopping haven with a wide offering of quality goods at competitive prices. For the overseas visitor who has limited time but many shopping needs, Mustafa became a must-see destination. To accommodate the growth, the store expanded to other spaces in the same building.10

When rents at Serangoon Plaza shot up by 70 percent, Mustaq decided that it would be more viable for the company to own its own building. He acquired twenty shophouses along Syed Alwi Road where he built Mustafa Centre, a 75,000 square feet department store with a 130-room hotel at a cost $45 million. The shopping centre opened in April 1995, and operated as a 24-hour store in 2003. Today, Mustafa Centre, which has expanded 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. Mustafa has also reopened a branch at Serangoon Plaza after its renovation in 2004. Collectively, the stores bring in an annual turnover of $725 million.11

Local and international accolades
Competitors and observers have attributed the success of Mustafa to Mustaq’s business acumen and down-to-earth management style. First to arrive and the last to leave the office, Mustaq makes it a point to observe and interact with his staff and customers. He adopts an “open” concept for his office – there are no doors, walls or screens to divide his office from the rest of his staff. Where possible, he also prefers to resolve issues immediately instead of holding meetings. The store has won many customers through its strategy of providing a comprehensive range of goods at competitive prices. Products are directly imported in bulk and then sold at a profit margin of not more than 10 percent.12 The employees at Mustafa are also mostly long-serving staff who engage their customers, and keep a close watch on changing retail trends.13


Mustaq’s accomplishments have made him an exemplary model of a successful immigrant who has prospered and contributed to Singapore. On the debate on foreign talent, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his National Day Rally speech of 2006, said, “You get the right foreigner here, he creates thousands of jobs for Singaporeans like Mr Mustaq and you need to get more people like him”.14 Former Minister of Trade and Industry, Yeo Cheow Tong, has also raised Mustafa as an example of a retail store that has created a unique shopping experience for customers.15 In 2004, Mustaq was named Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year 2003 by the Singapore Tourism Board, and more recently, he was ranked 38th in Forbes’ list of Singapore’s 40 Richest People in 2008.16 In 2011, Mustaq Ahmad, 64, the founder of Mustafa Centre, has been ranked as the 37th richest in Singapore, with a net worth estimated at US$240 million by  Forbes Asia.17

Family
Mustaq Ahmad became a Singaporean citizen in 1991, and is married to Ishret Jahan.18 They have one son and three daughters.19



Author

Isabel Ong



References
1. Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2006). Who's who in Singapore 2006. Singapore: Who's Who Pub, p. 356. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
2. Mustafa Centre's owner Mustaq Ahmad wins Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Award. (2004, March 25). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Sim, G. (2004, March 26). Next: buy in bulk cheaply from Mustafa's. The Straits Times, p. H6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2006). Who's who in Singapore 2006 . Singapore: Who's Who Pub, p. 356. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO); Ho, K. (2001, July 29). Big man in Little India. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tsang, S. (2007). Discover Singapore: The city's history & culture redefined. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 126–127. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TSA); Shankar, M. (1997, Aprl 23). Singaporean retail magnate lets market lead the way. Retrieved 2016, July 25 from apakabar@clark.net website: https://www.library.ohiou.edu/indopubs/1997/04/27/0046.html; Zakir Hussain. (2006, August 21). Spore needs more talented foreigners like Mustafa's managing director. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. At least 180,000 shoppers throng the store each year. (1994, September 23). The Straits Times, p. 2; Zakir Hussain. (2006, August 21). Spore needs more talented foreigners like Mustafa's managing director. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Ho, K. (2001, July 29). Big man in Little India. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Thin, P. (Ed.). (1997). S-files: The story behind their success: 20 true life stories to inspire, challenge and guide you to greater success . Singapore: Success Resources, p. 125. (Call no.: RSING 338.04095957 SFI)
7. Thin, P. (Ed.). (1997). S-files: The story behind their success: 20 true life stories to inspire, challenge and guide you to greater success . Singapore: Success Resources, p. 125. (Call no.: RSING 338.04095957 SFI)
8. Ho, K. (2001, July 29). Big man in Little India. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Thin, P. (Ed.). (1997). S-files: The story behind their success: 20 true life stories to inspire, challenge and guide you to greater success . Singapore: Success Resources, p. 127. (Call no.: RSING 338.04095957 SFI)
9. At least 180,000 shoppers throng the store each year. (1994, September 23). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Madhu, M., Vasudevan, Y., & Roman, R. (2004). Singapore Indian entrepreneurs: Dreams to reality. Singapore: Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, pp. 104–107. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 MAD)
10. Mustafa Online. (2016). About us. Retrieved 2009, February 16 from http://www.mustafa.com.sg/mmsnew/; At least 180,000 shoppers throng the store each year. (1994, September 23). The Straits Times, p. 2; Chong, V. (2004, December 9). One-stop shopping experience. The Business Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2006). Who's who in Singapore 2006. Singapore: Who's Who Pub, p. 356. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
11. Mustafa Online. (2016). About Us. Retrieved 2009, February 16 from http://www.mustafa.com.sg/mmsnew/; Tsang, S. (2007). Discover Singapore: The city's history & culture redefined . Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 126–127. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TSA); Chong, V. (2004, December 9). One-stop shopping experience. The Business Times, p. 28; At least 180,000 shoppers throng the store each year. (1994, September 23). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Madhu, M., Vasudevan, Y., & Roman, R. (2004). Singapore Indian entrepreneurs: Dreams to reality. Singapore: Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, pp. 104–107. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 MAD)
13. Thin, P. (Ed.). (1997). S-files: The story behind their success: 20 true life stories to inspire, challenge and guide you to greater success. Singapore: Success Resources, pp. 120–131. (Call no.: RSING 338.04095957 SFI)
14. Lee, H. L. (2006, August 20). Transcript of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally 2006 on Sunday, 20 August 2006, at the University Cultural Centre, National University of Singapore. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
15. Create distinct niches to gain an edge, retailers told. (1995, July 15). The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Shankar, M. (1997, April 23). Singaporean retail magnate lets market lead the way. Retrieved 2016, July 25 from apakabar@clark.net website: https://www.library.ohiou.edu/indopubs/1997/04/27/0046.html
16. Mustafa Centre's owner Mustaq Ahmad wins Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Award. (2004, March 25). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Sim, G. (2004, March 26). Next: buy in bulk cheaply from Mustafa's. The Straits Times, p. H6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; 3 India-origin people among Singapore’s richest list. (2008, August 22). The Press Trust of India Limited. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
17. Lim, J. (2015, November 24). What rich Singaporeans want. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

18. Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2006). Who's who in Singapore 2006. Singapore: Who's Who Pub, p. 356. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
19. 3 India-origin people among Singapore’s richest list. (2008, August 22). The Press Trust of India Limited. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Kerk, C. (1996, November 30). The man who built Mustafa Centre. The Business Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Entrepreneurs--Singapore--Biography
Business, finance and industry>>Business organization>>Business enterprises
Personalities
Mustaq Ahmad, 1951-
Personalities>>Biographies
Business enterprises--Singapore