KING OF RETAIL
MRCA President Dato’ Garry Chua’s insatiable appetite for the F&B business and building sector is inspiring
FLYING HIGH IN THE AVIATION ENTERPRISE GTA CEO Dato’ Nonee Ashirin shares her insights as a woman in the aviation and aerospace industry
ALAN KOH RISES TO STARDOM WITH STAR RESIDENCES
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THE 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS (#100 MIYE) acknowledges bold, creative and innovative young Malaysian entrepreneurs below age of 45, who set the standards of Malaysiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s enterprising spirit. If you are one of these outstanding personalities who run incredible ventures, we want to honour you on 24th November 2017 at The 100 MIYE 2017 Gala Dinner with the publication of our book.
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ENTERPRISE OF THE MONTH
06 | Rising To Stardom with Star Residences
16 | Flying High in The Aviation Enterprise
24 | Making it Big on Kiosk Franchise
GTA Chairman and Founder Dato’ Nonee Ashirin Mohd Radzi shares her insight as a woman who has overcomed the glass ceiling in the aviation and aerospace industry
In a recent interview with Entrepreneur Insight, Chief Executive Officer Bryan Loo shares on how it all started - elaborating on his company’s progress and his future plans for expanding the business globally
ENTREPRENEUR OF THE MONTH
20 | President of Retail
27 | Sideline on Entrepreneur News
Alpine Return’s Alan Koh’s glitzy journey to the top has not always been smooth but the Entrepreneur with the Midas touch has taken it all in his stride and lived to tell his rags-tostunning riches true story
FRESH START-UP 12 | Living the Life of her Dreams
Armed with a head for numbers, a heart for aesthetic designs and a soul for preserving culture, meet Jacqueline Fong who has a passion for hotels and an interest in the preservation of arts and craft
MRCA President Dato’ Garry Chua’s insatiable appetite for the food and beverage as well as the building sector is inspiring as he trailblazes new grounds in these two industries close to his heart
Bite-sized updates of the events that were the talk-of-the-town and beyond
EDITORIAL Editor-in-Chief Dato’ KK Chua firstname.lastname@example.org Editor Yvonne Yoong email@example.com Writers Mages PV Lingam Felicia Soon
“Reinvention. The Highest Form of Flattery” Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, it’s true. However, I am swayed to suggest that “Reinvention is the highest form of flattery”. After all, whatever exists now has existed before. This conceptualised reality is captured in the good book, with Ecclesiastes 3:15 extolling that “Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before”, exemplifying a lesson in reinvention. It was a lesson that even the late Steve Jobs was aware of, having ingeniously built the giant Apple empire via the process of reinvention. Alpine Return Sdn Bhd Chief Operating Officer Alan Koh agrees with Jobs entrepreneurial-like statement which he paraphrased as:- “Apple is nothing new but a borrowed idea from other (products) which was further reinvented”. The wheel has come full circle for Koh who has infused every project he undertakes star appeal with his Midas touch and visionary outlook. Held in high regard by industry peers, his confident, maverick super-slick approach to developments have seen new benchmarks set in the city with nothing less expected of the upcoming Star Residences touting a glitzy residential cum commercial development in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle. This exemplifies Koh’s acute understanding that entrepreneurship calls for innovation and reinvention. This sense of reinvention goes a long way in ensuring survival in business and life opines Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA) President Dato’ Garry Chua. He identifies the future trend as drones capable of delivering groceries to one’s doorstep which is already taking place in China. The savvy Entrepreneur of the Month called it a day after years spent at ICI Paints (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd and Jotun Paint Malaysia in search of entrepreneurial adventure. He urges retailers and businesses to embrace change by taking on the e-commerce platform for their businesses to boost their physical outlet presence as well. The refusal to adapt to change and reinvent oneself Chua says, can result in one’s business becoming extinct just like dinosaurs. Director of the unique Batik Boutique Hotel in Kuching, Sarawak Jacqueline Hong switched careers mid-way through her lucrative banking career to pursue her dream of owning her own hotel outfit. Reinventing the wheel with her uniquely themed hotel, she also established Tanoti and her own factory conceptualised out of her fascination with traditional fabrics. Last but not least, meet aviation queen Dato’ Nonee Ashirin whose love for this industry was honed when she followed her father to aviation shows as a child. Today, her aviation empire focusing on engine products for airplanes which she retails continues to grow, even as she considers venturing into property investment and new manufacturing facilities. On the industry front, there will be the exciting 100 Most Influential Young Entrepreneurs (100MIYE) 2017 awards organised by Armani Media Sdn Bhd coming up on 24 November at The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur. Let’s see who will make it into the top 100 hotspot. Till next month, keep reaching for the stars!
