Mustafas Story Case Study

Mohamed Mustafa and Samsudin Co Pte Ltd


Mohamed Mustafa and Samsuddin Co Pte Ltd (MMSC), established in 1971 and located in Little India, is one of Singapore’s local retail giants. Hard work, honesty, humility, and the importance of listening to customers’ needs are the guiding principles behind its monumental success.1 Commonly known as “Mustafa’s”, it was named one of Singapore’s top 50 enterprises between 1996 to 2000.2

Early history
MMSC was founded in 1971 by entrepreneur Mustaq Ahmad with his father, Haji Mohamed Mustafa (b. 1916d. 2001) and his uncle, Samsuddin. However, it was Haji Mohamed Mustafa who laid the foundation for the company.3

Haji Mohamed Mustafa was born in India to a farming family. He arrived in Muar, Malaysia in 1950, and began peddling dumplings, from village to village.4 In 1952, he came to Singapore, and sold food items from a make-shift cart. When his first wife died a few years later in India, he sent for his five-year-old son, Mustaq Ahmad, who came to Singapore in 1956.5 As he grew, Ahmad started helping out at his father’s food stall, selling tea and bread. Soon he began to sell handkerchiefs at fixed prices, next to his father’s food stall, using pocket money given to him by his father to buy the goods he needed.6

Haji Mohamed was so inspired by his son’s business acumen, and having realised the potential in the clothing retail business, Haji Mohammed gave up selling tea and bread at his stall, and started selling children’s clothes and garments for adults in the 1960s.7 Meanwhile, Ahmad continued to help his father and uncle at their clothes’ stall. As the business blossomed, the family added vests and more items to the range.8

In 1971, Ahmad expanded the family business, setting up a small 500 sq ft shop in Campbell Lane that sold ready-made garments, and named it Mohamed Mustafa, after his father.9 Ahmad then took on the role of its managing director.10 Over the years, business expanded with the addition of more retail space along Serangoon Road, and the inclusion of more product offerings such as electrical appliances. Eventually, in 1995, the store expanded to become Mustafa Centre – a 75,000- square feet department store with a 130-room hotel, along Syed Alwi Road in Little India.11 Well-known as an astute entrepreneur with a sensible approach to business, the unaffected and humble Ahmad is now synonymous with the Mohamed Mustafa stores in Little India.12

Later developments
Over the years, MMSC went through several rounds of expansion made possible through finances from its own internal resources, and bank loans.13 Although the company had no plans to go public in 2003,14 it did so eight years later, with its first bonds sold in February 2014.15

Today, MMSC comprises two departmental stores; the retail space at Serangoon Plaza,16 and its 24-hour main store, Mustafa Centre, at Syed Alwi Road.17 In 2003, the departmental stores occupied a sprawling 150,000 sq ft of retail space.18 The following year, the 130 hotel rooms were converted into more retail space, expanding it to 200,000 sq ft offering a supermarket, a jewel mart, money changer, postal services, air ticket services and a café amidst many other services.19 Renowned for being a shopper’s paradise, MMSC had a turnover of about S$400 million in 2006.20

Mustafa Centre was renovated and extended again in 2010 to include a roof garden restaurant and a nine-storey annex. Opened in January 2011, the extension is connected to the older building by a second floor walkway. This increased the total size of Mustafa Centre, and allowed for an even wider range of consumer goods from as far as Iceland.21

The company ventured into regional expansion as well, when it opened its first outlet in Chennai, India in 2000. An 8,000 sq ft jewellery shop called Mustafa Goldmart, housed in a 16,000 sq ft building, was bought by Ahmad.22 In 2003, it paid S$15 million for a building in Jakarta, Indonesia, that stands on a 33,000 sq m plot of land. Rental dues paid by tenants in that building acts as another source of revenue for the company.23 Mustafa Centre has also expanded its reach into the Bangladesh economy in 2012, opening a chain store at the Bashundhara City mall.24

The company launched a successful online store on its website in mid-1999, but losses incurred via credit card fraud forced it to cease its operations by the end of that year.25 Despite this, the company still planned to use the internet to expand overseas via franchisees through a business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce system. The franchisees could buy from the company and sell to retailers, or set up shop themselves with goods ordered from them, freeing the company from collecting online payment from final buyers, which was the cause of its security problems with its online store earlier.26

