Community place makers help inject vibrancy to their respective precincts by improving its existing facilities and organising exciting ground-up initiatives. Mr Rajakumar, Chairman of Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association (LISHA), is a role model who has contributed significantly to the growth of Little India since 2001. Under his vision and stewardship, LISHA has implemented many successful initiatives and events to promote Little India’s heritage, culture and commercial activities. For his efforts, Mr Rajakumar was recognised through the URA’s Place Champion Award in 2016.
Mr Rajakumar Chandra has been a key figure in shaping the Little India precinct since 2001 as Assistant Secretary of the Little India Shopkeepers & Heritage Association (LISHA). His unending passion, drive and hard work put into contributing towards the cultural precinct has seen his appointment as Chairman from 2008. Till date, the association has become a key stakeholder in Little India with the purpose of promoting the precinct’s heritage, culture, business and commercial activities, as well as to drive programming and ground-up place activation projects. Mr Rajakumar and his team has seen the completion of various place activation projects throughout his tenure, which have enlivened public spaces in the precinct and reinforced its distinctive cultural identity.
With commitment to further the cultural and ethnic character of Little India, Mr Rajakumar’s leadership brought forth continued growth and development of key festive events every year. The Pongal and Indian Cultural Fiesta have both grown and doubled in length while the signature Deepavali Celebrations 2015 attracted some 3.38 million visitors to Little India, a record high since the event first started. These anchoring events are integral to the Little India experience, bring together communities from and around the precinct.
Mr Rajakumar has also represented LISHA as key stakeholder of the precinct in the Little India Task Force spearheaded by Urban Redevelopment Authorities (URA), the Design & Construction Committee of the Indian Heritage Centre led by National Heritage Board (NHB), Tamil Language Festival and SINDA integration committee. Adopting such an all-rounded place management approach has seen the scope of work by LISHA expand and transform to address the larger concerns and needs of communities of Little India. This strategic direction by Mr Rajakumar has made the launch of seven-month pilot programme, Project Oasis in Little India (POLI) in March 2017 come as no surprise.
The launch of POLI marks an extension of ground-up efforts by LISHA to enhance precinct vibrancy and visitor experience. With the support of Singapore Tourism Board (STB), URA and Singapore Land Authorities, LISHA activated two unused pockets of land within Little India with stylistically decorated cows and umbrella on trees, designed by Ms Marthalia Budiman as part of the My Ideas for Public Spaces: Forgotten Spaces competition held in 2015. The activation has made these pockets of land at Clive Street and Hindoo Road readily available as venues for programming and events. POLI has been well-loved by precinct stakeholders, with growing interest and confidence for future place activation projects from the community.
Mr Rajakumar’s long-term contributions for the precinct has garnered the respect and support of the stakeholders and as well as from the leaders of the community. Moreover, he has been awarded the Place Champion Award by the Place Management Coordinating Forum and Special Recognition award under STB’s Breakthrough Contribution to Tourism award in year 2016, in recognition of his role in spearheading Little India’s developments in place management and tourism.