When it comes to a crisis as unprecedented as Covid-19, it takes true grit, guts, determination and a whole lot of ingenuity to brave the ongoing pandemic that has not abated its onslaught across all sectors, industries and countries. In this ongoing Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) issue of YES (PropertY PeoplE PlaceS) Paper, these three trailblazers of their respective industries share their experiences during lockdown and the strategies they have put in place moving forward.
Making It Big Post Lockdown
The fight against Covid-19 continues and has shown no signs of abating despite severe lockdown measures nationwide and across international borders — cutting across race, religion, economic status, gender and age and even personal biases. Indeed, Covid-19 is no respector of persons. It can, in fact, even be dubbed the great equaliser, after death’s permanent inescapable sentence. Despite the unexpected lockdown imposed by the pandemic cutting across all industries, sectors and borders — affecting countries and continents while impacting everything in its stead plus personal businesses and Fortune 500 companies alike — the show must go on. YES Paper focuses on the mighty gentlemen who have turned the tide of challenges into opportunities in their stead — and lived on to tell their tale and continue the fight against Covid-19.
This business consultant who started his career as an Audit Article Student at one of the Big Five Audit firms got promoted to lead the firm’s consultancy and accountancy division. It came as no surprise that at 33, he started his own consultancy group which is still operating until today. Leslee Wong, CEO and Founder of Ega Holding Sdn Bhd enjoys giving business advisory to firms. “We have seen many industries operate and our mission is to give stability to companies. For the property sector, the entry level is very high and you need land banks. So, another option is agriculture that will give you stability and good prospects. “We planned to go into the Musang King agriculture plantation business in 2018. We launched this venture in 2019 after I met S.K.Teng, whoa trader of durians. He told me that there was not enough supply of durians especially Grade A Musang King. So I advised him that if he wanted to remain as a trader, it would be more feasible to get involved in agriculture,” shares Wong on how the business of growing Musang King mainly for export to the China market got started. “The entry cost for agriculture entails the need for a lot of land banks. A land bank spanning five to 15 acres is not feasible to own for then, one might as well be a farmer. Therefore, we got farmers who can do farming. But, since they don’t own land on a big scale, we prefer gather the resources and emphasise on durian planting. So, we started in 2019, and are like a developer but instead of developing properties, we are developing durian trees,” shares Wong.
Dealing With The Hazards Of The Lockdown
According to Wong, when the unexpected lockdown took place, they were not affected on the operations side with only the initial first two weeks being problematic. “We had to resolve the issues therein and the management aspect was challenging as we were hindered from travelling interstate. So, we had to communicate via Zoom and there are many channels of communication. We’re still progressing and increasing our acreage and after the MCO, the machinery continues in terms of levelling the land, etc. We need to plant new trees and proceed with the clearing of the land, and we needed the machinery to come in. We could only do so after MCO, when people were allowed to go in,” shares Wong. Adding that while the nature of business did not change – the method of doing business did change as now they dismiss the need to meet in person now instead, being replaced with Zoom or Facebook correspondence. “With the loosening up of the lockdown having moved into RMCO stage, we can now meet up with other people so there is no negative impact. Now however, we have to hold presentations with less than 20 people to introduce our concept complemented with Facebook live or Zoom sessions utilising modern methods. In promoting sales of Musang King, we’ve engaged external agents. This is a new concept in the market as we’re not promoting investments per se but a joint development whereby the land owner works together with a group of farmers with durian traders acting as contractors so whoever wishes to get involved in this business can join in.
Just first five years of operating cost are needed while the plantation profits will be shared among the three parties, which is why this is called a joint development concept
Musang King, The New Currency Now
“Before the MCO, many people looking at investing in properties but I foresaw the trend in that every 10 to 12 years, there will be a financial downturn. We forecasted that in 2020, there would be a financial downturn on a global scale. But no one foresaw Covid-19 coming so people need to explore new areas to venture into. The support we received after MCO was quite good. Before MCO, the minimum requirement to join us was in obtaining one acre of Musang King agriculture plantation.
“However, our strategy post lockdown was to lower the entry barrier so that more people can actually join in to harvest valued added returns,” shares Wong. In hindsight, he says that their anticipation of the World Financial downturn prepared them for what was to come. However, the speed and force of the pandemic forcing a sudden shutdown was totally unexpected.
Lowering down the entry barrier for those interested to embark on the Musang King agriculture plantation business is perfect for those looking for additional opportunities. This strategy worked well so business did in fact, pick up post lockdown. Malaysia, since British times till today, sees agriculture being the backbone and source of income for the nation. Malaysia was the top producer for rubber followed by palm oil. Therefore, we believe we can be the top producer of Musang King in the world, given Malaysia’s conducive factors ruling in its favour in terms of its fertile land and conducive climate for growing Musang King minus the presence of both typhoons and droughts.