In June 2003, Mustafa became the first and only major department store in Singapore to operate 24 hours daily. This attracted widespread media attention, and increased its customer base by at least 20 percent. Foreign tour operators like Jakarta Express, regularly brought tour groups from Indonesia to enjoy night shopping at the stores.27 With the increase in Chinese clientele, the company also employed Chinese speaking sales persons. Subsequently, Malay, Indonesian and Filipino staff were also recruited to make the various ethnic groups feel at home.28

The company developed their own six-storey warehouse at Kallang Pudding Road in 2001 with the approval of the Urban Development Authority (URA).29 In 2004, the company planned to open a new business selling groceries, clothes and other items in bulk quantities at low prices from the warehouse, similar to the successful warehouse club concept such as Costco and Sam’s Club in the United States.30 Their application to change the use of the building to a wholesale centre was denied by the URA as the sale of products was not allowed in the zone that the warehouse was in. The building was later discovered to house a department store and a supermarket in 2009, and was served a summon by the URA.31 The company was fined $10,000 in April 2010 for the offence.32

Reasons for strong business performance
The Mustafa stores are well known for selling products catered to a wide variety of needs and people. It has products for everyone, whether one is well-to-do or not.33 The store stocks more than 300,000 items displayed on four levels of the six-storey building along Syed Alwi Road,34 ranging from ready-made apparel to jewellery, sundry items and household goods to luggage bags and electronics.35 The company keeps abreast of consumer needs and trends via regular customer surveys and market research. Hence, its product mix changes accordingly with customer needs.36

With a fairly small profit margin of 10 to 15 percent on most products, prices of products sold at Mustafa are lower than its competitors. The lower prices are possible because of the huge turnover. Goods are imported directly, eliminating the need for middlemen. They are bought in much bigger quantities, so lower prices can be offered. The goods are bought at the cheapest possible sources, from countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Britain, United States and Japan.37 Even though the company has grown, it has remained true to its budget concept,38 a business strategy that has worked for the company.39

Consumers are attracted to the wide range of products at reasonable and fair prices at its stores. They then help to generate word-of-mouth publicity by recommending the stores to their friends.40

Timeline
1971: The first Mohamed Mustafa shop was set up at Campbell Lane, a development of the family’s sari stall originally at Buffalo Road.41
1973: Expansion at Serangoon Road with electronics included in the range of goods offered.42
1978: The first department store in Singapore to computerise its operations.43
Dec 1985: Mustafa moved to Serangoon Plaza along Serangoon Road, after the government acquires its shops for conservation.44
Aug 1994: The first department store in Singapore to launch a mail-order business45
Apr 1995: Established Mustafa Centre along Syed Alwi Road. Besides expanding its shopping area, it included a 130-room hotel.46
Mid-1999: Launched its online store47
2000:
Mustafa Goldmart opened in Chennai, India48
2001: Development of warehouse at Kallang Pudding Road started49
Jun 2003: The first local department store to open 24-hours for business50
Jun 2011: Opening of a garden restaurant and nine-storey annex51
Dec 2012
: Mustafa Centre opens at Bashundhara City Shopping Mall, Bangladesh52
Feb 2014
: Company started selling bonds53

Awards
The store has made it to the annual Enterprise 50 (E50) awards list for five years, from 1996 to 2000.54 Listed by Andersen Consulting and The Business Times and supported by the Economic Development Board (EDB), the award ranks the top 50 local private companies that are most enterprising.55

In March 25, 2004, Mustaq Ahmad was named Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB). This is because, according to the STB, Ahmad contributed greatly to Singapore’s tourism industry, as his stores became a must-visit destination for the 300,000 Indian tourists who visited Singapore in 2003.56 Mustaq Ahmad was also honoured with a Special Recognition Award by the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SMCCI) in 2015 for his long term contributions and services to SMCCI.57

Addresses58
Head office: Block 668, #02-18, Chander Road, Singapore 210668.
Main store address: Mustafa Centre, 145 Syed Alwi Road, Singapore 207704.
Branch: Serangoon Plaza, 320 Serangoon Road, Singapore 218108