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Although every reasonable care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, neither the publisher, editors, writers nor employees or agents can be held liable for any errors, inaccuracies and/or omissions. The contents of this publication do not constitute investment advice. It is intended only to inform and illustrate. No reader should act on any information contained in this publication without first seeking appropriate professional advice that takes into account their personal circumstances. We shall not be responsible for any loss or damage, whether directly or indirectly, incidentally or consequently arising from or in connection with the contents of this publication and shall not accept any liability in relation thereto. The views by our contributors expressed here are their personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect Property Insight’s views. The publisher does not endorse any company, organisation, person, investment strategy or technique mentioned in this publication unless expressedly stated otherwise. The publisher does not endorse any advertisements or special advertising features in this publication, nor does the publisher endorse any advertiser(s) or their products/services unless expressedly stated to the contrary. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, including photocopying and imaging without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Chief Operating Officer Alpine Return Sdn Bhd
NEWS & EVENTS
100MIYE NETWORKING NIGHT The 100MIYE (100 Most Influential Young Entrepreneurs) Networking Night was held recently at the Dorsett Residences Sri Hartamas Show Gallery in Kuala Lumpur. Seen mingling among the full-house crowd were many young Entrepreneurs.
RICHWORKS GETS RECOGNISED Over 6,500 participants who attended the Richworks IMKK programme at the IDCC Shah Alam witnessed Dr. Azizan Osman being recognised as a world-class international coach by the prestigious International Coach Guild Australia. He is the first in Malaysia and Asia to receive two awards in recognition of him as a Coach and Richworks International Sdn Bhd as a world-class coaching school. Richworks as a company is the first to be awarded in Malaysia, Asia and is second in the world.
THE MALAYSIA BIENNIAL 100YC SMART CITY FORUM TAKES OFF A smart city forum was held at the National Innovation and Creative Economy (NICE) 2017 expo recently. Themed “Shaping Smart Cities and Future Lifestyles”, the forum addressed City Builders, Planners and Managers on financing models, legal considerations, infrastructure needs, inclusiveness and planning constraints in transforming current cities into smart cities. Around 300 participants including Academicians and local Council Representatives were present at the forum which was officiated by Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau. Malaysia Biennial 100YC Co-Founder Imran Clyde says that to keep abreast of new developments he hopes the property development industry and Policy Makers will learn from the expertise of each’s other expertise and explore the latest technologies.
LAUNCH OF ARTESPREE ArteSpree recently launched its online art platform that focuses on bringing together the art community. The launch held recently at the National Art Gallery (NAG) signified a collaboration between NAG and ArteSpree in promoting artworks on the ArteSpree online art platform. Mi-Ki Choong who is behind ArteSpree is also the Global Ambassador Malaysia for the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED)
event that will be held this month at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York, the US. WED is a global initiative organised with the mission to celebrate, support and empower women in businesses to alleviate poverty. ArtSpree is a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project undertaken by the Centurise Group which Choong developed in order to assist the local art community to be highlighted at WED.
SHOWCASING SMART CITY INNOVATIONS Financial Technology (FinTech) players; LuxTag and MHub as well as the Internet of Things (loT) solutions providers; Campfyre, TechCare Innovation and AppCable showcased their ideas recently to a group of eco-system Partners, Venture Capitalists, Corporate Partners and Investors at the Cyberview Living Lab Accelerator (CLLA) Demonstration Day. Cyberview Sdn Bhd Acting Manging Director Mohd Najib Ibrahim says the selected startups were provided with resources and facilities valued at RM50, 000 for each start-up to be pilot- and investment-ready. The unique proposition of CLLA is that it supports start-ups with solutions that feed into a smart city’s needs. It is clear from the incredible progress t that the CLLA is an ideal platform for participants to grow their ideas into game-changing enterprises while aiming at the objective of making a positive impact on society.
