Faliq takes property in his stride

Probably one of the youngest, if not the youngest managing director around, S M Faliq S M Nasimuddin is taking things in his stride. At only 24, one can say that Faliq has been thrust into the job, after the demise of his father, Tan Sri S M Nasimuddin S M Amin, the founder of the Naza Group, in May last year.

Faliq first joined Naza TTDI Sdn Bhd, the property arm of the Naza group of companies, in March last year as senior manager for marketing and sales administration. He was promoted to director a few months later and in March this year, made the MD.

Fortunately for Faliq, he is not all alone at the top. The fourth child in a family of three boys and two girls, Faliq’s second eldest brother, S M Nasarudin S M Nasimuddin, is chairman of Naza TTDI. “We work very well. He [Nasarudin] will basically tell me the overall strategy and what he wants, and I then translate that to the employees. So far things are going well. We talk casually over dinners and lunches on issues and how to solve problems. We always share ideas. I contribute some ideas for his automotive side, while he shares his for the property side,” Faliq tells City & Country.

The Naza group is synonymous with the assembly and distribution of Kia and Peugeot cars in the country. In 2004, the group made an unsuccessful bid for a strategic stake in DRB-Hicom group. It also made a bid for Proton Holdings Bhd.

Naza TTDI is the master developer of the popular Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) in Kuala Lumpur. The development of the 706.7-acre TTDI was started in 1974 by the then master developer UDA Sea Park Development Sdn Bhd — a joint venture between the Urban Development Authority, the government’s arm for urban planning and redevelopment, and SEA Housing Corp Sdn Bhd, a private development company helmed by the late Tan Sri Lee Yan Lian.

In 1984, the company was renamed TTDI-SEA Park Development Sdn Bhd and in 1990, became TTDI Development Sdn Bhd, with the major shareholders being UDA, Peremba Bhd and Permodalan Nasional Bhd.

In 2001, Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional Bhd, a national asset management company, acquired TTDI Development to assist in the management of its property portfolio. In 2004, Ekspedisi Nikmat Sdn Bhd, controlled then by the late Nasimuddin, bought TTDI Development from Danaharta — the company was named Naza TTDI Sdn Bhd last year. It is known that the Naza Group has been planning to list Naza TTDI on the local bourse.

Naza TTDI is hardly an insignificant property player. Year-to-date, it saw about RM1.5 billion worth of launches in Platinum Park and The Valley Ampang, and turnover for the first seven months of this year is RM108 million, compared with RM111 million in the corresponding period last year.

As expected, Faliq had to contend with scepticism from the market and business partners. “In general, if you see any young guy running a company at the age of 24, especially a big conglomerate like Naza TTDI, of course you will have doubts.

“Nonetheless, he is the boss and you have to trust him. And if you are an employee, you have to trust your boss,” says Faliq. “For me, I am responsible for my employees and I have to prove to them I can do it. I have not let them down so far and I think I am on the right track,” he adds.

It’s exciting, says Faliq of his job of running the company. “I could be out there having fun with my friends at the age of 24, but I am not… it is a great experience, and to me, it is an experience to make me a better person…

“When I took over the company, it was during the global crisis. I think I faced one of the toughest challenges in my life when I was seated there looking at the target given by the board for us to achieve.”
“The decision I had to make was very tough — whether to continue with a project or put it on hold. Naza TTDI has never postponed any project. I had to make the decision, besides managing the cash flow as well. Once we launch a project, money goes out and there’s no knowing how the sales are going to be. That’s one of the biggest tests I have faced. I actually made the decision to proceed and work out a different strategy on how to achieve our target. But things are doing very well. What we have planned is on track,” says Faliq.

Naza TTDI’s ongoing projects have a gross development value of RM8.8 billion. The company has secured two en bloc sales this year in its Platinum Park project and the cash flow from this alone will tide the company over through the next three to four years. Boosted by the en bloc sales, its order book has risen to RM1.9 billion, with unbilled sales at RM1.5 billion.

