Friday, September 11, 2015

What Delhi can learn from Singapore

           In the first week of September I was in Singapore for a conference. Before leaving I had made a mental note of the things that I need to observe and understand while I was there. For that, I had booked by return ticket three days post the end of the conference and that proved to be a good decision. 
           The conference I was participating in was about 'Customer Experience' and had delegates from across Asia. There were people who had spent 10 or more years in the industry catering to customer needs and expectations. The chief speaker was Shep Hyken, world renowned customer experience Guru and I was one of the six keynote speakers. I was probably the youngest speaker at the conference and also one from the most unusual of backgrounds, i.e. politics. My keynote was about usage of Social Media for Politics and the customer experience learning from it.
           But no, the conference is not I'm going to talk about here in this blog! Here I'm going to talk about what I learned from the 50 year old country which when it became independent had aspired to become cosmopolitan like Mumbai!
            I'm breaking this blog into segments for the ease of reading.

Getting a mobile connection - Before leaving Delhi respected tourism minister and my dear friend, Kapil Mishra had given me this brief, "What is there in Singapore that it attracts so many tourists? What can Delhi learn from there?"

Well, thus after landing in Singapore I decided to do two things, one was to travel by public transport as much as possible and the other was to travel solo. 

At the airport I decided to get a local sim card and got one easily by submitting a copy of my passport. The card had a validity of 1 week and was good enough for my 6 day visit. There were similar 1 month, 3 month and 6 month validity cards available. Tailor made for tourists! I don't know if there is any similar facility provided by any Indian mobile operator at any of the international airports. 

Thus, at ease of getting a mobile connection - well Singapore scored way better than Delhi for sure.

Transport services - I had been provided two days of accommodation in Marina Bay Sands by the conference organizers so I decided to hire a cab till there. Again, the manner in which one hired a cab impressed me. There was a queue at the airport with one guard. No ticket counter or booth of any sort. The cabs would come and park on opposite side of the road and the guard would let one group per cab proceed from the queue to the cab area. 

Quite different from the maddening rush and hounding by drivers we see at IGI.

Once inside the cab there was a GPS device which was also doubling up as an advertisement board.

Without any hassles I reached the hotel and was given a printed receipt for the travel.

The next day I used the metro and also commuted in the low floor buses. The first thing that struck me was that all transport services were disabled friendly. A disabled person could use the metro or bus without any help. Well, that's something we need to learn for sure.

Stray dogs - Another thing that struck me in Singapore was the absence of street dogs. Many people might call me anti-animal but the fact of the matter is that 36% of world's rabies related deaths occur in India! People who traverse late night in Delhi, Bangalore or any other major metro are very well familiar with this menace. Somehow Singapore has been able to do away with this.

Tourist spots -  Despite being a small country Singapore has developed multiple world class tourist destinations in this small area at their disposal. 
The central business district (CBD) complemented by the towering Marina Bay Sands (MBS), the ArtScience Museum and Garden by the bay is a complete package in itself. I witnessed the sight of lights in CBD coming up while the sun withdraws slowly into the clouds from the top floor of MBS and it was quite a sight. The top floor of MBS also houses the famous infinity pool. Not being much of a swimmer, I didn't take a dip there but yes, it's a great visual attraction.
The infinity pool

Garden by the bay from top of Marina Bay Sands

The Marina Bay Sands and ArtScience Museum

I also visited the S.E.A. aquarium and the Jurong Bird park both of which are international tourist attractions and rightly so.
36 meter wide viewing panel at S.E.A. - The largest in the world

Ship wreckage at S.E.A. aquarium

Feeding birds at Lory Loft

Inside the waterfall aviary which houses world's tallest man made waterfall

Thus, I can without a doubt say that the Singaporeans have worked hard over the years to develop their country as a tourist spot and have been successful in doing so.

Crime and policing - Now here's the interesting part. During my entire 5 day stay in Singapore I did not see a single police vehicle. During one of my cab journeys I asked the cab driver about it. He replied, "No need of police, they observe everything on CCTV." 
Then I asked my hosts about it. The reply was really interesting, "It's not that we don't have crime here in Singapore but they have put CCTV cameras almost everywhere and moreover, when a criminal is caught, they make sure it's all over the media. The punishment gets more highlight than the crime."
This also reminds me of the fact that the AAP was laughed at when it mooted a similar idea as part of its manifesto in 2015 assembly elections.

The flip side - This is what some people have asked me not to talk and write about but I can't help it. Coming from a country where 'Right to Freedom of Expression' is a fundamental right, I can't finish this without talking about the flip side.
Though Singapore is a representative democratic republic but almost everyone I met had reservations about what they talk and made it a point not to voice out their opinions in public. It is pretty obvious that Singapore is a 'de facto' one-party state with the ruling  People's Action Party (PAP) having won every election since 1959.

Take away - Singapore had the advantage of location and leadership. Apart from being strategically located at the center of world trade transit route, it also had a leadership which realized the potential and led the country to great height. 
We as the AAP in Delhi have got a lot to learn from Singapore and with a bit of conviction and right steps we can for sure tap into the great tourist potential that the city has.

I would like to sum up with a line a fellow Indian delegate said during one of the conference lunches, "India has such huge tourist potential. Had Leh-Ladakh been in Singapore, they would  have made a fortune out of it. But sadly, we don't even have mobile network there!"

Hope someone is listening!

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