SINGAPORE - Despite already being a popular tourist attraction, Little India is getting a push with new community spaces and its own online marketplace.
Two unused plots of land in the precinct 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 and art installations - such as colourful statues of cows and trees with umbrellas - have been put up at the two fields along Clive Street and Hindoo Road. Each month, community groups will organise performances and activities there based on a theme.
To kick off the project, the Indian Cultural Fiesta will be held for a month from Monday (April 11). 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 first started in 2010 as a means to commemorate then Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's first visit to Little India in a long time.
"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, at a press conference on Wednesday (April 6). "This is a chance for locals and tourists to come to Little India and experience different (Indian) 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 of land in Little India, said Mr Rajakumar.
Meanwhile, consumers wary of weekend crowds in Little India can look forward to shopping online for clothes, groceries, garlands and spiritual items such as joss sticks commonly found in the precinct.
An online marketplace for goods and services by Little India merchants will be launched next Friday (April 15). Named after a slang word used among local Indians to call out to one another, Dei.com.sg is a collaboration between Lisha and IT solutions and service provider Auberon I.
It now has 15 Little India merchants onboard, and aims to get the rest of the over 300 merchants in the precinct 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 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 in Little India and bring convenience to them," he added.