Beyond the Myth: Indian Business Communities in Singapore

Beyond the Myth: Indian Business Communities in Singapore
Date of publication:  2011
Publisher:  Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Number of pages:  371
Code:  BM424


"The academic literature on the Indians in Singapore has been scant over the past few decades with no book-length study of the business enterprises of this ethnic community. Jayati Bhattacharya's study is, therefore, a pioneering feat, as well as an extremely laudable general business history of Indian enterprise in Singapore. This book of seven chapters provides a historical evaluation of the evolution of Indians in business, as traders during the pre-colonial and colonial periods, to settled entrepreneurial communities deeply embedded in the economy in a variety of activities, including as money-lenders, plantation owners and manufacturers, to major transnational enterprises. The study also provides an excellent account of the role of business associations created by Indian businesspeople during the colonial period. One important point is noted, though insufficiently appraised: the number of Indians who have emerged as major entrepreneurs in Singapore is hardly significant, in spite of their long history of involvement in this economy. In contrast, the Chinese, with a similar history of trading and as an ethnic community as deeply involved in a diverse range of activities, have shown an enormous capacity to retain their major presence in Singapore, a point the author also notes in her concluding chapter. Therein lies one problem with this otherwise thoughtful review of the business enterprises of this important ethnic community. The economic history approach adopted in this study traces well the varied number of businesses that Indians ventured into, how they fared during critical events in history, such as during the rise of British colonial rule, the Japanese occupation, the struggle for Independence, and the long authoritarian rule of the People's Action Party (PAP), specifically under the premiership of Lee Kuan Yew, which actively promoted state-owned -- not private -- enterprises" (Journal of Contemporary Asia).

About the publication

This book is a macro-study of Indian business communities in Singapore through different phases of their growth since colonial times. It goes beyond the conventional labour-history approach to study Indian immigrants to Southeast Asia, both in terms of themselves and their connections with the peoples' movements. It looks at how Indian business communities negotiated with others in the environments in which they found themselves and adapted to them in novel ways. It especially brings into focus the patterns and integration of the Indian networks in the large-scale transnational flows of capital, one of the least-studied aspects of the diaspora history in this part of the world. The complexities and overlapping interests of different groups of traders and businessmen form an interesting study of various aspects of these trading bodies, their methods of operation and their trade links, both within and outside Singapore. The book also charts their mobility and progress, in terms of both business and social status. The research aims to construct linear threads of linkages through generations and situate them in the larger framework and broader paradigms of business networks in Singapore.
           In shedding light on aspects of Indian connectivities to Southeast Asia, the narrative is particularly relevant in the context of India's economic rise. This study raises economic, social and cultural issues regarding the transition.


  • Beyond the Myth: Indian Business Communities in Singapore
    [Whole Publication, ISBN: 9789814311373]
  • Preliminary pages
  • 1. Making Singapore their Homeland: The Early Indian Migrants to the Lion City
  • 2. The Post-Independence Period: Changing Dynamics and the Shift in Business Activities
  • 3. Taking Strides into the Future: Transition and Transformation of the Indian Business Communities
  • 4. Business Associations and Organizational Networks
  • 5. The Indomitable Entrepreneurs: Three Case Studies
  • Conclusion: Surging Forward
  • Appendices
  • Select Bibliography
  • Index
  • About the Author
  • Photo plates

Similar Publications