At Singabites we don’t just introduce our guests to Singapore’s incredible food scene. We believe that the people behind the food are just as important. One of the personalities we meet along our Little India tour is Bala Shetty.

Bala has had an interesting life. 6 years ago he was flying around the world’s major financial centres, lunching with CEO’s and partying with the high flyers of the marketing world. During his time as a top marketing executive at The Economist, Bala had it all and like any young man would he didn’t stop for anything. In some ways not much has changed. Bala still has little sleep although not through the partying anymore, and he still lunches with CEO’s although not at Michelin star restaurants.

Bala now runs a humble Dosa stall in the heart of Little India. Everyday he is up at 4 and on his bike to open the stall and prepare for the day ahead. He has no need for a fitted suit any more, opting instead for what is fast becoming his trademark outfit of white t shirt and shorts. Wiping down the tables Bala chats to his customers who are often amazed by his story. How has a corporate high flyer ended up serving $2 appams in the corner of a Little India coffee shop?

In 1947 Bala’s grandfather Sunder Hegde opened up a dosa stall in Pune, India. Decades later, fearing a corporate meltdown, Bala decided to take a break and reconnect with his passion. Bala went to India and visited his Uncle in Pune who was now running the stall. Bala trained in one of the families 4 restaurants and the rest is history. On returning to Singapore he quit his job and started following his passion. For a few years he was (and still is) a private chef, making a living cooking for friends, relatives and new customers. Then the opportunity to take over the running of a food stall came up and Bala jumped at the chance. Still keeping his eye on the communication and marketing aspect of the business, Bala is becoming a social media sensation. He regularly posts his “Dosa Tales” which are stories about his customers and experiences in the dosa stall. They are an interesting bunch that come and try his food from CEOs to shady bookmakers, and of course Singabiters from all over the world. The main thing is, it doesn’t matter who you are at Bala’s, there’s always a place and a friendly greeting for you.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Bala’s whole story though is his mission to make life better for others. Bala’s supports 4 different local charities; Sree Narayana Mission helping the elderly, Transient Workers Count where he feeds Singapore’s injured migrant labourers for free, The Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics: HOME which is a charity that helps abused home helpers and Helping Hand that helps reformed convicts.

As a result every time we have food at Bala’s on our tour, we are also supporting these charities. As well as giving those less fortunate job opportunities and a chance to interact with our visitors from around the world. In the one month since we’ve been doing this Bala and his workers have hosted guests from France, Spain, Australia, Uk and Singapore helping to spread the Dosa Tales around the world.

2017 promises to be an exciting year for all concerned at this corner of Little India. A film documentary is planned in the new year, with a book and Bala will be co hosting a food show on the Indian channel in Singapore. We’re glad we found him before he was famous but we’re sure he’ll still be as welcoming as ever, even when the accolades start flowing in. You can visit Bala’s on our Little India tour www.singabites.com/tours and have a chance to learn his kitchen techniques and hear his tales.

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