Kartar Singh Thakral



Kartar Singh Thakral (b. 22 September 1933, Bangkok, Thailand–) is the chairman of Thakral Group of Companies and executive director of Singapore-listed Thakral Corporation. An active community leader, he serves as a trustee to the Singapore Sikh Education Foundation and the Sri Grur Nanak Satsang Sabha.1 In 1996, he was named Businessman of the Year 1995 at the annual Singapore Business Awards.2

Early life
Kartar was born in Thailand in 1933 and educated at Assumption College in Bangkok.3 The fifth of seven children, he was groomed in the family business at an early age. The family enterprise originated from humble roots. His father, Sohan Singh Thakral, became an orphan at the age of nine after his entire family, with the exception of him and his younger brother, succumbed to an epidemic. Sohan met an elderly Sikh, Kirpa Singh, and shortly after migrated from Pakistan to Thailand to help the latter with his textile business there. He peddled textiles in Bangkok for several years before setting up his own retail shop, Punjab Store, in 1905. In 1936, Sohan opened a branch in Japan as he believed he would make better profits if he bought the textiles directly from the suppliers. When World War II broke out, the family returned to Thailand.4

Move to Singapore
In 1952, Kartar, then 19, was sent by his father to set up a branch in Singapore. Named Thakral Brothers, the office was located at High Street. In the same year, Kartar married a local Punjabi girl.5


Business success
In 1973, Thakral Brothers registered as a limited company. Kartar displayed business acumen and foresight like his father and was able to stay ahead of his competitors by identifying opportunities in emerging markets. Seeing the potential in electronics, Kartar branched out into electronic distribution in 1975. Having operated in Japan since 1936, the company was able to secure distribution rights to many Japanese consumer electronic brands, and was thus well-positioned to ride on the Japanese electronics boom in the 1970s and 80s. In 1982, Kartar established a separate operation, Thakral Corporation.6

Kartar also took the opportunity to export television sets and video cassette recorders to India in the early 1980s. When the market became saturated with products from Indian manufacturers and other importers, Kartar exited the sector and turned his attention to China. As he had already established a textile business in China since the 1960s, Kartar entered the Chinese electronic market once China reversed its communist policies. Thakral Corporation was able to secure rights to distribute Japanese brands in China and thus gained a foothold in the Chinese market, enjoying tremendous success until the mid-1990s.7

Under the guidance of Kartar, the Thakral Group of Companies also invested in several real estate projects. It then started a public-listed entity, Thakral Holdings, which focused on Australian hospitality real estate assets. For a considerable period of time, Thakral Holdings was one of the largest foreign owners and operators of hotels in Australia. When it was delisted in 2012, the company’s total assets were valued at A$1.064 billion.8

Today, the family-run business spans five sectors, namely property investment and development, textiles, distribution and retail of consumer lifestyle products, representation of major timepiece and luxury brands in emerging markets, and provision of technology consulting services to major public and private enterprises. Kartar remains a key part of the decision-making process in the group’s ventures.9

Kartar’s achievements and success did not go unnoticed by the government. In 1994, he was appointed as a director of the Singapore Trade Development Board by the Ministry for Trade and Industry, for four years until 31 December 1998. He was also appointed as a member of the Committee to Promote Enterprise Overseas, and member of the Regional Business Forum.10

Accolades
Thakral Group’s astounding rise from a small textile shop to a multi-million-dollar international business has garnered admiration and accolades from the business community. In 1996, Kartar was named Businessman of the Year 1995 at the Singapore Business Awards, while Thakral Brothers was named Singapore’s top privately held company at the Enterprise 50 awards for 1995.11

Community involvement
Kartar is an active community leader and has held several positions in various organisations. He served as a trustee of the Singapore Indian Development Association from 1991 to 2006 and is also a trustee to the Singapore Sikh Education Foundation and Sri Grur Nanak Satsang Sabha. He is also a patron to the Singapore Khalsa Association and the Sikh Welfare Council.12

Family
Father: Sohan Singh Thakral.
Mother: Attar Kaur.
Wife: Narinda Kaur
Children: Four sons and one daughter.13



Author

Isabel Ong



References
1. Singh, M., et al. (Eds.). (2015). Singapore at 50: 50 Sikhs and their contributions. Singapore: Young Sikh Association, pp. 150, 153. (Call no.: RSING 294.6095957 SIN); Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2006). Who’s who in Singapore 2006. Singapore: Who’s Who Publications, p. 516. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
2. Another feather in the cap for Thakral. (1996, March 30). The Straits Times, p. 46. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with National Heritage Board, p. 560. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
4. Madan, M., Vasudevan, Y., & Raman, R. (2004). Singapore Indian entrepreneurs: Dreams to reality. Singapore: Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, p. 73. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 MAD); Singh, G. (2003). The global Indian: The rise of Sikhs abroad. New Delhi: Rupa & Co, p. 171. (Call no.: RSING q305.6946 GUR); Singh, M., et al. (Eds.). (2015). Singapore at 50: 50 Sikhs and their contributions. Singapore: Young Sikh Association, p. 150. (Call no.: RSING 294.6095957 SIN)
5. Madan, M. (2004). Singapore Indian entrepreneurs: Dreams to reality. Singapore: Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, p. 73. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 MAD); Singh, G. (2003). The global Indian: The rise of Sikhs abroad. New Delhi: Rupa & Co, p. 171. (Call no.: RSING q305.6946 GUR)
6. Madan, M. (2004). Singapore Indian entrepreneurs: Dreams to reality. Singapore: Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, p. 74. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 MAD); Singh, K., Pangarkar, N., & Heracleous, L. (2013). Business strategy in Asia: A casebook. Singapore: Cengage Learning Asia Pte Ltd, p. 279. (Call no.: RSING 658.4012095 SIN)
7. Madan, M. (2004). Singapore Indian entrepreneurs: Dreams to reality. Singapore: Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, p. 74. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 MAD); Shamsul, A. B., & Kaur, A. (Eds.). (2011). Sikhs in Southeast Asia: Negotiating an identity. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 193. (Call no.: RSING 305.694659 SIK); Singh, K., Pangarkar, N., & Heracleous, L. (2013). Business strategy in Asia: A casebook. Singapore: Cengage Learning Asia Pte Ltd, pp. 279–280. (Call no.: RSING 658.4012095 SIN)
8. Singh, M., et al. (Eds.). (2015). Singapore at 50: 50 Sikhs and their contributions. Singapore: Young Sikh Association, p. 151. (Call no.: RSING 294.6095957 SIN)
9. Singh, M., et al. (Eds.). (2015). Singapore at 50: 50 Sikhs and their contributions. Singapore: Young Sikh Association, pp. 151–152. (Call no.: RSING 294.6095957 SIN)
10. Singh, M., et al. (Eds.). (2015). Singapore at 50: 50 Sikhs and their contributions. Singapore: Young Sikh Association, pp. 152–153. (Call no.: RSING 294.6095957 SIN)
11. Thakral – from small textile partnership to trading giants. (1996, February 10). The Straits Times, p. 46; Another feather in the cap for Thakral. (1996, March 30). The Straits Times, p. 46. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Singh, M., et al. (Eds.). (2015). Singapore at 50: 50 Sikhs and their contributions. Singapore: Young Sikh Association, p. 153. (Call no.: RSING 294.6095957 SIN)
13. Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2006). Who’s who in Singapore 2006. Singapore: Who’s Who Publications, p. 516. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)



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
Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Community leaders
Thakral, Kartar Singh, 1933-
Personalities>>Biographies>>Community Leaders
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Services>>Retail and wholesale
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Businessmen--Singapore--Biography