SPH newspaper vendors share stories of 'unconventional but rewarding' trade

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SINGAPORE - While most families in Singapore were still fast asleep on Sunday (Feb 14) morning, Mr Tony Chua was busy at the crack of dawn, delivering The Sunday Times to their doorsteps.

Come rain or shine, the 66-year-old has been distributing newspapers every day for 43 years now, and does not plan to retire anytime soon.

He is one of five vendors featured in a short video put out by Singapore Press Holdings' circulation department to pay tribute to the company's vendors and thank them for their hard work.

Mr Chua wakes up at 3am, and heads to collect the day's newspapers before distributing them to homes in the West Coast until 7am.

"Getting up early and distributing the paper is like an energetic morning exercise. When I started off, it was tough to train myself to wake up so early, but over time it has become part of my life," he said.

Mr Chua, who is married with four children, used to be a factory worker before becoming a vendor. Although he has passed the retirement age, Mr Chua said he hopes to continue working as long as his health permits so he can stay active.

Like Mr Chua, 47-year-old vendor Packirisamy Samithurai enjoys the morning work hours.

A vendor for 15 years, Mr Packirisamy does his daily distribution rounds in Bukit Batok from 3am to 8am. He likes the hours as they let him spend enough time with his children, aged 16 and nine.

"The job gives me the rare chance to spend time with my children when they get home from school. Not many parents have that opportunity," he said.

As Covid-19 cases spiked in Singapore last year, Mr Packirisamy was concerned about contracting the coronavirus, but he pushed on with his work as he knew the news was valuable to subscribers.

"Our work is unconventional, but rewarding. Being out and about when the city is asleep, I get to enjoy the fresh morning air and quiet streets," he added.

Like many vendors, Mr Sathik Batcha is aware that the transformation in the media industry will affect subscriptions and his work too.

The 51-year-old gets up at 2am before making deliveries at Bukit Panjang and Toa Payoh.

Mr Batcha, who is married with three children, said he has seen the job transform over the last three decades. "So many small changes have crept into our work. We upgraded from landlines to mobile phones and now use WhatsApp to keep in touch with our subscribers.

"Despite the changes, our job continues to be relevant. The younger generation get their news online but for many older Singaporeans, reading the paper in the morning is still a beloved habit," he said.

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