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Melaka & Malaysia: Open For Business

IWG’s Matthew James Kenley identifies Malaysia as a critical market for its growth strategy even given the pandemic, with Melaka being one of its key pivotal launch pads to attract world trade here once the borders reopen

By Yvonne Yoong


Interviewed by Kitterick Yiu He is a Hong Kong celebrity actor.

“Success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally. But it comes from what you do consistently.” Living out his life’s mission with firm-footed surety one step at a time while applying consistent care in carrying out the daily tasks at hand with excellence following this saying inspired from legendary basketball player Michael Jordan is something which resonates strongly with Matthew James Kenley, Franchise Development Director of the
International Workplace Group (IWG).

“The simple analogy is actually a quote from what I saw from one of my childhood heroes Michael Jordan concerning the success he has achieved. To me, life is very much like climbing the stairs. You can’t take the stairs five steps at a time, otherwise you’ll lose balance and fall over,” says the irrepressible relentless optimist.

“To reach the top, you have to take it one step at a time, consistently in terms of your stride so that you don’t fall over. Life’s like that so that saying resonates with me. You’ve got to do the small things consistently right and do them well. You’re going to make mistakes and you are going to fall at times. But doing the small things consistently will bring success,” he says.

Keeping this quote close to his heart and following a code of excellence in his daily undertakings literally one step at a time has proven to be the golden formula that has taken him step by step on his globetrotting adventure traversing the four corners of the world. This complements his role in establishing a growing worldwide footprint for IWG International Group spanning continents and countries following an aggressive and strategic expansion blueprint. Responsible for spearheading the expansion plan for the leading regional co-working space entity is no mean feat, considering IWG, with over 30 years of history, has its footprint cemented in more than 3,500 locations spanning 120 countries.

Possessing the largest network to be able to facilitate the working needs of any individual or company on a global scale, IWG far outrivals its competitors. The extensive strength of its network connection alone enables those signed in with IWG to be able to even shift their work locations with ease — even up to three or four days per week for those who want to work in different locations — leveraging on a global platform spanning different continents and countries. And amazingly enough, IWG’s growth trajectory is showing no signs of abating — even despite the pandemic.

Heralding A New Work Revolution – Crossing Borders Without Crossing Borders

It is a known fact that after the Covid-19 outbreak, many businesses from around the world have embraced Work From Home (WFH) as the way to work in “The New Normal”. Markets are increasingly shifting towards this trend, with the global pandemic accelerating this transition at an unimaginable pace. Understanding these needs, IWG wasted no time in shifting the gear forward to embrace the full transition and adapt accordingly.

“The pandemic accelerated digitalisation for the rest of the world to a different level. Long gone are the days of the traditional workspace. Being at the forefront of work solutions and the office space, besides being able to offer business services to cater to WFH, the group has identified the challenges, how businesses are working and is right on track and transiting. This is happening rapidly, especially in Asia where one can get anything online anytime, delivered.

“The way people work has been changing. To be perfectly honest, IWG has been telling people for years about the new workplace revolution. The way people work has changed for Millennials, Generation X and the upcoming new generation. People want to work from anywhere and at any time. Being able to work from any office or home is a big driver in meeting the needs of Millennials particularly.

“IWG is seeing that workplace revolution. The global pandemic has accelerate the transition at an unprecedented pace. We’ve seen how businesses work, and long gone are the days of owners of typical large companies or Small and Medium-Size Enterprises (SMEs) saying they want to take over and have a huge office space.

“People have been working from the coffee shop, and they’ve been doing that over the past few years. They’ve been working out of office and at home or from the coffee place or any place where they can plug their computer and get WiFi connection so that is the shift that IWG has identified in its business. And, we are seeing that shift again,” elaborates Kenley.

While this trend was already taking shape two to three years ago, he says that the realignment shift is occurring once again, spurred by the pandemic. “People are wanting to work close to home – and demanding flexibility in how they want to work. The question is — how do companies attract talent and cater to those who want to work one, two, three or four days in different locations,” he asks.

The sheer volume of IWG’s network spanning various continents and countries makes this possible. Corresponding with the shifting trends that IWG has already identified beforehand, he says that the global pandemic has further accelerated this transition at an unprecedented pace.

“That was always happening. And, it’s something that we have been telling people for years and years,” he attests of IWG’s far-sightedness vision. In fact, from the bustling cosmopolitan cities of the world and its trade centres — IWG has spread its expansion plans further to excitingly enough, target Melaka and Malaysia.

Melaka, Poised For A Sterling Comeback

In a sense, it’s as if the winds of time is about to bring another long overdue revival back to the historical trading port of Melaka. In as much as the historical city has come full circle to regain attention as it once did as the epic trading centre of the world reflecting its worldwide renown as a central trading port from countless centuries past, IWG believes that Melaka is poised to enjoy a revival as a focal point of international trade in this current season in history as much as recognising Malaysia’s immense business potential as a whole once the borders open again.

