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City&Country: Cover Story-- The future in good hands

Some of them may seem like fresh-faced novices in the field, but their maturity belies their age. These eight enthusiastic young adults City & Country features in its final issue of the year have been picked to represent the next generation of real estate developers.

With the youngest being 24 years old and the oldest 33, they belong to the second generation of some of the most prominent property developers in the country. They are Chan Kin-Meng, Sam Tan, James Tan, Lim Poh Yit, Charmaine Lim, Dianna Lee, Jane Leong and Benjamin Tan.

They are already heads or senior managers in their companies and very much hands-on in their projects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Chan is executive director of Beneton Properties Sdn Bhd and the eldest son of its chairman Tan Sri Chan Sau Lai. The company is known for having developed one of the first condominiums in KLCC known as Stonor Park.

Ken Holdings executive director Sam Tan is the son of its chairman and managing director Kenny Tan. Ken Holdings has won several green awards for Ken Bangsar, a serviced apartment project in Bangsar, which has received Singapore Building & Construction Authority’s (BCA) Green Mark Gold Plus certification and The Edge/PAM Green Excellence Award 2010. It is currently developing Ken Rimba, a green township in Shah Alam.

James Tan is project director at Suntrack Development Sdn Bhd and the son of its MD Sunny Tan. Suntrack is currently working on a 23-acre RM115 million residential project in Cyberjaya, known as SummerGlades.

Titijaya Group director Charmaine does not need much introduction, as she has been the face of the Klang-based developer for some years now. Joining her at the helm more recently is younger brother Poh Yit as CEO. They are the children of Datuk S P Lim, founder and group MD, who has built more than RM900 million worth of homes. The company is currently developing Subang Parkhomes, a 10-acre condo project in Subang Jaya.

We may be unfamiliar with Benjamin Tan, executive director of Millennium Land Sdn Bhd, but we shall be hearing more of him soon with the imminent launch of Desa Millennium, in Puchong, Selangor. Benjamin is the son of Datuk Tan Jing Nam, the group MD of Tanco Holdings Bhd, the developer of Bandar Country Homes in Rawang.

Making heads turn with her vibrant personality is Jane, daughter and executive assistant to Mah Sing Group Bhd group MD Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum. Mah Sing is often in the headlines with its land acquisitions and innovative projects. It most recently previewed its RM306 million M-Suites luxury condo development in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur.

The youngest among the eight is Dianna, daughter of veteran developer Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew, the founder of the Country Heights Group of Companies, known for developing The Mines Resort City in Seri Kembangan, Selangor. Elder sister Dian is already very much involved in property development while Dianna is currently involved in projects under the hospitality and wellness division.

All share similar aspirations in wanting to play their role in nation building and to uplift the living standard of Malaysians. They also believe that building green is the way forward. They are confident, full of ideas and are in touch with the issues faced by the industry.

They are also involved in an informal grouping of young real estate developers unofficially dubbed Rehda (Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association) Youth, initiated by current Rehda Malaysia president Datuk Michael Yam.

Rehda Youth’s vision is to create a pool of inspiring and knowledgeable young developers. One of its missions is to improve the industry’s image and make it more professional.

Aimed at young developers aged 40 and below, Rehda Youth’s activities include project and industry tours, networking, CSR activities and participating in Rehda National and state meetings and events.

Someone once said that we cannot build a nation without involving the young, and with proper mentoring and training, the future lies in good hands.

 

 Jane Leong
Executive assistant to group managing director, Mah Sing Group Bhd


Academic background/related experience: Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting and Finance), University of Melbourne; Master’s in Applied Finance (Monash University); Interior Decoration and Design (CATC, Melbourne)
Age: 25
How do you stay fit? Gym
Favourite food: Italian cuisine
Favourite author and book: Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer

City & Country: What changes are needed for the Malaysian property development sector to scale new heights?
Leong: I have a wish list. I look forward to the smooth implementation of high-impact projects like the MRT, the Greater KL Plan and other infrastructure projects as they will improve our living standards, placing us on par with regional peers like Singapore and Hong Kong. Better connectivity can also boost property values.