Authors

Nureza Ahmad & Noorainn Aziz



References
1. Ho, K. (2001, July 29). Big man in Little India. The Straits Times, p. 3; Azhar Khalid. (2003, September 27). $250m annual sales but no plans for Mustafa Centre to go public. The Straits Times, p. 26. 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. 126. (Call no.: RSING  338.04095957 SFI); Bhattacharya, J. (2011). Beyond the myth: Indian business communities in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 279. (Call no.: RSING 338.708991405957 BHA)
2. Kerk, C. (1996, November 30). The man who built Mustafa Centre. The Business Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Enterprise 50. (2014). Winners. Retrieved 2016, October 4 from Enterprise 50 website: http://www.enterprise50.org/winners.html 
3. Ho, K. (2001, July 29). Big man in Little India. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
4. Ho, K. (2001, July 29). Big man in Little India. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
5. Zakir Hussain. (2006, August 21). S’pore needs more talented foreigners like Mustafa’s managing director. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Bhattacharya, J. (2011). Beyond the myth: Indian business communities in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 275. (Call no.: RSING 338.708991405957 BHA)
6. Ho, K. (2001, July 29). Big man in Little India. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Bhattacharya, J. (2011). Beyond the myth: Indian business communities in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 275. (Call no.: RSING 338.708991405957 BHA)
7. Ho, K. (2001, July 29). Big man in Little India. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
8. Bhattacharya, J. (2011). Beyond the myth: Indian business communities in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 275. (Call no.: RSING 338.708991405957 BHA)
9. Bhalla, S. T. (1997, June 28). Megastore for India, from Singapore’s Little India. The Straits Times, p. 2; Ho, K. (2001, July 29). Big man in Little India. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
10. Mustafa Centre closed after its founder dies. (2001, July 18). The Straits Times, p. 5; Rashiwala, K. (2000, August 4). Retailer Mustafa to develop $52m MacPherson warehouse. The Business Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Kerk, C. (1996, November 30). The man who built Mustafa Centre. The Business Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
12. Ho, K. (2001, July 29). Big man in Little India. The Straits Times, p. 3; Kerk, C. (1996, November 30). The man who built Mustafa Centre. The Business Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
13. Bhattacharya, J. (2011). Beyond the myth: Indian business communities in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 278. (Call no.: RSING 338.708991405957 BHA)
14. Azhar Khalid. (2003, September 27). $250m annual sales but no plans for Mustafa Centre to go public. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
15. Mok, F. F. (2014, April 14). Smaller firms tapping bond markets. The Straits Times, p. 9.Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Mustafa Online. (2016). About us. Retrieved 2016, October 4 from Mustafa online website: http://www.mustafa.com.sg/mmsnew/AboutUs.aspx
17. Rashiwala, K. (2000, August 4). Retailer Mustafa to develop $52m MacPherson warehouse. The Business Times, p. 10; Kerk, C. (1996, November 30). The man who built Mustafa Centre. The Business Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
18. Azhar Khalid. (2003, September 27). $250m annual sales but no plans for Mustafa Centre to go public. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
19. Chong, V. (2004, December 9). One-stop shopping experience. The Business Times, p. 28; Singapore firms expand. (2004, August 13). The New Paper, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Bhattacharya, J. (2011). Beyond the myth: Indian business communities in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 277. (Call no.: RSING 338.708991405957 BHA)
20. Zakir Hussain. (2006, August 21). S’pore needs more talented foreigners like Mustafa’s managing director. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Zaccheus, M. (2011, June 12). Mustafa’s posh new look. The Straits Times, p. 21.Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Rashiwala, K. (2000, August 4). Retailer Mustafa to develop $52m MacPherson warehouse. The Business Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Bhattacharya, J. (2011). Beyond the myth: Indian business communities in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 277. (Call no.: RSING 338.708991405957 BHA)
23. Azhar Khalid. (2003, September 27). $250m annual sales but no plans for Mustafa Centre to go public. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. ‘Mustafa Centre’ opens outlet at Bashundhara City mall. (2013, January 2). The Financial Express. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
