Friday, 9 July 2010

Navroji R. Mistri

Navroji R. Mistri (b. 3 June 1885, Bombay, India - d. 29 October 1953, Singapore) was a prominent Parsi entrepreneur who made his fortune selling soda water in Singapore. Known as the "godfather of the poor" and the "bachelor godfather" of Singapore's poor children, Mistri donated a significant part of his wealth towards the improvement of medical services in Singapore. The Mistri Wing of the General Hospital (now Singapore General Hospital), which housed the pediatric wards, and Mistri Road in Tanjong Pagar are named after him.

Born in Bombay and trained as an engineer, Mistri worked with the Royal Indian Marine Dockyards in Bombay before coming to Singapore in 1909. Hired by Sir John Aird & Co., he was involved in the building of the graving dock at Keppel Harbour. Thereafter, he worked at Riley, Hargreeves & Co. (later renamed United Engineers Ltd.) for a brief period before joining fellow Parsi, Framroz, in his aerated water business, as a manager in 1913. Mistri left the company after ten years to start his own soda water factory called Phoenix Aerated Water Company in 1925. This soured his relations with Framroz for Mistri had previously signed an undertaking promising that he will not start a similar business when he leaves the company. The matter was brought to court and the case ruled in Mistri's favour. The relationship between Mistri and Framroz remained strained for many years and was only restored in the days leading to Mistri's death. Meanwhile, Mistri's business grew and became very successful. His soda water was sold all over Malaya and in the region. In 1931, Mistri set up G. H. Café. With his wealth, Mistri purchased the Caldecott Hill Estate for over $900,000 after the Japanese Occupation.

Source: by Chia, Joshua Yeong Jia written on 2006-07-31, National Library Board Singapore

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