Thursday, June 24, 2010

Harry's Bar

I haven't raced through a book as quickly as this one. No, I didn't just skim over it. I pretty much read it cover to cover. You just must appreciate the tight narrative of the book "The Story of Harry's" by current owner, Mr Mohan Mulani. It is concise yet it has managed to bring out the story of home-grown (i.e. Singapore) jazz bar complete with a narrative of its founding by Mr Jim Gelpi, a Louisiana native expatriate in Singapore, the author's involvement, first as a customer, then an investor and ultimately its sole owner. All of which makes for fascinating reading. The author has even slipped in a chapter on his life before Harry's. This account is to lead up to why and how he eventually ended up giving up much of his original business ventures into developing the Harry's business and brand. After all, by his own admission, he is not familiar with the restaurant and bar business, being more experience and having made his fortune in the trading business (consumer electronics products) and in property and real estate investments. The author draws out an important lesson from the failure of this early part of his business ventures, which is to be honest and to honour one's obligations in business.

Against this backdrop, Mr Mulani then narrates the development of Harry's Bar, which is located in Boat Quay. It is still there. He also writes about the key people whom he relied on in the early years to run the business, and the people who regularly came by after a hard day's work in the central business district just a stone's throw away from its Bar on the banks of the Singapore River, including the infamous Nick Leeson who wrecked Barrings. Just as interestingly he has included brief narratives of the many jazz musicians who have played at Harry's over the years. The book is interspersed with pertinent photographs throughout the book that lends intimacy to the stories. The book even has a discussion of the origin and and development of the Harry's well-known business logo.

Within this fascinating story, Mr Mulani has weaved in material one would expect to find only in business books - building up the Harry's chain of bars and restaurants, brand making while expanding the business, and a look into future ventures. There is even a chapter distilling the business wisdom that he had spent a lifetime learning.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick but good read. Along the way, you would pick up a gem or two regarding starting and growing a business. But above all, you will get a glimpse into one of the iconic brands in the F&B industry in Singapore.

p.s. If you buy the book, you can claim a free bottle of Harry's Premium Lager upon presentation of the book. Now that's what I call good value for money. This offer is good till April 2011.