RISING TO STARDOM WITH STAR RESIDENCES Alpine Return’s Alan Koh’s glitzy journey to the top has not always been smooth but the Entrepreneur with the Midas touch has taken it all in his stride and lived to tell his rags-to-stunning riches true story By: Yvonne Yoong
An artist’s impression of the grand entrance leading to Star Residences
tar Residences Chief Operating Officer Alan Koh’s life reads like a well-crafted script with elements of humour, hardship, perseverance and endurance finally adding up to the glamorous lifestyle he is now living to a hilt. Although on the surface, everything looks glamorous and his life reads like something out of the pages of Tinseltown, the ever-smiling Koh shares that his entrepreneurial journey and climb to the top has not always been easy nor smooth-sailing all the way. In fact, he affirms that the journey has been fraught with challenges and rejection. A lesser known or totally unknown fact about Koh revolves around his humble beginnings growing up as a child in the rustic Chua Chu Kang village situated in the suburban of Singapore where he had to help out with the endless chores which is a far cry from the savvy COO with an entrepreneurial streak who comes across as wellimmersed in the ways of the world that the industry is accustomed to. “I always tell people I grew up in the countryside but nobody believes me. They say, ‘Alan, you don’t act like one or behave like one. Maybe that is because I’ve been to the US and became Westernised. I see a lot of things and travel a lot also so basically, that also opened up my eyes and I learned a lot from the buildings that I visited,” says Koh. The village, which bears an uncanny and coincidental resemblance to the rib-tickling antics of Singaporean Comedian Phua Chu Kang he says, had chickens, ducks and pigs running around, until the Singaporean Government banned the rearing of pigs there. The funny antics of the much-loved Actor playing a Contractor in the sitcom series was something Koh could relate to in vivid detail considering he was involved in the property business, albeit overseeing real estate investment and management. Koh looks back fondly at his young years spent shaking the mango trees and climbing the durian trees. Observing his father who had his own coffee shop business and a plastic factory who never worked for anybody in his entire life, Koh’s father was his first role model. However, the all-important question for him was how to arrive to where he wanted to be from this initial point. After completing his National Service with the military in Singapore at the age of 20, a resolute Koh wanted to pursue his education in the US. However, his father was not agreeable so Koh had to seek his own funds.
“My education was self-funded. My mom subsidised my first year while my sister in London chipped in to fund my entire studies. I also had to fund myself by working part-time in the US in order to complete my studies,” he recalls. Not one to drawback in the face of challenge, he took everything in his stride. He worked in the US for a couple of years and pursued his Master of Business Administration (MBA). Koh earned his first Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Degree in Marketing in Hawaii and, feeling that his first MBA wasn’t good enough, he pursued his MBA in Finance to help him in his career. However, when he came home to Singapore armed with two MBAs, he found it tough to get a job. “I wanted to get into the finance industry but it was very difficult because I didn’t have finance experience,” he recalls. However, because he had a short stint in the US in property management and leasing, he concluded that this career route was possibly the best way to go. Thus, he wrote to property developers and other marketing firms dealing with sub-consumer products but got rejected more than 100 times. “I felt rejected and down but ultimately, I brought myself up again to be stronger – much, much stronger than before. “So basically, that’s how I got started and got to be strong to feel that it is not the end of the world, and that whatever comes along would just be challenges and not obstacles. That kind of thinking is positive and still remains as something that I practise till today,” recalls Koh. Not one to give up, the sheer steely determination meted out by Koh who is born in the year of the Ox and under the Taurus star sign admits to being strongminded, even as he jest that he is a “double bull” in terms of being resolute and persevering in attaining his dreams. Eventually, he joined the Jones Lang Wootton Singapore consultant firm as a Property Manager handling property management for the Orchard Shopping Centre in the Lion City where he used to meet local Singaporean Chinese drama celebrities there who would go there to “yum cha” which was his initial brushes with celebrities and stars.