Since keeping fit is the new trend in “The New Normal”, Wong says while he used to play golf prior to the lockdown to keep fit — during MCO, due to the strict lockdown preventing him from going to the clubhouse, he opted instead to do swimming and cycling or simply walking and pottering for 30 minutes daily in the garden.
“Even now, we still practise having a healthy lifestyle while continuing with our cycling, swimming and clubhouse activities while eating less and ensuring we consume healthy food,” he adds sharing that while his consultancy business is ongoing, he foresees this business as the next ongoing project for the long haul.
“So for now, I’m concentrating more on this business which will require at least five years to complete for maturity. Our aim is to promote our concept to more people so we can realise its completion,” adds Wong.
Since the demand for Musang King is increasing, he will couple the export of the fruits with another trend he foresees coming which is centred on eco-tourism, and later going downstream. Equipped with an additional 125-acre nursery, Wong reveals that he intends to promote durian eco-tourism after the completion of this Musang King agriculture plantation project besides promoting the downstream of durian products.
“We will be further embarking on resource sharing with other partners as we can’t do everything by ourselves. Durian export includes producing fresh Musang King durians for export overseas. We won’t restrict this to durians to be exported overseas but also include durian by-products as a long term business.
“When MCO first started, there was the good and bad side for my business as our education platform had already gone from offline to online. However, if not because of MCO which was ongoing in May, we would have conducted a 1,000 student workshop in the Klang Valley. However, due to the MCO, we immediately changed our approach to conduct our workshops online. Sure, there definitely were dropouts but there were also newcomers coming in to learn about the properties” relates Nee about the impact of the lockdown on his business.
Nee counts his lucky stars that though everything has changed, he is nevertheless glad that all this while, he managed to train the team to actively use WhatsApp for the business so operating without meeting physically in person being the norm prior to the lockdown also yielded great results.
However, despite the ordeal, he emerged unscathed. “Recently, I started a new property agency called WallStreet,” he says with a smile showing forth he can do survival and entrepreneurial spirit.
Commenting on some of the spanner to the works thrown at the real estate industry, Nee opines that the Vacancy Act is not good news to the ears of developers but it is good news for the public.
Developers will work harder to sell their unsold units now. Should the Vacancy Tax be imposed — then developers may have to give higher discount rates or commissions instead of paying the penalty for unsold units as required under the Vacancy Act,” he opines. However, he concurs that the future trend point to every business needing to have to go online.
“Many people would prefer to rent properties as they may not know how to increase the rental yield but we always recommend people to invest first because if you buy to stay, there’s a commitment. Youngsters should learn and think how they should progress in their upcoming journey to think about what they want to achieve for their lives three to five years down the road,” says the go getter who keeps fit by jogging, taking weights and also swimming as his hobbies.
Armed with smouldering cover model handsome good looks with a pleasant, down-to-earth demeanour to booth, Dato’ Tan SuCheng is blessed with the entire package of entrepreneurial skills, a charming demeanour and robust health, given his strict exercise regime. Always on top of his game, this dashing personality with great genes and brains to match, started off his career working for a public-listed company.
“I’ve always had the interest to be a developer. Therefore, I started and interior design company of which I was the co-founder for 25 years and still counting. Over the years, I had the opportunity to learn from the great developer companies I worked with — ranging from housing estates to Fortune 500 companies; from private residences to high-rise offices and mega residences as well as the retail plus Food & Beverage (F&B) companies and also from mega stars,” shares Tan.
“Our focus back then was mainly on corporate projects and we had the opportunity as we went along, to learn from the great developers and their business models and branding promotions while also gaining a whole lot of technical knowledge,” he reminisces with fond recollection bringing us to the point of explaining how he finally ventured into property development with Geo Antharas.
Geo Antharas – Decades Long Dream In The Making
“We came upon the opportunity two-and-a-half years ago to develop Geo Antharas. P.H. Leong, who is an established developer and land owner in the Gentings area and Kenneth Teh, started a joint venture and there was a plot of superbly located land in the heart of Genting Permai facing a huge panoramic with high visibility of the peak of Genting Highlands situated approximately 3,800 ft above feet level bequeath with a temperature of between 17 and 28 degrees all year around. The beautiful thing is Geo Antharas is situated just a mere 40km from downtown KL,” shares Tan. Comprising three towers of 41-, 30- and 31-storey respectively with the 31-storey comprising a hotel suite block, Geo Antharas he opines, is specifically suited to individuals who wish to live and migrate to Genting Highlands or purely for investment purpose. The development is further complemented by 10 floors of supercar floors on tower A.
