For Manpreet Singh, the Queens borough of New York City has always been home. In fact, he still lives in the same neighborhood as the small basement apartment where he grew up with his parents and two younger siblings.
So, it was the highlight of his career when Best Buy recently named him the senior omnichannel general manager for the Queens market. In that role, he oversees three local stores and more than 400 employees.
“It’s a proud thing for me. I was born and raised in this community,” he said. “My friends, my lunch ladies, teachers, coaches, mentors, neighbors all shop at these stores.”
What makes it even better, though, is the opportunity he has to share his Indian culture — especially during Diwali, a five-day festival of lights that begins Nov. 4. Celebrated by members of the Hindu, Sikh and Jain faiths, it’s often commemorated with large gatherings filled with food, decorations and gifts.
“For us, it’s like Christmas,” said Manpreet, who is Sikh.
He makes sure he gives employees who celebrate the holiday time off to spend with family. Employees have asked him for tips on where to buy the best diva lamps, and they plan to share meals together and talk about their culture.
“This culture wasn’t talked about much growing up when we went to school or work, Manpreet said. “It’s just so cool that now I’m in this position to help bring it to life and make it important so the next generation can feel comfortable and proud to celebrate it.”
Manpreet’s parents, both first-generation immigrants from India, worked long hours—his dad driving one of New York’s iconic yellow taxis, his mom working in a factory.
But he fondly recalls his family’s large Diwali celebrations each year.
“When you’d come home from school or work there would be lamps everywhere and an aroma in the air from the food,” Mane said. “My mom and sister would be dressed up in Indian attire, and we’d have a nice meal together. Then we’d go to the temple to ask for blessings and a prosperous year ahead.”
There weren’t many other Indian families in the neighborhood — only about 30 to 40 kids out of the 1,000 at his high school. But the area’s demographics have changed significantly, and now 30% to 40% of his staff is Indian or Asian.
“Back in the day, if you took Indian food for lunch, you’d get made fun of because of how it smells,” Manpreet said. “Now we’ll order an Indian meal and all be proud to eat it together in the breakroom.”
A long road
Prior to joining Best Buy in 2017, Manpreet was the general manager at a sporting goods store in Queens. But when that chain filed for bankruptcy, he had to start anew.
Determined to find a stable company with a strong culture, he took a job as a general manager at the Best Buy store in Monroe, New York. He drove more than an hour each way.
After about a year there, he moved to the Yonkers store, about 45 minutes from home. In his third year with the company, he had the opportunity to return home as the GM in Queens.
“Looking back, it all paid off because it got me to where I am today,” he said. “I bleed blue at this point. It’s one of the best places I’ve ever worked.”
And he hopes to be a mentor and inspiration to others on his team and throughout the company.
“For employees to see another brown person like myself as the GM is inspiring,” he said. “I have leaders on the bench, waiting to get promoted, who have stuck around because they could see the opportunities that lie ahead for them.”
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Pictured above: Manpreet Singh (third from left) with other members of his team who also celebrate Diwali.