25. Koh, E. (1999, December 13). Mustafa let down by e-commerce. The Straits Times, p. 64. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Rashiwala, K. (2000, August 4). Retailer Mustafa to develop $52m MacPherson warehouse. The Business Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Bhalla, S.T. (2004, March 26). Retail therapy round the clock. Today, p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Madhu, M., Vasudevan, Y., & Raman, R. (2004). Singapore Indian entrepreneurs: Dreams to reality. Singapore: Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, p. 106. (Call no.: RSING 338.0409225957 MAD)
29. Leong, S. W. (2009, November 6). Mustafa told to stop selling from warehouse. The Straits Times, p. 48. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Sim, G. (2004, March 26). Next: buy in bulk cheaply from Mustafa's. The Straits Times, p. H6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Leong, S. W. (2009, November 6). Mustafa told to stop selling from warehouse. The Straits Times, p. 48. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Leow, S. W. (2010, April 1). $10k fine for using warehouse for retail. The Straits Times, p. 8.Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Bhattacharya, J. (2011). Beyond the myth: Indian business communities in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 274. (Call no.: RSING 338.708991405957 BHA)
34. Mustafa Online. (2016). About us. Retrieved 2016, October 4 from Mustafa online website: http://www.mustafa.com.sg/mmsnew/AboutUs.aspx
35. Bhattacharya, J. (2011). Beyond the myth: Indian business communities in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 274–277. (Call no.: RSING 338.708991405957 BHA)
36. Bhattacharya, J. (2011). Beyond the myth: Indian business communities in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 280. (Call no.: RSING 338.708991405957 BHA)
37. Bhattacharya, J. (2011). Beyond the myth: Indian business communities in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 280. (Call no.: RSING 338.708991405957 BHA)
38. Dolven, B. (1998, September 3). Shoppers’ paradise. Far Eastern Economic Review, pp.45–46. Retrieved from ProQuest via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
39. Bhattacharya, J. (2011). Beyond the myth: Indian business communities in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 280. (Call no.: RSING 338.708991405957 BHA)
40. Bhattacharya, J. (2011). Beyond the myth: Indian business communities in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 280. (Call no.: RSING 338.708991405957 BHA)
41. Bhattacharya, J. (2011). Beyond the myth: Indian business communities in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 275. (Call no.: RSING 338.708991405957 BHA)
42. Kerk, C. (1996, November 28). The Mustafa school of business. The Business Times, p. 50. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43. At least 180, 000 shoppers throng the store each year. (1994, September 23). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
44. Kerk, C. (1996, November 28). The Mustafa school of business. The Business Times, p. 50. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
45. At least 180, 000 shoppers throng the store each year. (1994, September 23). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
46. Kerk, C. (1996, November 28). The Mustafa school of business. The Business Times, p. 50. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
47. Yeow, P. L. (1999, May 30). Now Mustafa’s doing roaring business online. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
48. Rashiwala, K. (2000, August 4). Retailer Mustafa to develop $52m MacPherson warehouse. The Business Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Bhattacharya, J. (2011). Beyond the myth: Indian business communities in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 277. (Call no.: RSING 338.708991405957 BHA)
49. Leong. S. W. (2009, November 6). Mustafa told to stop selling from warehouse. The Straits Times, p. 48. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
50. Mulchand, A. (2003, June 11). 24 hour shopping comes to Mustafa’s. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
51. Zaccheus, M. (2011, June 12). Mustafa’s posh new look. The Straits Times, p. 21.Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
52. ‘Mustafa Centre’ opens outlet at Bashundhara City mall. (2013, January 2). The Financial Express. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
53. Mok, F. F. (2014, April 14). Smaller firms tapping bond markets. The Straits Times, p. 9.Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
54. Enterprise 50. (2014). Winners. Retrieved 2016, October 4 from Enterprise 50 website: http://www.enterprise50.org/winners.html 
55. Kerk, C. (1996, November 30). The man who built Mustafa Centre. The Business Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
56. Sim, G. (2004, March 26). Next: buy in bulk cheaply from Mustafa's. The Straits Times, p. H6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
57. Ong, K. X. (2015, February 14). Satay maker among 5 Muslim firms honoured. The Straits Times. Retrieved from ProQuest via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
58. Mustafa Online. (2016). Our people. Retrieved 2016, October 4 from Mustafa Online website: http://www.mustafa.com.sg/mmsnew/OurPeople.aspx



