Darius Cheung, founder of Singapore-based property-listing site 99.co, is married to Indian-Singaporean Roshni Mahtani, who's also an entrepreneur (she started parenting portal Asianparent).
Late last year, they began searching for a property to rent, thinking that an oversupply of apartments would make it easy. They were wrong.
You see, as a Chinese Singaporean man, Darius had been sheltered from the everyday racism felt by minorities. He was about to get an education.
"I began to notice something very odd as we went for these viewings, something I never encountered before in the dozen years that I've been renting," he writes on the company blog.
"On several occasions, the agents seemed eager to end the viewings quickly, sometimes without even discussing the offer. I would text them afterwards to negotiate on the price, but one of the responses we got was a shocking 'Sorry your wife is Indian, landlord won't rent to you. Next time please indicate earlier, so we both don't waste time.'"
He did precisely that. True enough, 20 per cent of their enquiries were rejected right away because Roshni was mentioned in the text message.
"In one case, after the typical vague response of 'profile doesn't match', I pushed harder to ask 'Is it because my wife is Indian?', and the response was a dead-pan 'yes, thanks for your understanding'."
They ended up paying 15 per cent more than what they should have because of their difficulty finding a place.
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