The RM4.1-billion Platinum Park, which spans over 9.1 acres, is a high-end integrated residential and commercial development in the KLCC area. The project, upon completion by 2018, will have seven towers — three condominium towers, three grade-A office blocks, and a five-star hotel/serviced apartment tower. It will also feature retail shopping outlets on the lower floors of these buildings. Adding to the attraction is a 1.5-acre landscaped park at the heart of the development.

The first en bloc sale was a 50-storey office tower, sold to the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) for RM640.7 million in January last year. The building, to be named Menara Felda, has a net lettable area of 689,000 sq ft and a floor space of 15,000 sq ft. It will also have a large banquet hall that can seat 1,500 people at the basement level.

The second en bloc sale was a 30-storey office building sold to a government-linked company, the details of which the developer declined to reveal immediately. Tabung Haji is reportedly believed to be the buyer.
The Naza group of companies will occupy the third office building upon its completion by 2013. The 50-storey Naza Tower will sit on a 1.2-acre site. It will boast a net floor space of about 532,470 sq ft. The ground floor will house automobile sales showrooms.

Faliq attributes the good market response to the quality of its products. He believes that some people have the money and are willing to spend it, but are waiting for the right time and the ideal location.

“Especially now when you buy a property, you buy those with a brand. You don’t want to buy a property but end up not getting it. I think the brand carries a lot of weight, together with quality and location,” says Faliq.

Meanwhile, Naza TTDI’s Laman Seri Project in Shah Alam has received a mark of 83% in the recent QLASSIC (Quality Assessment System in Construction) assessment. (This system is a method to measure the quality of workmanship of a construction project based on approved standards. It is conducted by qualified and independent assessors who are certified and registered by Construction Industry Development Board under the Works Ministry.) The developer is targeting Conquas (Construction Quality Assessment System), a property construction quality award from Singapore, for its future projects.

“It is difficult to maintain reputation, and that’s why I told the team that we must seek more recognition like Conquas, which will add value to our brand. Besides, it will set a higher benchmark of what you are doing, so that you can be better in the future,” he says.

Faliq aims to make Naza TTDI one of the top developers in Malaysia and subsequently in Southeast Asia.

“I know it is a long way to go, but I think a vision is a vision. We need to proceed step by step to achieve it. My door is always open and you can always talk to me if you have any ideas. I am trying to bring in more foreign partners and brands into my project, or team up with credible partners,” he says.

“My business philosophy is to always have a vision. I believe I have a vision, a very strong and focused one. Believe in what you do, and know what you are doing. I have always been telling my people, ‘I know what I am doing, I believe in what I am doing, so trust me’. Nonetheless, I also have a good team. I believe in team work because I won’t be able to do without my team,” he adds.

Other projects
Naza TTDI is currently looking at developing two joint-venture projects in the Klang Valley — a mixed and a residential development — with the government. Faliq declined to provide details because talks are still at the preliminary stage.

The developer now has a total undeveloped landbank of 392.9 acres in Platinum Park, Jalan Tun Razak, Jalan Semarak and Puchong.

“We don’t have much landbank. As of now, we have about 500 acres of developed and undeveloped landbank, but it is strategic land mainly in the Klang Valley. We plan to increase our landbank to build another TTDI estate of 2,000 acres,” says Faliq.

The developer’s ongoing projects include The Valley TTDI Ampang. At press time, some 51% of the 134 units have been sold since a preview in early May, bringing sales value to RM192 million. Spanning a 35.5-acre leasehold land, the gated-and-guarded development has 66 link villas, 56 bungalows and 12 exclusive bungalows.

The link villas, with built-up of 5,336 sq ft, are priced at RM2.68 million onwards. The bungalows and exclusive bungalows, with built-ups of 5,354 sq ft and 8,412 sq ft, respectively, cost RM2.97 million onwards.

TTDI Alam Impian in Shah Alam is a RM1-billion mixed development on a 208-acre tract. It will be developed in 14 phases, comprising 1,523 units of property. Of these, 248 units from two phases — Phase 1C and Phase 1B — will be launched this year at RM330,000 onwards. This will be followed by other phases consisting of link houses, semidees and bungalows next year.

