Places - 08/22/17

Inspired by Written Words

Written by Yvonn Ong

The rise of e-books and articles means that traditional print books are fast becoming a dying trend. Despite this, Syarifina, the great granddaughter of an established bookstore in the Malay community in Singapore remains hopeful about it.


Syarifina’s cosy, timeworn bookstore ‘Singapura’, boasts a long family history. Established in 1922, it has witnessed the growth of four generations and the rise of Singapore itself.  A love of books runs in this family’s blood. Following his father’s footsteps, Haji Hashim bin Haji Abdullah opened Haji Hashim Bookstore at 134 Arab Street, which also featured books written and published by his uncles. In 1960, he opened a new outlet in Geylang Serai, which then moved to its current location at Joo Chiat Complex, before eventually being passed down to his son, Haji Yusof Bin Haji Hashim.

This family bookstore has proved that books can be maintained as a business in the digital era. In fact, over time, Haji Hashim bin Haji Abdullah’s determination and commitment to Haji Hashim Bookstore has become a significant part of the community. For the past 15 years, the bookstore has used the traditional way of recording sales and stock with a cash register and pen and paper – until 2013, when this was replaced with the ‘Point of Sales’ system to increase efficiency.

With the success of Haji Hashim Bookstore, Syarafina, daughter of Haji Yusof Bin Haji Hashim decided to continue her family’s legacy digitally with The Buku Bookstore. As we chat with Syarafina, she tells us memories of her childhood, she recounts the nostalgia of spending hours in the aisles of the store with her head buried in a book. Previously an education executive, the transition from a 9-5 job required a leap of faith. With determination and a strong desire to expand her family business, Syarafina believed she could reach an audience digitally with more choices, especially with the range of Malay fiction books.

After exploring the different e-commerce hosts and designs for the website for 5 months, Buku Bookstore launched in 2017. Syarafina firmly believes the online platform is her way of expanding her great grandfather’s legacy.  Venturing out on her own is still a mystery to her family, but a step forward to bringing Mother Tongue books back.

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