FATE STEPS IN As fate would have it, he came across a magazine one day on whose cover was Banyan Tree Chairman Ho Kwon Ping smiling back at him. The Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts is mainly a branded resort concept – either at the seaside, mountain resort or unique cultural space where they position themselves to be. “So, it was very interesting when I picked up the article and read about him and how he was so particular and passionate about what he does. It was so detailed the way he talked about how he turned this project around from a really useless tin mine to a very healthy, profitable resort,” he adds. Koh shares that the article prompted him to want to work for Ho and it took him one year, unsolicited, to write in to
him. He kept sending him letters every three months until he received a call from Ho who called him in for an interview. “He told me Alan, do you know why I hired you? You came in so hard knocking at the door so I had no choice but to open the door for you! So, that’s how I got into Banyan Tree. My mind was made up that I wanted to join this company and I got in after one year. That was my first hotel exposure,” recounts Koh. Ho is not only very hands on but also different in his approach and it was from him that Koh developed an eye for detail. Over there at Banyan Tree, a young Koh oversaw the photo shoots for the resort and handled the layout details of the brochure and supervised the photographer while deciding the backdrop for the setting.
Left: Sky Park Pool at Level 58 Far left top: A breathtaking view of the city from the vantage point of Star Residences Far left bottom: Pure indulgence awaits in the luxe living area
“Ho was my inspiration and also my mentor. He’s also the brand for Banyan Tree. He appeared regularly on television and other media and was also on the Board of a few directorships for the Government. So basically, he is not just a mentor but really, he’s truly somebody like the late Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. When he speaks, people want to listen – he has that kind of personality,” affirms Koh. It was there that Koh picked up a sense of detailing, mentality and culture that was prevalent with the Banyan Tree branding that would serve him well in terms of future projects which he would developed as in Star Residences. “When I developed Star Residences, I purposely came up with a name that is meaningful. When you do a project and put in all the elements of the star name in place – then it’s really something else. When I talk to the buyers, they feel there’s a story behind Star Residences which makes them want to buy into the project because it’s got impression,” says Koh. During the course of his life’s journey, Koh discovered that fate would intervene to determine he would have some big breaks in his career and the occasional brushes with stars and celebrities at different intersections of his life. When he was working part-time in Hawaii at a Thai Restaurant which catered to celebrities and superstars for instance, he glimpsed the late Michael
Jackson and Tina Turner dining there. At this point in time, with the wheel coming fully circle, destiny has seen to it that he undertakes the development of the high-profile Star Residences which is in some ways, the sum total of the starstudded journey on which Koh has had the privilege to embark on. STAR APPEAL OF STAR RESIDENCES Koh’s sterling reputation and composed confidence precedes him so much so that he’s known for his Midas touch of turning developments into golden ventures. The projects Koh undertake after all, have a knack of attracting capital appreciation. Known among industry circles for his penchant for success and entrepreneurial streak, his mavericklike confident approach to launching developments have certainly set new benchmark standards for the city. His ability to reinvent himself and his projects while aiming for the stars comes second nature to the enterprising COO who believes that the secret to success lies with the power of innovation. Taking a leaf from the late Steve Jobs, Koh paraphrases what Jobs used to affirm in that - “Apple is nothing new but a borrowed idea from other (products) which was further reinvented”. Thus, Koh sees wisdom in reinventing the wheel in excellent offerings already in existence and elevating the concept to revolutionary effect in terms of approach.