The push towards a high-income nation will also indirectly bring property prices to international benchmarks.

I hope architects and property-related professionals can bring more excitement to Malaysia’s real estate landscape. This will allow higher industry standards to be set, both in design and quality. I also hope for a consistent supply of building materials and workers to realise these projects.

If there were ONE difference you could make to the industry now, what would it be?
I would like to increase Malaysia’s visibility as a premier real estate destination. Malaysia has one of the most affordable cost of living in the region. We are a stable country with good infrastructure and we can offer investors reasonably priced real estate with sustainable growth potential. Besides the pleasant weather, we are a friendly multi-lingual population with historical and cultural ties with many nations. We also have the most liberal land ownership laws in the region.

Information about these should be circulated extensively to foreigners. However, we have to address security concerns and ensure a simple process for foreigners to invest in Malaysian property. I look forward to the day when we can close the gap with our regional peers in terms of property values.

Describe the next generation of developers.
Being ecologically conscious does not mean incurring a lot more cost. We need this spirit to be implanted into the company’s DNA.

The next generation of developers would want to incorporate into their projects, what they themselves would appreciate — interconnectivity, smart gadgets and eco-friendly features. I want to build homes that enhance the lifestyle of the buyers. A good living space can be found in any type of home regardless of price, square footage or land area. Every space has the potential to be a good living space.

A good living space should first fulfil the basic requirements of a home. It should be comfortable, have an ample and practical layout and security. Some good design features to enable cross ventilation, to provide shade and to reduce rain penetration and the use of eco-friendly building materials can create a better living space and enhance energy efficiency.

How do you see the role of the developers of tomorrow and why?
The developers of tomorrow will be more focused on corporate social responsibility, including building green and sustainable developments.

We need to plan our developments to ensure sustainable housing growth in terms of supply and product types and to offer properties which meet the increasingly sophisticated needs of buyers.

The corporate figure who inspires you the most?

I am inspired by creativity, innovation and tenacity as I believe these traits are the ingredients for success. Apple’s Steve Jobs is someone whose ability to inspire truly transcends borders. With functional and aesthetically appealing products, Apple is today’s showcase of what powerful branding can do. I overheard someone referring to the BlackBerry Playbook as  “Blackberry’s iPad”.  Looking at him, I am inspired to shake traditional, preconceived ideas of how things should be done, to never take no for an answer and achieve the impossible.

 

Charmaine Lim
Director, Titijaya Group

Academic background/related experience: Bachelor of Commerce (Corporate Finance)
Age: 30
How do you stay fit? A walk in the park with my little girl every morning/evening
Favourite food: I love all types of food! Banana leaf rice, chicken rice balls, assam laksa …
Favourite author and book: The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R Covey, Ministry of Food by Jamie Oliver.

City & Country: What changes are needed for the Malaysian property development sector to scale new heights?
Lim: We need to expedite the land conversion and development approval processes so developers can respond quickly to market needs and conditions, as well as to reduce holding costs and expenses. I also believe the RM500,000 minimum property price for foreign purchase needs to be reviewed as property in Malaysia is still relatively cheap. The ceiling price may be applicable to properties in certain urban hot spots but there are foreigners who prefer the suburbs where prices are lower. Lower entry prices for foreign ownership could boost the Malaysia My Second Home programme. Transport network systems and security are another two major factors that need to be looked at to push the property sector forward.

I foresee the need and demand for green buildings in the long term, but the majority of investors are still focused on bread and butter projects rather than the green agenda. Hence, there is a need to change people’s mindsets to make them realise that we can enjoy substantial savings in utility costs and the government can save on subsidies, which can then be channelled towards the development of the country. There should also be more cash incentives for developers to build green as construction costs of green buildings are 30% to 40% higher.

