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Kampong Glam merchants go digital as neighbourhood transformation project kicks off

SINGAPORE - Among the longest surviving businesses in Kampong Glam, Jamal Kazura Aromatics - which started in 1933 by Mr Kazura’s grandfather - is among the 150 merchants that are updating their business practices through a pilot neighbourhood transformation project to make the culturally rich precinct Singapore’s first digitally-enabled neighbourhood.

Kampong Glam merchants go digital as neighbourhood transformation project kicks off

Led by the Infocomm Media Development Authority, in collaboration with Enterprise Singapore, One Kampong Gelam and the Singapore Malay Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the first phase of the Kampung Glam digital transformation project was officially launched on Friday (July 20).

SINGAPORE – For years, Mr Samir Kazura, 35, third-generation owner of traditional perfumery Jamal Kazura Aromatics, would often get walk-in customers and tourists hailing from as far as the Middle East, Europe, Japan, Korea, and China , but lose touch with them soon after.

Now, with a new digital membership system, he is able to capture email addresses and contact numbers of customers, who can chalk up loyalty points and receive email offers.

Armed with this new data, Mr Kazura can also “curate” products specially suited to their tastes – such as offering sweet and floral scents to the Chinese clientele, and more musky and woody perfumes to the Middle Eastern crowd.

Since implementing the system, Mr Kazura said the number of enquiries has increased, and he is looking to ramp up by launching an e-commerce website by the end of this year.

Third-generation owner of Jamal Kazura Aromatics Samir Kazura, 35, (right)  and his father, Mohamed Jamal, 70, are finding new ways to drive business through digital initiatives such as a digital membership system. Photo: Toh Ee Ming

Among the longest surviving businesses in Kampong Glam, the perfumery - which started in 1933 by Mr Kazura’s grandfather - is one of 150 merchants that are updating their business practices through a pilot neighbourhood transformation project to make the culturally rich precinct Singapore’s first digitally-enabled neighbourhood.

The first phase of the project – led by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), in collaboration with Enterprise Singapore, One Kampong Gelam (OKG) association and the Singapore Malay Chambers of Commerce and Industry (SMCCI) – was officially launched on Friday (July 20).

First announced last March, the first phase of the digital makeover includes five initiatives ranging from merchants offering e-payments like GrabPay, getting listed on Google Maps with 360-degree photos for visitors to get a virtual tour, as well as delivery services. In addition, merchants can get an integrated point-of-sales system that will help them manage accounting, customer relations and inventory management all on one platform.

Visitors can also go on a self-guided walking tour of the area with the Locomole app by local app developer LDR Technology, which includes augmented-reality features and location-based store discounts.

The second phase of the project will launch mid next year, and could include features such as outdoor Wi-Fi, smart lighting to help guide visitors to different parts in Kampong Glam, e-commerce platforms, and fashion shows held at the textile shops.

IMDA said it is working together with other government agencies such as Enterprise Singapore to provide funding support where necessary and provide relevant training.

The goal of the neighbourhood transformation project is to boost footfall in the area by some 40 to 50 per cent, and reach out to 200 merchants within the next two to three years.

SMCCI president Shamir Rahim said: “When you have a way to capture the digital footprint, you can measure it quite precisely, whether by the number of check-ins on Google Maps, or number of Grab drop-offs or likes to the place.”

For Utopia Apparels co-founder Sherry See, 37, the biggest hassle she faces is lost customers calling for directions as she would often have to run out of her shop to bring them in.

But all that has changed now that she has learned to pin her address on Google Maps, which also allows customers to leave reviews.

Ms See is already brainstorming ideas to improve her service with customer insights such as the route people take to get to her store so that she make decisions on where to place advertisements, or work with other merchants to do “cross marketing”.

Having an integrated point-of-sale system has also improved business operations for merchants like Tash Tish Tosh founder Wahid Allapitchay, 46. Staff at his eatery no longer need to take customer’s orders with pen and paper, then key it into the system to print out the receipt and paste in the kitchen and verbally read orders out to the chef, he said.

Citing world-famous retail areas like London’s Covent Garden, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, who is the special advisor to the Kampong Glam digital transformation project, said: “It’s always about what’s happening in that precinct that makes people want to come back. We believe that Kampung Glam, like other historic districts in Singapore like Chinatown, can (offer) something uniquely Singaporean.”

Stressing that the area has a rich variety to offer– beyond the usual “clothing and fabrics”  - One Kampong Gelam chairman Saeid Labbafi brushed off concerns that digitisation would dilute the traditional identity of the place.

“In order to keep the heritage of Kampong Glam alive, businesses must be (thriving) so that it doesn’t become a museum,” he said.

The event was also attended by Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran.

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