“The location fronts a very established international school called the Highlands International School. It’s a very humane design so you don’t need a large unit to enjoy an enjoyable lifestyle as there are standard amenities like a cinema, private lounges, Sky Farm, 400-metre fitness track and two heated swimming pools plus a huge indoor children’s playground and co-working spa plus spa facilities as well as a state-of-the-art gymnasium apart from the usual standard facilities.
There is also a three-storey floor height lobby area and the latest in security technology such as facial recognition. The development will also be equipped with a one-storey super car floor complemented by electric and hybrid car charging stations. Most importantly, all the units will be designed according to a north or south orientation.
“At the moment, we are selling the units at extremely competitive prices despite the fact Geo Antharas has fabulous design elements and usage plus the project is situated on freehold commercial land,” he adds.
Dealing With The Unexpected Lockdown
When the Movement Control Order (MCO) kicked, I was absolutely and totally shocked as we had started selling the project and were scheduled to launch in April. We had already started selling in February and everything looked promising, and the future was bright… And then, MCO started. My partner PH Leong of Pesat Bumi and I were quite distressed that all the laid out plan and marketing strategy — everything… came to a standstill. So second of MCO, we decided to plan to go online. A week later, we rolled out our online talk show in my home interviewing property specialists and interesting personalities through zoom which was a huge success. So much so, to date, we have reached over 500,000 prospects and managed to get a few bookings during lockdown,” relates Tan.
It was a ray of light in a gloomy property scene and, when MCO finally lifted and became RMCO, on the first weekend itself, we saw a stream of cars jamming up the mountain roads towards Gentings and the Karak Highway, and the crowds didn’t die down but built up all the way to Genting Highlands. So, my partner and I knew we would be alright. And true enough, we started to sell extremely well. Despite foreigners in Hong Kong, China and Singapore being unable to travel here, they started placing their bookings for the units. These prospective buyers were supposed to come visit but even among the locals, we had a lot of buyers from Johor, Melaka, Penang and throughout Malaysia — especially from Klang Valley doing very well.
Therefore, I think Genting Permai has huge promising location for the future generation to come to and stay close to the financial business centre of Kuala Lumpur. From Kuala Lumpur, it is a mere 8.2 km drive to Gentings where you can get whatever food and entertainment you wish at one of the top entertainment hubs in the world. And, you are just a few minutes away from KL. I believe that when Genting Permai becomes more commercialised with the office tower, I have no doubt it will be one of the best cities to live in KL and currently, there are many renowned developers flocking into the area with large land banks on which they have already started developing so I’m very encouraged and optimistic that a new property star in born in Geo Antharas,” relates Tan.
Reasons To Stay On In Gentings
“What we need now is integration. I’ve always thought about retiring in a nice temperature country so now I now don’t need to migrate and miss my relatives and friends, and the good food here.
Already according to Tan, about 50% of the units have been sold, with a soft launch scheduled in October of which by that time, the price will be adjusted upwards, therefore urging buyers to quickly take advantage of the Early Bird promotion. Currently, a studio unit is priced from RM490,000 for a 473 sq ft built-up area while 1+1 bedroom unit is spanning 736 sq ft of built-up area is also available. The most popular units he adds comprise the dual key units spanning about 1,000 sq ft while a few duplex units vary between 1,600 sq ft and 1,800 sq ft in built-up area.
Avant-Garde Design & World-Class Entertainment Hub Deemed The Best In Asia
“We also have nine units of sky villas of which six units have already been sold,” adds Tan highlighting the perks of a promising lifestyle in the area surrounded by greenery and copious amounts of crisp, fresh mountain air while being home to over 1,000 eateries and food stalls — with Michelin-starred restaurants in tow not to mention golf courses and theme parks galore with Sky World being the main attraction hub for Asia.
Sky World is the new main attraction hub for Asia so you can imagine the flow of tourists that will be streaming in after the first half of next year with its opening,” he adds. In keeping with the changing times brought about by “The New Normal”, Tan affirms that the company’s online presence is still ongoing with sustained efforts in magnifying its online presence which is still enormous and helps in the sales.
“It’s not just the property we’re doing but we are creating a new lifestyle hub for generations to come,” says the former President of Ferrari Club of Malaysia who is a fitness buff who has never missed a day’s workout at the gymnasium who has achieved his long time business dream of being a developer while also having realised his dream of owning a fleet of Ferraris.