If there were ONE difference you could make to the industry now, what would it be?
The low-cost housing ceiling price of RM42,000 is a challenge for developers. The last review of the ceiling price was in 1998, but construction and land costs have increased tremendously. If I can make one difference to the industry, I would revise the price upwards since it is no longer realistic.We would then be able to provide better living conditions for the low-income community.

Describe the next generation of developers.
They have to be different and innovative to meet the demands of the market, at different times. They will be building lifestyle homes with good concepts, lush landscaping, are sustainable, secure and peaceful. They will look beyond building a house for today, but for tomorrow’s needs and wants.

How do you see the role of the developers of tomorrow and why?
The developers of tomorrow should take on the “green” initiative as their main responsibility. Being a mother myself, I strongly feel we should protect the environment for our children and generations to come. It is the responsibility of developers to create green and sustainable living. Developers also have to practise more corporate social responsibility to promote green living, community activities and to help the low-income group.

The corporate figure who inspires you the most?
Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple — one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our generation. His success is legendary. He constantly pushes the boundaries and dares to be different, to try the unknown and to realise many possibilities. He starts with simple ideas which progress into giant plans for today and the future!

Dianna Lee, Charmaine Lim & Jane Leong
Projects you find inspiring

Dianna Lee
The great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt. It was built with only basic tools buy with great wisdom. Most importantly, it still lasts and I don't believe they cause much pollution.
I also admire the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It is amazing how humans can challenge gravity and build dreams that reach the sky.

Charmaine Lim
The trendy and chic Gallery Hotel in Singapore. Its unique architectural design reflects a new aesthetic and a different way of doing things. Aimed at a growing group of young design savvy customers, its form consists of several cuboids, with multi-coloured windows located randomly within the building. It also boasts a cantilevered glass pool on the rooftop.

Jane Leong
I am fascinated by skyscrappers and one that inspires me is the tallest building int he world, the Burj Khalifa in the UAE. Traditional Islamic motifs were incorporated into one of the most modern and high performance buildings in the world. I had the opportunity to visit it recently and the iconic facade dominating the skyline captivated me.

It is also interesting in its product mix of exclusive apartments, boutiques, offices, shopping malls and hotels which represents a global paradigm in contemporary luxury living. It has open green spaces and water features and is the first in the world to have residences in a 82.8m tall building.


Dianna Lee
Executive director, Country Heights Group of Companies

Academic background/related experience: Bachelor of Science (Corporate Finance & Organisational Behaviour), University of Southern California
Age: 24
How do you stay fit? Walk our properties/site
Favourite food: Fruits and greens

City & Country: What changes are needed for the Malaysian property development sector to scale new heights?
Lee: We have to innovate our development ideas and industry legislations. The Malaysian property sector has reached a moment of truth where we have to take Singapore as a yardstick. It is just minutes away but market sentiments and values there are miles apart from ours.  Housing for all does not directly translate into low cost in terms of facilities and value.

We have to move out of the low-cost housing concept. Whilst we aspire to become a high-income nation, we are also forced to sell homes at RM45,000. How then do we build a strong community and a productive and high-spirited workforce? We should instead move on to affordable housing and the country should help the rakyat own nicer houses so developers can build better facilities and raise the living standards of the nation. With this, we can help modernise the nation.

Innovative development ideas are key to position ourselves internationally. In Malaysia, we have to take advantage of nature. I believe we have to focus not only on building green but to maintain green surroundings. We tend to build cities in the form of high-rise concrete jungles like Hong Kong, Shanghai and Japan, but Malaysia’s niche is in its water bodies, the trees, the landscape, and we need to learn to use that to our advantage. Instead of building more high-rises, we should extend our city outwards by building closer to the ground, with a lush natural environment, and make that a symbol of Malaysian property.

Our industry depends a lot on affordability. Therefore, I hope in the short term, the government’s Economic Transformation Programme will spur economic activity.

