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Rajabali Jumabhoy (b. 16 January 1898 Lakhapur, Kutch, W. India - d. 26 November 1998 Singapore) was a prominent businessman and patriarch of the four-generation Jumabhoy family business that once owned Scotts Holdings. He was nicknamed "the Grand Old Man of Scott's".
Rajabali Jumabhoy was born in Lakhapur, India to a family of five sisters and six brothers. His roots go back to the Gujerati community in Bombay. He grew up in his elder sister's home in Bhopal but obtained his education in Bombay.
In August 1915, while still in India, Jumabhoy and one of his brothers jointly started a business in Singapore under the name R. Jumabhoy. The firm, located at 9 Market Street, traded in produce such as cotton yarn, wheat flour and spices from Bombay. About a year later, on 24 June 1916, Jumabhoy arrived in Singapore to take charge of business. However, he could not adjust to the climate and went back to Bombay a few months later due to ill health, returning only in January 1918.
On 2 January 1922, Jumabhoy launched into his own business after a fall-out with his brother and by 1924 had opened offices in Hong Kong, Java and Bombay, trading in produce such as coffee, sago flour, gumbenjamin, rattan and gambier. In 1924 he began his foray into the property business which would prove to be the golden goose for the company. After a series of financial and business difficulties during the pre-war years, the post-war years saw his business prospering as he diversified into the shipping and the property arena.
He had escaped to India on 7 February 1942, fearing retribution by the Japanese because of the high positions he had held under British rule. With the War's end, the British requested his return to assist in the rehabilitation of the vital industries and the Indian community in Singapore.
Apart from being a successful businessman, Jumabhoy contributed extensively to the community, serving in honorary capacity in at least 22 organisations before 1940 and another 27 after World War II.
1916 : Matriculated ('O' levels) from the Bombay University.
1915 : Firm bearing his name, R. Jumabhoy is set up at 9 Market Street, Singapore.
24 Jun 1916 : Made manager of the firm in partnership with his elder brother Mohamed.
2 Jan 1922 : A dispute leads to a split between the brothers with Rajabali setting up his own business located opposite the first.
1924 : Started property development.
1 Jan 1948 : Renamed his company R Jumabhoy & Sons.
1975 : Converted family residence at Scotts road into a commercial development. Scotts Shopping Centre was set up with the Ascot serviced apartments.
1991 : Scotts Holdings goes public.
Oct 1995 : Rajabali initiates court action against his son Ameerali concerning the management of the family's business Scotts Holdings.
1923 : Set up the Indian Association.
1924 : Set up the Indian Merchants Association.
1930 : Rotary Club founder-member.
1932 - 1934 : A member of the Trade Commission, the only Indian. This was set up by the Governor of the Straits Settlements to overcome the economic slump of the Great Depression.
1935 : Founding member of the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce, formed despite opposition by the South Indian Chamber of Commerce and the Chettiar Chamber of Commerce. He was appointed its first president.
1992 : The Rajabali Jumabhoy Foundation is established. Funds are derived from the family trusts set up since 1973.
1938 - 1940 : Member of the Municipal Council or Commission (held this position again between 1946-47). This was a statutory body which sought to improve public amenities like roads, water supply etc.
1948 : Elected by the Indian Chamber of Commerce into the first Legislative Assembly or Council, remaining a member until 1955.
12 Jul 1951 : Appointed into the Executive Council of the Legislative Assembly.
1955 : In Singapore's first general elections, he is elected into the Legislative Council as an independent in a 3-corner fight at Telok Ayer, a predominantly Chinese constituency.
1959 : Retired from politics.
1930 : Made Justice of the Peace under Singapore Government.
1938 : Malayan Certificate of Honour under Malayan Government.
1953 : Made an O.B.E.
Grandfather: Bunder Kassim, a successful merchant whose trade ploughed between Arabia and Somalia. He was so highly regarded that a Somalian. coastline bears his name. Originally a Hindu, Bunder embraced the Muslim faith and adopted the Islamic name "Kassim".
Wife: Fatimabai Premji (b. 1904, Bombay - d. 10 August 1964, Singapore). Married her on 11 May 1920. She bore him 7 children out of which 4 survived.
Sons: Ameerali, eldest, previously Chairman and Managing Director of Scotts Holdings; Yusuf, second son; Mustafa, youngest son residing in Penang.
Daughter: Perin, residing in Karachi, married to a prominent businessman from that city.
Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore (pp. 61-68). Singapore: Resource Press.
(Call no.: RSING 920.05957 CHE)
Jumabhoy, R. (1990). Multiracial Singapore: On to the nineties. Singapore: Chopman Publishers.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 JUM)
Chinese Women's Association Journal, 27-32. (May/June 1988).
(Call no.: RCLOS 369.5095957 WSJ)
The Autumn of the Patriarch - I never thought I'd live to be 100. (1998, January 16). The Straits Times, p. 8.
Rajabali - Enterprising trader, public contributor. (1996, October 21). The Straits Times, Money, p. 47.
The information in this article is valid as at 1997 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.
Jumabhoy, Rajabali, 1898-1998
Real estate developers--Singapore--Biography
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Construction and real estate>>Real estate