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‘Professionalism In Singapore Percolates Down The Order’

Rohit Bhandari, assistant vice-president, marketing and sales of Set (I) Pvt Ltd, overseeing the business interest for channel AXN, talks about Singapore, his second home and the channel’s head office. In conversation with Raadia Mukadam, he provides tips to business travellers frequenting the Lion City

As a business traveller, what strikes you most about Singapore?
The most striking feature about Singapore is its convenience, connectivity and cleanliness, whether it is travelling to or within Singapore. It is well connected from India. If you grab some sleep during the flight, you land fairly fresh and not jet lagged. Even if a business traveller is visiting Singapore for a short business trip of five days, the last thing he needs to worry about is how to get around the place. The city is magnificently organised to facilitate its populace. It will take you just, half a day to get familiar with the city without any confusion. Clear indications at every nook and corner don’t let you get lost. The people and cabbies may not be the friendliest of the lot, but they certainly won’t take you for a ride. Being the world’s most hygienic city, Singapore is clean and pollution-free 24 hours of the day. It is unimaginable that 15 years back they were a third world country, but today Singapore is the second most developed country after the United States of America. Even distances seem shorter due to the convenient transportation options. Indeed, a boon for the business traveller.

Which according to you is the best time of the year to visit Singapore?
Singapore has good weather throughout the year with temperature ranging from 6 to 24 degrees celsius. However, in July, you might witness slightly heavy rainfall. But in Singapore, it does not rain like it does in Mumbai. It may rain for half-an-hour and then stop. You rarely run the prospect of getting caught in long, heavy showers. So effectively, one could visit Singapore any time of the year.

What would you recommend are must buys in Singapore?
I do not recommend the purchase of any electronic items because the duty on electronics in India is far too heavy. Besides, there is not much difference between the market rates in India and Singapore, with a marginal difference of Rs 1,200 and 2,000. Cosmetics are very good and clothes though on the expensive side, are worth the buy. But what is a real steal is the kitchenware that is available there, which beats the best in international quality and is economically priced too. Mustafa Bazaar, a popular wholesale market, offers most products at 10 per cent less than the cost at which they are available at any other place in Singapore. This place not only offers you economy of scale, but an extensive variety as well. Another upmarket store that is a must visit is ‘Takashimaya’ at Ngeeann on Orchard Road. Offering leading international brands, it is hard to beat for the sheer variety it offers under one roof. The style, cut and quality of garments here are unmatched. I intend to pick up a ‘Boss’ suit on my next trip down there. You can also check out ‘Robinson’ at Centrepoint also on Orchard Road for clothes. IT addicts should head to ‘Funan Centre’.

Which is the ideal getaway destination from Singapore?
My ideal getaway from Singpaore is Phuket or parts of Malaysia, which are only a few hours away. Most business travellers do not have much leisure time at their disposal with extremely tight and demanding schedules. Therefore, Malaysia and Thailand due to their close proximity, provide good getaways. My favourite though is Phuket, which is only an hour’s flight away. I recommend business travellers take at least two days off their busy schedule to enjoy this destination. Another popular getaway from Singapore is Hong Kong, which is the New York of the east, and offers umpteen entertainment options for weekend getaways.

What kind of nightlife does Singapore offer?
There are different things one could do to enjoy the nightlife depending on one’s mood. If fine dining is top of the cards, then I would like to entertain my colleagues or have a business dinner at the ‘House of Sundanese’ at Boat Quay, which offers great cuisine and good music. And some nights, I like to frequent a sports bar with giant screens showing the latest football or cricket match while serving you food on the table while you watch. However what tops my list of eateries in Singapore, is a place called ‘Indochine’. This restaurant serves different cuisines from the Far-East including China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. With its delectable fare and fine dining facilities, I prefer to hold my business dinners at this restaurant. A couple of really good discotheques that I like to visit are ‘Velvet Underground’, ‘Zouk’ and ‘Balaclava’ apart from the regular ‘Planet Hollywood’ and ‘Hardrock Cafe’. In India, the music is more rock or trance. On the contrary, in Singapore, they play the current pop hits, which does not expose you to any particular kind of music, but lets you enjoy the wide variety.

What tips would you like to offer other business travellers visiting Singapore?
Whatever you do, don’t jaywalk in Singapore. I was almost arrested once for doing the same. However, when the traffic policeman understood that it was unintentional and was sheer consequence of confusion, I was excused. They have a peculiar signalling system, but with a little attention you could get used to it. It is a city that follows rules rigidly, so don’t break rules. Another pointer for my fellow business travellers is do not be late. Singaporeans value their time and respect yours, they do not appreciate latecomers. The city is characterised by professionalism that percolates down the order in most companies.

What are you impressions of Singapore Changi Airport?
Besides being a technologically advanced airport, Changi also caters to the smallest needs of a transit passenger. It is characterised by a TV room where you could watch movies. It has a day-care centre, besides an amazing duty-free shopping zone. The airport also has 6 to 8 restaurants, so you can savour the cuisine of your choice and not be stifled by typical airport food. What is really worth appreciating is that you don’t have to pay airport prices to buy something at Singapore airport. A bottle of water would cost the same in the airport and the city.

What would you suggest one buy from the Singapore Duty-Free?
You can buy anything from stationery to books to cameras and handycams. But I would recommend you buy cameras, which are relatively cheaper there. Handycams and digital cameras are not advisable because of the high duty payable in India. People with palm tops can buy excellent accessories at the airport. Palm has a special counter offering a wide range of accessories.