Rajabali Jumabhoy



Rajabali Jumabhoy (b. 16 January 1898, Lakhapur, Kutch, W. India–d. 26 November 1998, Singapore) was a prominent businessman and patriarch of the four-generation Jumabhoy family business that once owned Scotts Holdings. He was nicknamed “the Grand Old Man of Scott’s”.

Early life
Jumabhoy was born in Lakhapur in Kutch, India to a family of five sisters and six brothers. His roots went back to the Gujerati community in Bombay.1 He grew up in his elder sister’s home in Bhopal but completed his education in Bombay.2


In August 1915, while still in India, Jumabhoy and one of his brothers jointly started a business in Singapore under the name R. Jumabhoy. The firm, located at 9 Market Street, traded in produce such as cotton yarn, wheat flour and spices from Bombay. About a year later, on 24 June 1916, Jumabhoy arrived in Singapore to take charge of the business. However, he could not adjust to the climate and went back to Bombay a few months later due to ill health, returning only in January 1918.3

On 2 January 1922, Jumabhoy launched his own business after a fall-out with his brother, and by 1924, had opened offices in Hong Kong, Java and Bombay, trading in produce such as coffee, sago flour, gum benjamin, rattan and gambier.4 In 1924 he began his foray into the property business which would prove to be the golden goose for the company. After a series of financial and business difficulties during the pre-war years, the post-war years saw his business prospering as he diversified into the shipping and the property arenas.5

Jumabhoy had escaped to India on 7 February 1942, fearing retribution by the Japanese because of the high positions he had held under British rule. With the end of the war, the British requested his return to assist in the rehabilitation of the vital industries and the Indian community in Singapore.6

Apart from being a successful businessman, Jumabhoy contributed extensively to the community, serving in honorary capacity in at least 22 organisations before 1940, and another 27 after World War II.7

Education
1916: Matriculates (“O” levels) from Bombay University.8

Career
1915: Firm bearing his name, R. Jumabhoy, is set up at 9 Market Street, Singapore.9
24 Jun 1916: Reaches Singapore for the first time and starts working at R. Jumabhoy where his elder brother Mohamed is a senior partner and he a junior partner.10
2 Jan 1922: A dispute leads to a split between the brothers, with Jumabhoy setting up his own business located opposite the first.11 
1924: Starts property development.12
1 Jan 1948: Renames his company R Jumabhoy & Sons.13
1975: Converts family residence on Scotts Road into a commercial development. Scotts Shopping Centre is set up with the Ascott serviced apartments.
1991: Scotts Holdings goes public.
Oct 1995: Initiates court action against his son Ameerali concerning the management of the family’s business Scotts Holdings.14

Social involvement
1923: Sets up the Indian Association.
1924: Sets up the Indian Merchants Association.15
1930: Rotary Club founder-member.16
1932–1934: A member of the Trade Commission, the only Indian. This was set up by the Governor of the Straits Settlements to overcome the economic slump of the Great Depression.17
1935: Founding member of the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce, formed despite opposition by the South Indian Chamber of Commerce and the Chettiar Chamber of Commerce. He is appointed its first president.18
1992: The Rajabali Jumabhoy Foundation is established. Funds are derived from the family trusts set up since 1973.

Political involvement
1938–1941: Member of the Municipal Council or Commission (holds this position again from 1946–1947). This was a statutory body that sought to improve public amenities like roads, water supply etc.19
1948: Elected by the Indian Chamber of Commerce into the first Legislative Assembly or Council, remaining a member until 1955.20
12 Jul 1951: Appointed into the Executive Council of the Legislative Assembly.21
1955: In Singapore's first general elections, he is elected into the Legislative Council as an independent in a three-corner fight at Telok Ayer, a predominantly Chinese constituency.22
1959: Retires from politics.23

Awards24
1930: Made Justice of the Peace under Singapore Government.
1938: Malayan Certificate of Honour under Malayan Government.
1953: Made a Commander (C.B.E.) under the Order of the British Empire. 

