5 Money Lessons To Learn From Mustafa Centre, Singapore’s Best Budget Megamall

16 November 2016

The story of Mustafa

Mustafa Centre is Singapore’s biggest 24 hour retail mall. But it wasn’t always that way – they started small, too. Here’s their story!

 

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The current managing director and co-founder of Mustafa Centre, Mustaq Ahmad, was initially a small business owner.

In the 1950s, Mustaq and his father ran a pushcart selling tea and bread. While still in school, Mustaq saved sufficient capital to start his own business selling handkerchiefs, next to his father’s stall.

This grew to a fabric and textiles business. At Secondary Four, Mustaq dropped out of school to run the business full-time with his father.

Following a ban on street stalls in the 1970s, Mustaq and his father opened a proper, ready-made clothing store along Campbell Lane.

This was a bold move; at the time, it was more common for people to buy fabrics and sew the clothes at home, than to purchase it off the rack.

As the business expanded, Mustaq also expanded the product range to include electronics.

He also did something completely crazy for the time: he fixed the prices on everything. This seems normal to us now, but at the time, it was expected that you would bargain with the shop owner for everything.

This stroke of genius grew the business and customer traffic significantly, and saw them moving into a retail mall in 1985

When the mall’s management apparently lost their minds and decided to raise rent by 70 per cent, Mustaq left and bought 20 shophouses along Syed Alwi Road. These were developed into a 75,000 square foot retail mall, which opened in 1995.

By 2003, the retail mall – which we all now know as Mustafa Centre – was open 24 hours, had won a tourism award (despite never deliberately attempting to win one), and brings in an estimated $302 million per year.

In 2008, Mustaq Ahmad made it to the Forbes list of the 40 richest Singaporeans (at number 38), and his business continues to expand.

Businessman or homemaker, here are some personal money lessons we can learn from Mustafa Centre’s success.

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