If there were ONE difference you could make to the industry now, what would it be?
I would like to ensure that the Malaysian property market stays bubble free. Properties are real assets, not paper assets, this is why Malaysia has a very steady 15% to 20% growth and low volatility in our value and prices. This stability is a good thing which should not be manipulated by the financial industry. We shouldn’t copy the US property sector and be more conservative in creating financial products.

Describe the next generation of developers and the role of the developers of tomorrow
The next generation of developers has to be ‘earthly’ responsible and socially responsible. The industry has evolved from building houses to building homes and the future, I believe is building lifestyles. This is an organic change as human needs advance and more things are needed to complete the circle of life surrounding our nest. This lifestyle aspect covers the task of ensuring “wellness” of the earth as well as ‘wellness’ of the human body.

We have to use more earth-friendly materials and support the R&D of these new technologies. We will continue to pollute if we build, so we have to make sure we build an environment that is clean to breath in and build infrastructures that maintain health.


Sam Tan
Executive director, Ken Holdings Bhd

Academic background/related experience: BSc (Hons) Civil Engineering, University College London; Post Graduate Diploma in Law, The College of Law, London.
Worked for 3½ years at ARUP, one of the top engineering consultancies in the world, and was on the project management team of the £6.5 billion Channel Tunnel Rail Link Project.
Age: 30
How do you stay fit? Play squash twice a week
Favourite food: Too many…
Favourite author and book: Have been reading too many books on green technologies and developments …  

City & Country: What changes are needed for the Malaysian property development sector to scale new heights?
Tan: As developers and nation builders, we have to be ahead of the curve and know what technological advancements we can bring to our buyers, which will also raise the standards of our industry to a new level. Going green is one such advancement which not only benefits the nation and the environment in the long run but also improves the living and working conditions of homebuyers and property owners. Another plus point will be the long-term savings on energy and water costs.  

If there were ONE difference you could make to the industry now, what would it be?
It would be for the property development community to be more cohesive and to support each other. We should realise that there are no competitors per se in this industry, as each piece of land is different and no matter how you cut it, the neighbourhood, concept, layouts, prices, sizes will be different, hence, each project is unique. Once we get past this obstacle and understand the bigger picture, perhaps things will move to a higher level. It will be a great day for the industry the day we see developers working and creating synergies together.

Describe the next generation of developers.
Our new generation of developers are bold and well trained in their respective fields by their respective mentors. Armed with knowledge and great backing from experienced developers, they are more willing to push the boundaries and try new concepts that excite the market. This in turn pushes others to innovate and come up with equally or more exciting projects which invigorates the property investment and buying community.

How do you see the role of the developers of tomorrow and why?
Developers have a great duty in providing a property which can bring out the best in one’s home or business. Careful and well thought-out developments greatly benefit homeowners in improving their lives or in ensuring that one’s business flourishes. For example, not all homeowners are wealthy enough to be able to carry out major renovations, which are a waste of resources on their own. We should thus provide good layouts and infrastructure at our projects.

The corporate figure who inspires you the most?
My father has always been my role model. He guided me and taught me the intricacies of being a responsible person and how business can also grow along with helping the needy. Integrity is very important in this line to both your homebuyers and also contractors.  

Lim Poh Yit
CEO, Titijaya Group

Academic background/related experience: Bachelor of Computing, Monash University.
Age: 28
How do you stay fit? Running on the treadmill.
Favourite food: All kinds of local delicacies, nasi lemak, rojak, popiah.
Favourite author and book: Jim Collins’ Good to Great and Built to Last, and John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart

City & Country: What changes are needed for the Malaysian property development sector to scale new heights?
Lim: We need greater transparency for development approvals and reduced bureaucracy as delays mean higher holding costs for developers.

Developers are often seen as pure profit-oriented organisations. Thus, developers should practise corporate social responsibility to engage themselves with the local community. It is important for developers to reposition themselves as caring nation builders and economic contributors.

Infrastructure — especially with regards to public transport — also needs constant upgrading. The rapid population growth in the Klang Valley requires a more sophisticated transport system. Greater mobility can lead to the opening up of more land for development.