Family25
Grandfather: Bunder Kassim, a successful merchant whose trade ploughed between Arabia and Somalia. He was so highly regarded that a Somalian coastline bears his name. Originally a Hindu, Bunder embraced the Muslim faith and adopted the Islamic name “Kassim”.
Wife: Fatimabai Premji (b. 1904, Bombay–d. 10 August 1964, Singapore). Married her on 11 May 1920. She bore him seven children, out of whom four survived.
Sons: Ameerali, the eldest and previously chairman and managing director of Scotts Holdings; Yusuf, second son; Mustafa, the youngest son residing in Penang.
Daughter: Perin, residing in Karachi, married to a prominent businessman from that city.



Author

Michael Mukunthan



References
 
1. Jumabhoy, A. (May/June 1988). The grand old man of Scott’s. Chinese Women’s Association Journal, p. 27. (Call no.: RCLOS 369.5095957 WSJ); Jumabhoy, R. (1990). Multiracial Singapore: On to the nineties. Singapore: Chopman Publishers, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 JUM-[HIS])
2. Jumabhoy, A. (May/June 1988). The grand old man of Scott’s. Chinese Women’s Association Journal, p. 27. (Call no.: RCLOS 369.5095957 WSJ) 
3. Jumabhoy, R. (1990). Multiracial Singapore: On to the nineties. Singapore: Chopman Publishers, pp. 36–37. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 JUM-[HIS])
4. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, p. 63. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 CHE)
5. Rajabali – Enterprising trader, public contributor. (1996, October 21). The Straits Times, p. 47. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Jumabhoy, A. (May/June 1988). The grand old man of Scott’s. Chinese Women's Association Journal, pp. 30–31. (Call no.: RCLOS 369.5095957 WSJ)
7. Aggarwal, N. (1998, January 16). I never thought I’d live to be 100. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Aggarwal, N. (1998, January 16). I never thought I’d live to be 100. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Aggarwal, N. (1998, January 16). I never thought I’d live to be 100. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Jumabhoy, R. (1990). Multiracial Singapore: On to the nineties. Singapore: Chopman Publishers, p. 37. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 JUM-[HIS])
11. Jumabhoy, R. (1990). Multiracial Singapore: On to the nineties. Singapore: Chopman Publishers, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 JUM-[HIS])
12. Aggarwal, N. (1998, January 16). I never thought I’d live to be 100. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Jumabhoy, R. (1990). Multiracial Singapore: On to the nineties. Singapore: Chopman Publishers, p. 46. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 JUM-[HIS])
14. Family feud tears Jumabhoy empire apart. (1997, June 20). Hong Kong: South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2016, August 31 from ProQuest via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
15. Aggarwal, N. (1998, January 16). I never thought I’d live to be 100. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Rajabali – Enterprising trader, public contributor. (1996, October 21). The Straits Times, p. 47. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
17. Aggarwal, N. (1998, January 16). I never thought I’d live to be 100. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Rajabali – Enterprising trader, public contributor. (1996, October 21). The Straits Times, p. 47. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Jumabhoy, R. (1990). Multiracial Singapore: On to the nineties. Singapore: Chopman Publishers, p. 132. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 JUM-[HIS])
20. Rajabali – Enterprising trader, public contributor. (1996, October 21). The Straits Times, p. 47. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Jumabhoy, A. (May/June 1988). The grand old man of Scott’s. Chinese Women’s Association Journal, p. 32. (Call no.: RCLOS 369.5095957 WSJ)
22. Rajabali – Enterprising trader, public contributor. (1996, October 21). The Straits Times, p. 47. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Rajabali – Enterprising trader, public contributor. (1996, October 21). The Straits Times, p. 47. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Aggarwal, N. (1998, January 16). I never thought I’d live to be 100. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Jumabhoy, R. (1990). Multiracial Singapore: On to the nineties. Singapore: Chopman Publishers, pp. 18, 29–30. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 JUM-[HIS])



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we can 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
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Construction and real estate>>Real estate
Real estate developers--Singapore--Biography
Personalities>>Biographies>>Community Leaders
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Jumabhoy, Rajabali, 1898-1998
Community leaders
Businessmen--Singapore--Biography