“IWG wants to ensure that business is robust. In Malaysia and regionally, there’s very strong performance. At a global level, IWG can see the results and is geared up and ready to capitalise on the pandemic by making sure the business is robust and ready to move forward in Asia and in Malaysia, specifically where IWG is trading very well,” shares Kenley.

Due to the fact that it has been performing exceedingly well, Malaysia, being one of IWG’s key targeted countries has been included in its robust expansion plan. Fast making a shift from mere traditional office spaces, he says IWG’s strategic ability to identify trends coupled with its swift adoption to the new way of working has seen the group’s business growing from strength to strength in 2020, especially in Malaysia. To capture the market and have a robust growth, IWG is using franchising as an important part of its growth plan. The first franchisee in Malaysia will be in Melaka. The partner has already been selected and this will be announced soon.

“Our businesses are trading very profitably in Malaysia. We took the opportunity during the pandemic for the businesses to be set up and ready to come out even stronger than before. Of course, while IWG saw a small downturn in occupancy though only on a very minor level particularly in the mature centres, the group seized the opportunity to reset the business successfully during the pandemic to ensure that the business comes out even stronger than before,” he adds.

Acknowledging that the business has had an impact due to Covid-19, just as many SMEs have gone bust, which has also affected the China market, he is happy to report that China which was the first country to be impacted by the pandemic has recovered. Ironically, during the pandemic, it grew its occupancy against last year and that of 2019, indicating great signs of recovery.

“It’s really a great story for us and we’ve seen our business grow from strength to strength. The global pandemic accelerate the transition at unprecedented pace.
However, IWG is trading in China at the best levels it has ever had. Across the region, there are similar situations whereby companies are switching from having one central office to four small offices rather than one large office in one district location to having other work
models,” he elaborates.

IWG has also seen companies like Standard Chartered just recently signing a deal whereby they gave 95,000 of their employees IWG memberships thus giving their employees access to over 3,500 offices around the world. This will give them the option to work in more convenient locations closer to home while benefiting from office facilities. IWG has seen a significant uplift in major types of sales providing home solutions — whether it’s providing solutions for different enterprises all the way through to traditional workplaces or whether IWG is having this type of model for customers coming in from different locations from all around the world. Besides Standard Chartered, IWG has also signed huge global deals with CISCO and Staples.

“IWG will continue to play its role as a current market leader, and will continue to cement its position by partnering with Shengtai International Group and Dato Leong. They are visionary in what they are trying to achieve in terms of Melaka and Malaysia which is in showing the world and the Asia Pacific region that Melaka and Malaysia that they are open
for business. And, you don’t need to be physically there to do that with the type of platform that IWG can provide for businesses.”

Acknowledging that there was a huge explosion in demand for flexible workplaces and virtual offices in the face of the pandemic, it is a known fact that many office buildings have been transformed into shared offices and virtual offices. Hence, the huge explosion for flexible workplace and virtual offices are timely solutions for companies worldwide even as the WFH concept is fast becoming a reality in “The New Normal”.

“IWG’s approach is focussed on doing business and to continue do that besides being the market leader to provide the best platform and virtual services to give companies choices of where they want to work, when they want to work and what sorts of services they would need.”

“Malaysia, being a critical market and successful market for IWG is where it wants to continue to lead this transition and identify what sort of services are needed. In terms of addressing the market potential in Malaysia, IWG is just shy of 40 centres here. In Malaysia, IWG has 38 centres at the moment and will be opening a few new market centres in the next few months.

“Clearly, IWG is going to be the market leader once the borders open. And, the market potential is there in terms of where it sees the market moving. IWG genuinely believes that Malaysia has the potential to have over 100 brands in various locations in the next few years following its growth plan in place to see this through for Melaka and Malaysia”. Malaysia he says, having a population of more than 30 million people, with its “fantastic cities and hubs” is where IWG wants to be present at. This is following part of the new wave of business opportunities as it opens up for business and remains a pivotal part of IWG’s strategy.

“As Malaysia opens up more for business, you can see the growth here in terms of its index in the ease of doing business, with the index going up all the time. IWG wants to be at the forefront when businesses open up in Melaka and Johor, etc. with its option of services be it virtual offices or co-working spaces within its IWG brand across spaces, region or its signature headquarters.

“IWG’s goal is to identify the way people are working differently and enable them to work globally besides addressing their needs in wanting to work close to their homes by providing flexible solutions so that could mean having a fixed office and a home set up which IWG can provide which is tied up to their servers and their company’s set up. The focus is on the size and the opportunity in Malaysia and is really fixed on how IWG can develop and support its workplace,” he adds.

Additionally, with normal protocols now in place, safety is ensured as IWG is obviously trading very well and is looking to accelerate its expansion strategy across the world. Having companies connect on a global level is fundamentally a key benefit of IWG’s well-connected platform. Therefore, to have an office in a country and to have an office in a country without crossing borders — with the distinct ability to facilitate this more comprehensively than any other competitors in this segment of the market will bridge the great divide between being able to connect companies and businesses and being able to connect markets with communities globally in “The New Normal”. This fact alone, is anticipate to hold IWG in great stead as it expands and conquers new market segments and territories in “The New Normal”.

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