Moving forward, we would need to go green. Buildings would need to be energy efficient and adopt water-saving features. They would need to have good connectivity and provisions for effective public transport.

We are thankful to have leaders with foresight to envision a higher-income economy for our nation — an important factor for the property sector to scale new heights. A higher-income population means stronger purchasing power to invest in properties with superior designs, quality, concept and features. This allows developers to continue being innovative and to elevate the quality of life of Malaysians.

If there were ONE difference you could make to the industry now, what would it be?
Thanks to the low-cost housing policy, we have successfully provided adequate shelter to the lower-income group.

However, the low-cost housing policy needs to be revisited to ensure low-cost homes offer good liveable conditions. My hope is to enable low-cost property owners to create wealth through capital appreciation of their property and to be able to live in a healthy environment.

If I had the power, I would introduce the townhouse as part of the low-cost housing programme, because it is easier to maintain. Better maintained properties mean the owners have greater opportunity for capital appreciation of their property.

Describe the next generation of developers.
The next generation of developers is a generation that has evolved to focus on concept, design and living environment. They are no longer mere builders. Utilities have moved beyond just electricity, water, telephone and sewerage. Today, Internet connectivity and broadband infrastructure are necessities. Changes in the social structure are important considerations as families become smaller in size, resulting in re-evaluation of design.

The challenge lies in keeping up with the needs of the people. We have to continue to innovate and adapt to the tastes of the new generation.

As we aim to be green and environmentally friendly in our building approach, we believe developers should spearhead the government’s initiative on green technology, especially with regards to energy conservation.

How do you see the role of the developers of tomorrow and why?
Our role has always been to meet the current and future needs of the people, be part of the nation-building process and to be the economic driver. The green approach is thus not just a trend, but an important consideration for the needs of tomorrow’s population.

The corporate figure who inspires you the most?
The corporate figure that inspires me most is my father, Tan Sri Datuk Lim Soon Peng. He nurtured me to become the person I am today. He has been my mentor in property development as well as in my upbringing.


Benjamin Tan
Executive director, Millennium Land Sdn Bhd

Academic background/related experience: Bachelor of Business Systems.
Age: 28
How do you stay fit? Discipline — the discipline to work out even when you don’t feel like it. And working out with friends and family so they can push you further.
Favourite food: I enjoy nasi lemak with all the side servings.
Favourite author and book: Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad. It opened up my perspective on the world and helped me continue improving myself.

City & Country: What changes are needed for the Malaysian property development sector to scale new heights?
Tan: I believe a lot has been said on the delay in issuance of strata titles. I’d just like to add that the public should be educated on maintenance fees and the importance of paying up. A building in the right location but without any maintenance will not have much value, while a well-maintained building will have a better chance of value appreciation.

If there were ONE difference you could make to the industry now, what would it be?
I’d like the industry to start being more green, which includes having more energy-efficient buildings, renewable energy and also more landscaping, which will keep the building and its surroundings cool and indirectly save energy. To entice more developers to do this, the government can give more incentives and educate the public on the benefits of a green home and being green. This way the public will see the value of green buildings.

Describe the next generation of developers.
The next generation of developers are getting more exposure and creating more niche products while keeping up to date on what’s happening worldwide. Many are more open to new ideas, getting their inspiration from overseas, and would like to bring Malaysia to the next level when it comes to shaping the country’s landscape.

How do you see the role of the developers of tomorrow and why?
Developers have to be more sensitive towards environmental issues as they are the people who reshape the landscape of the country, and this often involves the clearing of green areas. With environmental issues such as global warming, developers will have to create greener developments to reduce the carbon footprint, and in the best case scenario have a negative carbon footprint. Only then will we have played our part in reducing the environmental issues plaguing the world, and ensuring a better future  for our children.

The corporate figure who inspires you the most?
Richard Branson. He is a man with many dreams, and he has followed them and become successful. He goes against the norm and diversifies a lot rather than just being a small player in all those businesses. He has played a huge role in industries such as airlines, communications, Formula 1 and recently space travel, just to name a few.

