Surrey International Trade Award a juicy prize for Fruiticana CEO Tony Singh

Published: February 18, 2013

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

Tony Singh of Fruiticana

Fruiticana boss Tony Singh thought he would initially open one store, maybe two. Now the successful businessman has 17 locations and a Surrey International Trade Award to boot. Submitted photo

Tony Singh’s award-winning business career started with a mere craving.

When he moved from Montreal to Surrey in 1994, he couldn’t find the staples for his traditional Indian cooking.

“They did not have the full range of vegetarian products, (like) vegetables and lentils I was used to getting,” Singh said. “There were more spices, lentils and rice available in Montreal, but not available in Vancouver.”

That’s how Singh found his “niche.”

“When any immigrant comes to a certain country (it’s) one thing they always miss,” said Singh. “The food — it’s always on the back of your mind when you miss your country.

“I realized there’s a huge Indo-Canadian community here and no one was serving them.”

So in December 1994 he opened Fruiticana, a small store specializing in ethnic and Indo-Canadian spices, lentils and specialty vegetables.

And now nearly 20 years later, Singh has 17 stores across British Columbia and Alberta — he leaped from putting in countless hours alongside minimal staff (his father and wife) to 500 employees spanning the West Coast.

And on Tuesday his hard work will be recognized as Fruiticana receives a Surrey International Trade Award.

“This is something I thought, ‘OK, one store — maybe maximum two.’ And that was the way it started,” said Singh. “From there on … the opportunity was presented and we just keep on growing.”

Fruiticana imports and exports across the globe, with Singh doing the trades himself.

“(Singh) actually goes to the country to get his products and … does the negotiating with farmers in South America or in Mexico — so he actually is on the ground himself as the president and CEO,” said Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Patil Huberman. “He is a true success story.”

At the start Singh had “no idea” how to start up a grocery store. It took hard work, experience and determination.

“It’s very important to have some experience before you put all your eggs in that basket,” he said.

So he based his plans for Fruiticana off his experience working as a manager at a retail company in Montreal.

“If you have an idea in your mind, if you believe it, I think you should work towards that and honestly work hard and anything is possible,” said Singh. “But that said, make sure you have some experience working.”

“Get a job somewhere, learn the (basics) of the business and from there on work very hard and you will make it.”

Singh will receive his International Trade Award Tuesday afternoon at the Sheraton Vancouver Guilford Hotel in the large business category. Surrey’s Safe Software Inc. will receive the same award in the small business category.

“(These awards) really showcase that Surrey is on the global map in terms of doing business globally,” said Huberman.

“When we are able to recognize through appropriate criteria (the) specific businesses, specific winners — they turn into role models for other businesses.

“By giving these awards it just showcases that it can be done … right here in our own backyard.”

lcahute@theprovince.com
twitter.com/larissacahute

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