As for TTDI Kajang that sprawls over 113 acres, it will be developed over 18 phases. The RM350-million mixed development will have 1,123 units upon completion. The developer plans to launch 58 units tagged from RM300,000 this year. The development will see the launch of four phases of link houses and two phases of shop offices next year.

Furthermore, Naza TTDI plans to build two towers, comprising offices and apartments, in Shah Alam and two phases of shop offices in Puchong next year.

With all these launches, Faliq is certainly going to be kept very busy.

Groomed to lead

S M Faliq S M Nasimuddin used to play a lot of golf and sweat out in the gym. Another favourite pasttime was to lunch and dine with his brothers.

That was before he was appointed to helm Naza TTDI as its managing director in March this year. “I used to play a lot of golf and frequent the gym, but after I took over, my first priority is work. Now I have to set appointments for everything. I have to tell my secretary that I need to go to the gym or to play golf three times a week and she will slot it in. Sometimes I envy my friends who have more time for a lot of things,” he tells City & Country.

Bricks and mortar are not Faliq’s first love. When he was young, he wanted to become a pilot but that stayed a dream. Never did he think he would carve a career in real estate.

“I always thought that I would end up in the automotive industry,” he says, but adds that he is now intrigued with the real estate sector.  

His earlier but brief stint in Naza TTDI’s marketing and administration department saw him making sites visits, meeting customers and attending exhibitions. These helped him understand the industry from the ground up, including knowledge of consumer needs and behaviour.

“The experience is invaluable in my position as group managing director, because now I know exactly what the people want. Whenever someone tells me something, they know they can’t lie because I know exactly what it is like. I worked from the ground up and it was a good experience,” says Faliq.

“I’ve always liked marketing and sales, and I think it is the key driver of a company. Without sales, you can’t develop your company. Without good marketing, you won’t be able to portray your brand,” he adds.

Faliq holds a BA in International Business from the Regent College, London, as well as an MA in Entrepreneurial Management from the European Business School, London.

“When I wanted to do my Master’s, I asked my father, ‘Which part of business do you want me to look after?’ and he said, “Don’t worry, I will put you in somewhere’,” Faliq recalls.

“So, I went ahead and did my Master’s. Had I known then I would be involved in real estate, I would have taken a Master’s in real estate. Nonetheless, I started as a senior manager [in marketing and administration] and I learnt. I attended many seminars and sat in there like a student in a lecture room, all the while learning. It was very interesting… meeting and talking to many experienced people. I also had a very good team supporting and guiding me,” says Faliq.

He adds that his five years as a student in the multicultural environment in London gave him an opportunity to work with people from different countries as a team.

Inspiration from dad
Faliq says his late father, Tan Sri S M Nasimuddin S M Amin, the founder of the Naza Group, always wanted his children to learn about business from the bottom. During summer holidays, Faliq would spend time working with his father.

“Even before I joined Naza TTDI, I was involved with the marketing team, learning and giving ideas. I am very passionate about marketing and I think this is one of my strengths. My father always took me around to meet people. Although I wasn’t involved directly, I listened and observed what he did. My father wanted me to sit and acquire knowledge from him, instead of going to other MNCs (multinational corporations). I was back here every summer, working and learning just like any intern. So joining Naza TTDI wasn’t a big culture shock for me,” says Faliq, adding that his father has inspired him in many ways.

“He [Nasimuddin] never said ‘no’ to anything and was always up to challenges and possibilities — that’s why I respected him. Anything you told him to do, he would say ‘I will look into it and let’s explore’. He never said ‘no, let’s not do that’. He tried everything. If you are an entrepreneur, you have to be very opportunistic.

“He was hardworking and very humble. He talked to the ground staff, and he knew everyone from top to bottom. Also, he was very focused. He told me that ‘if you want to do something, you have to be focused and you will achieve your goal. If you are not focused, you will never get what you want’. I have been following his advice ever since,” he adds.

Faliq may be just 24 but he has been groomed to play his role.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 770, Aug 31 - Sep 6, 2009.