Chan Kin-Meng, Benjamin Tan, James Tan, Lim Poh Yit & Sam Tan
Projects you find insiring

Chan Kin-Meng
The Cheongyeon River Regeneration Project in Seoul, South Korea. A massive urban renewal project, instigated by then major of Seoul Lee Myung-bak. The project called for 6km of the old and crumbling highway that covered the river to be removed and for the river to be rehabilitated into a modern recreation space.

As a result, the area saw an amazing transformation as the project beautified the city, made it a more pleasant place to live, work and play, while generating even greater economic benefits.

The success of the project saw Lee Myung-bak elected President of Korea in 2008, and the River Restoration Project as a model for successful urban renewal.

Benjamin Tan
The Great Wall of China - it's interesting that such a structure can be created with just human labour. Projects like this are truly inspiring, and all in the name of defending Beijing from invaders. Moreoever, it was built over 500 years ago and is still standing strong today.

James K K Tan
The icon Mont'Kiara for its revolutionary facade. It has managed to carve a niche with its unique design as a  strong selling point. Another project I find inspiring is Desa ParkCity because of its relentless commitment to raise design standards and execution for the built environment.

Lim Poh Yit
That would be the New Majestic Hotel project in Singapore. The modern elements can be seen on every detail of the interior design, which is awesome!

The project allows a meeting of heritage and modern ideas. I have always been fond of heritage buildings for their uniqueness as a representation of the building's character and of the nation. Many heritage buildings have green design elements such as natural ventilation and natural lighting.

Sam Tan
The New Otani Hotel in Tokyo is a fantastic piece of property. Located in the heart of Tokyo, it houses a 400-year old garden which spans over 10 acres. It is impeccably kept and is one of the best highlights of the hotel. This shows how a green treasure can add value to a property rather than from the actual realisation of profit from the land the garden sits on: (http://www.newotani.co.jp/en/group/garden/)



 

Chan Kin-Meng

Executive director, Beneton Properties Group

Academic background/related experience:

BSc (Hons) in Business Management, King’s College, University of London. Prior to joining Beneton Properties Group, I worked as a corporate consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers Malaysia, involved in mergers and acquisitions.

Age: 33

(still in the piling and sub-structure stage, that is, young!)

How do you stay fit?

I try to maintain an adequate work-life balance by keeping a regular routine of gym sessions, eating healthy and getting enough sleep (one out of three isn’t that bad).

Favourite food:

Adventurous in eating, the ambience and presentation — the whole dining experience is just as important.

Favourite author and book:

I enjoy a good read, whether it be a book or an editorial column — writings that are thought-provoking, illuminating and those that stir the imagination. I like Terry Pratchett — laughter makes the world go round and his witty, profound and intellectual literary style is such that the meaning behind his humourous fiction can be appreciated on many levels.

City & Country:What changes are needed for the Malaysian property development sector to scale new heights?

Chan:

Property development in Malaysia needs to evolve to meet the specific needs of a nation and its society. Any change must not be made in haste or in isolation. Greater input from all stakeholders and constant review will best serve the sector as we move forward.

 

 

Tan: Immediate term: For the Malaysian property development sector to scale new heights, the local authorities should embrace new development concepts and not overly restrict design features. For example, DBKL has restricted car park podium heights to five storeys for the CBD and three storeys for outside the CBD. Given the lower floors of any commercial building are prime built-up areas for retail, its value is grossly diminished if used as a car park. In Singapore, car parks mostly start on the eighth floor upwards.  

 

 

Long term: The public and local authorities must understand that reducing plot ratio and density of development land will not necessarily resolve traffic congestion. The only long-term solution to resolve traffic congestion is to improve public transport. This commitment to improve the public transport system is over and above the grand plans of the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) as other smaller measures can have a great impact as well, such as improving the bus system and pedestrianising streets to encourage walking. I hope that when our public transport is more efficient, the property industry can slowly move away from excessive car park requirements.

