Big boost for Little India: Shows, online shopping

Parvathy Varma,12, performing at an outdoor stage set up as part of a pilot project to promote Little India. To kick off the project, the Indian Cultural Fiesta will be held from Monday until the end of the month.
Parvathy Varma,12, performing at an outdoor stage set up as part of a pilot project to promote Little India. To kick off the project, the Indian Cultural Fiesta will be held from Monday until the end of the month. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

It is already a popular tourist attraction, but Little India is about to get further promotion in the form of new community spaces and its own online marketplace.

Two unused plots of land in the district will be set aside for community activities over the next seven months to make the area even more vibrant in a pilot project organised by the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association (Lisha) and supported by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

A stage as well as art installations, including colourful statues of cows and trees with umbrellas, have been put up in two green spaces in Clive Street and Hindoo Road. Each month, community groups will organise themed performances and activities.

To kick off the project, the Indian Cultural Fiesta will be held from Monday until the end of the month. Participants from 14 ethnic groups will showcase their traditions through performances and activities such as henna-painting and garland-making.

Formerly known as the Indian New Year celebration, the event started in 2010 as a means to commemorate a visit by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

"Nowhere in the world will you see 14 ethnic groups in the Indian community come together because the diaspora is so large and the groups are all over India," said the chairman of Lisha, Mr Rajakumar Chandra. "This is a chance for locals and tourists to come to Little India and experience the different cultures."

Mr Kenneth Lim, STB's director of cultural precincts development, said 20 per cent of all visitors to Singapore make a trip to Little India, making it one of the most visited tourist attractions here. "Little India is a very important precinct in Singapore," he added. "We are constantly trying to find ways to see how we can engage our visitors, whether they are tourists or locals."

If successful, the project will be extended to other unused plots in the area.

Meanwhile, consumers wary of the weekend crowds in Little India can look forward to shopping online for clothes, groceries, garlands and spiritual items that are unique to the area.

A website for goods and services by Little India merchants will be launched next Friday.

Named after a slang word used among local Indians to call out to each other, Dei.com.sg is a collaboration between Lisha and IT solutions and service provider Auberon I.

It now has 15 Little India merchants on board, and aims to get more than 300 online by the end of the year. Shoppers can have items delivered to their homes for a fee, or collect them at a point near Little India MRT station.

Mr Rajakumar said the initiative was mooted in response to the growing trend of online shopping, as well as complaints by visitors about crowds and lack of parking spaces and taxis in the area on weekends.

"We hope this will ease the hassle of shopping and bring convenience to them," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2016, with the headline 'Big boost for Little India: Shows, online shopping'. Print Edition | Subscribe