Sundeep Bhutoria

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Singapore's `Little India' gets smaller

While in Singapore last week, I asked the hotel concierge about Woodlands Restaurant where I had stopped by for a meal some 12 years ago during my first visit to the city state.
I recall that Woodlands was quite famous then. At the airport too there was one shop which used to sell idlis and dosas. Few years ago I had heard that Woodlands had started on with north Indian food as well.
My concierge told me that Woodlands had closed down about an year ago. I was rather surprised because it was a famous thriving joint in a country where shopping and dining are the two most popular activities. No doubt that Indians have developed the taste for international cuisine during the past decade but there are still so many like myself who still look for Indian food whenever and whichever corner of the world we are in.
It was hard to believe that Woodlands wasn't doing well. During lunch at Straits Kitchen - the famous local street food restaurant of Grand Hyatt – I asked the Indian chef at Indian counter about Woodlands. He told me that he used to work in Woodlands and joined this job after it closed down. Singapore's `Little India' is now a little smaller.
I tried to probe a little deeper and asked him the reason why it had shut down and was told that it had to with the introduction of the new Singapore Labour Law which makes recruitment of overseas employees stiff leading to manpower shortage. The Singapore government, which faces declining birth rate and inadequate workforce to meet its labour needs, has, in a move to reduce the potential for social friction, initiated a series of measures to slow the intake of foreigners and shift the economy to a more productivity-driven model less reliant on foreign labour. Woodlands, it seems, failed to keep up with this policy.
Singapore daily, Asia One, had reported how the food services company Jumbo Group took to innovative ways of addressing manpower shortage across its 15 restaurants at a Customer-Centric Initiative (CCI) Learning Journey which is a part of a go-the-extra-mile for service (GEMS) movement to transform retail, food and beverage, hospitality, healthcare, transport and travel sectors.
Since 2010, Jumbo has invested in new technology and redesigned its workflow processes to address issues of manpower shortage. It has utilised iPad self-ordering processes, resulting in time and cost savings.
This novelty of using iPads for ordering food is also there is some of Kolkata's restaurant like Bistro and Aafra, but how many people actually use it to order is altogether a different issue.
In fact, at the ITC Maurya, I myself decided not to check in new ITC One rooms where everything is operational through the iPad and decided to be in Sheraton Towers wing only which used be old ITC One wing. At the end of the day, technology has its own advantages and disadvantages.
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