Further resource
Create distinct niches to gain an edge, retailers told. (1995, July 15). The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



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
Trade and industry
Business, finance and industry>>Business organization>>Business enterprises
Commerce and Industry>>Trade
Business enterprises--Singapore


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~ Related Pictures ~

Last week, I decided I need a break from Chennai.  So I bought some air tickets, got myself a visa, packed a few Indian essentials I can’t do without, and flew for four hours. And landed in Chennai.

Yes la, I did. And you’ve guessed where I am now, la.  InSingapore.  In a humungous shopping mall called Mustafa Centre, in Little India.

I could well be right in the middle of my own city, what with the jabber of Tamil shoppers all around me, Tamil salesgirls discussing the sambar andporial they made last night, and a packet of shundakai in the shelf before me to make a typical Tamilian dish. (Hey, I must remember to take this condiment back; I had trouble finding it in my store in Chennai recently...)

Ok, there’s also the jabber of Hindi and Kannada and Chinese  and Japanese and Telegu and Malayalam and many more ands, but with several shelves carrying Tamil signages, I felt I was in Pondy Bazaar back home.

Mustafa Centre in Singapore. Image courtesy: Indu Balachandran.

There are strong reasons why Mustafa Centre is a must-do tourist stop for many Indians, usually brought here by their eager, helpful relatives living in Singapore. You get just about everything here—all at cheaper rates. I mean even a stethoscope. I swear a friend of mine saw one on sale. And should a visiting doctor feel a need to go bargain hunting at say 3 am, he can set off at once to Mustafa, as this 24 hr shop never ever closes.

Your host relative may also tell you about the remarkable founder of Mustafa, Mustaq Ahmed who came to Singapore in 1957 at age 6, (from Uttar Pradesh, not Tamil Nadu as popularly believed by proud Tamilians). Mustaq, at 7, helped expand his dad’s pushcart business of tea and snacks for Indian locals, by selling handkerchiefs alongside—all bought with his own pocket money.

His remarkable entrepreneurship gradually helped buy  up space after space along adjoining streets in Little India. And that’s how he took a small family business consisting of a cart with four wheels in the 50s, to a textile shop of 500sq ft, to the gigantic mall of 150,000 sq ft that it is today. Selling over 150,000 types of merchandise... it’s enough to make you pause and take a deep breath; something I had to do often as I walked the endless aisles. (Good time to buy that stethoscope).

This was also a good time to feel extremely silly about the Indian condiments I had bought from Murugan Stores in Chennai, for some of my Indian pals in Singapore, thinking they’d be so delighted by my thoughtfulness.

You may also hear this phrase “Mustafa The Leveller” by people in Singapore... as you can spot the humble Indian construction worker from Gumidipundi, shopping here; to even the CEO of a large multinational (perhaps in disguise though) walking along these aisles. Thinking, why spend an extra buck for my monthly provisions, my electronic equipment, my cosmetics... and not forgetting, that kitchen sink?

But for the uninitiated, Mustafa can be quite daunting at first. In a pattern of reckless logic, handbags are placed near detergents. And if you’re buying breakfast items, note that after you pick up bread, eggs are just a mile’s walk away (or so it seemed to me) in the other end of store.

My daughter who lives here, and who seems to have done a post doctoral thesis on Mustafa, knows exactly what’s where; and knows that dal is kept at an intriguing distance from rice; and can also advise committed Tam Brahms like me how to navigate the store to pick up vegetables without passing what seems like a large indoor zoo: only the animals here are all in their underwear, willing to be eaten.

Incidentally here’s my own piece of advice on Mustafa, in case you too are visiting Singapore soon. If you’d like to avoid crowds, try not to come here during peak shopping months, which runs from October to the following October.


Published Date: Oct 29, 2012 14:02 PM | Updated Date: Oct 29, 2012 14:02 PM

Tags :#Singapore#WanderingI

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