If there were ONE difference you could make to the industry now, what would it be?

My wish is for a task force to resolve outstanding land title issues across the city. We have a great deal of apartments without strata titles because residents fail to pay the title fees. The issuance of strata titles is the developer’s responsibility. However, we have many cases of non-conformity in the city whereby the law was not properly enforced earlier. It is imperative to look into this issue as the land in the city is scarce and many greyfield areas need ‘clean titles’ to unlock their value for redevelopment.

Describe the next generation of developers.

The next generation of developers will be professionals committed to good corporate governance, those who adhere to the highest standards of ethics and champion conservation and environmentally friendly building practices.

How do you see the role of the developers of tomorrow and why?

Some people view developers as profit-centered organisations with no regard for the welfare of the public or the environment. While this may be true of some, the role of the developers of tomorrow is to shed that perception. They must display corporate social responsibility, practise prudence in not over-committing financially and be transparent with their purchasers, the public and their shareholders. Developers should create quality spaces to live, work and to do business in while remaining profitable.

The corporate figure who inspires you the most?

I would have to say it’s Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum of the Mah Sing Group. I am inspired by how he transformed his plastics business into one of our country’s top property developers. Its products and designs are bold and cutting edge. Under his leadership, the company is a good example of ‘thinking outside the box’ in the property development industry.

 

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 838, Dec 27, 2010-Jan 2, 2011

City & Country: What changes are needed for the Malaysian property development sector to scale new heights?

 

James K K Tan

Project director, Suntrack Development Sdn Bhd

Academic background/related experience:

BEng (Hon) in Civil Engineering, University of Warwick, UK (2001); MBA, University of Strathclyde, UK (2009). Highway and building construction with Suntrack Construction Sdn Bhd (2001); Project director of Suntrack Development Sdn Bhd (2002 to present)

Age:31


How do you stay fit?

I used to play Rugby for Cobra PJ. I recently acquired a new sport — hill walking. I’m training to climb Mount Kinabalu in January 2011.

Favourite food:

A good juicy steak, but I try to refrain from indulging in this too often.

Favourite author and book:

Saya pun Melayu by Zaid Ibrahim. It’s a very good current and future perspective of the political and racial situation in Malaysia.

As land is a limited resource, we should look at new and creative ways to regenerate and re-use old developed sites. Allowing en-bloc purchases of existing buildings for redevelopment can benefit even the current owners and allow the next stage of expansion in growth areas.

If there were ONE difference you could make to the industry now, what would it be?

Growth means more than just building, it is also about sustainability and maintaining values and standards in the years to come.

My wish is for the whole of society to take greater responsibility in the proper upkeep of civic spaces, condominiums and public areas. The preservation of common properties and spaces is our shared responsibility, be it the timely payment of maintenance charges, appointing qualified experts or investing in new technologies and practices that will enable our buildings and homes to operate in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.

Describe the next generation of developers.

Through the Rehda Youth wing, I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting many of our ‘next generation’ of property developers. They have the benefit of global exposure, having experienced and lived different lifestyles in many societies. They are highly motivated, educated professionals with a deep appreciation for social issues such as green and sustainable living.

How do you see the role of the developers of tomorrow and why?

Property developers play an important role in nation building as we are responsible for ‘housing’ a society and seeing to its need for living, recreational and work space. Property developers have to be nimble in reacting to changes in space requirements, lifestyle preferences and to do so in a balanced and responsible manner.

The corporate figure who inspires you the most?

Richard Branson is the corporate figure who most inspires me. Branson’s Virgin Airlines (and the diversification into Virgin Music) took place during the 1990s when I was reading management at University. His story became textbook reading. It is inspiring that a person of humble means was able to build a business that can compete in the established and highly regulated airline and international travel industry.

He managed to overcome obstacles and carve his own brand and share of the market. He succeeded with a refreshing, marketing-driven style that won him a place among the roll of historically significant entrepreneurs.
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