“The inspiration for the birth of Star Residences came from W Hotel’s DNA,” he enthuses sharing how the concept for the development was birthed. This entailed a sojourn around an elite selection of W Hotels worldwide. “I have always been fascinated with hotels since my university days in Hawaii. The real inspiration for Star Development’s design and concept came from W Hotel in Taiwan when I was invited to one of the Chinese restaurants. “That was my first time stepping into a W Hotel. I immediately fell in love with the concept and was inspired by the bold colours, sexiness, artistic features and flamboyance of the hotel,” he enthuses. Koh says that to enhance my vision, he visited and did research on other W Hotels in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Beijing and Bangkok. “That research forms part of my 40-page design concept framework for Star Development. I choose the name Star as it is easy to pronounce and understand and has international appeal. I wanted a project which is not only easily distinguishable but must have an element of sex appeal. “The idea of developing an extraordinary lucky star was one of the criteria that was in my mind. In order to have all these elements of good luck and good feng shui in place I developed the Star logo using 65 circles with five sides having 13 circles on each side,” he adds. Koh says what eventually emerged was a lucky clover in the middle that forms the heart of the Star logo. “With this in mind, I gave the dots or circles bold colours to exude a sexy and youthful look. The final result is a super lucky and prosperous Star that has elements of sexiness, boldness, and flamboyance,” he enthuses. WRITTEN IN THE STARS Indeed, Koh’s life seems to not only have been scripted from the start - but also written in the stars. So much so that not
only is Koh living the life of his dreams - he is also raising a new benchmark standard for luxe living and shopping in the Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle. Testament to this is his latest pride and joy as reflected in Star Development – a mixed-use development comprising Star Residences – represented by an iconic 57-storey tower and two 58-storey towers which now includes the Ascott Star KLCC Kuala Lumpur and Star Boulevard consisting five blocks of six-storey units for retail, food and beverage (F&B) and lifestyle entertainment outlets. Success it seems, comes easily enough, with Koh’s Midas touch and entrepreneurial spirit attracting a steady stream of buyers, even despite the current slowdown in the economy. The star appeal of this project is evident in the number of units sold. Already, Tower 1’s 557 units that was launched in November 2014 is already completely sold out while the take-up rate for Tower 2’s 482 units that was launched last year recorded over 90% sales. The recently launched Tower 3 - Ascott Star KLCC Kuala Lumpur witnessed a tie-up with international serviced residences operator The Ascott Limited being engaged to manage the project. Ascott Star KLCC which is slated to be completed by 2021 with the commencement of its operations by July 2021, is also witnessing brisk sales. All this is very good and well, given the current uncertain economic climate. However, unfazed by the dictates of market forces, the ever-enterprising Koh’s solution was to optimistically market his project overseas including countries like Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, with China being the key market. Despite the property market currently experiencing weakened sentiments, Koh believes the economy will continue to improve from the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) performance hovering around 5% since he opines the ringgit has stabilised lately. “The export market is revving up so I think that overall, Malaysia has stabilised unlike a few years ago when the currency dropped a lot. The currency has improved so the property market should improve. “With the uptrend, I foresee that
next year till 2021 onwards will see the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) link being completed. The High Speed Rail (HSR) train from Singapore to Malaysia will also augur well for the country to attract more tourists from Singapore over here.” CAPITALISING ON STAR RESIDENCES “Star Residences is a very special and unique project because it has got all the elements of star appeal in it. The name itself is not just for namesake but it is actually associated with celebrities,” says Koh adding that famous Malaysianborn, world-renowned shoe couturier and Star Ambassador Datuk Jimmy Choo lent his name to the Star Walk of Fame. This star-led partnership with Choo resonates with similar parallels in both their lives stories – progressing from humble beginnings before being thrust into the international spotlight with Choo taking global prominence in the fashion industry on the world stage. “The Jimmy Choo equation came about as he is someone I have chemistry with, having talked at length about the interior design scheme at my previous office in KL Eco City, The Gardens Mall in Mid Valley City when I first met him eight years ago, having been introduced by my client. He asked me “Is it size eight? I’m going to make you a pair of shoes.” Koh was at then the Head of Investment and Development S P Setia Berhad who had helped out with the masterplan for the entire 24-acre development. This covered all the components of the integrated development as in residential retail, three blocks of Grade A office buildings and some strata offices. A year-and-a-half later on Koh’s birthday, Choo presented the gift to him at a private dining room in Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur and signed the back of his shoes of which there are only two such pairs – one belonging to Choo and the other, Koh which he wore that night. From that initial last meeting whereby Koh was introduced to Choo by a common friend, and upon joining Alpine Return years later, the former invited Choo to be the Brand Ambassador of Star Development. Koh’s career with United Malayan Land Berhad (UMLand) earlier on saw him being seconded by
CapitaLand Singapore which sent him to develop Susana Sentral, a joint venture project between UMLand and Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB). After the successful completion of Suasana Sentral Loft, he left to join a real estate fund in Pacific Star Group baed in Singapore. A call from S P Setia saw him joining as Head of Investments and Development overseeing the masterplanning of the RM7 billion mixed integrated development comprising comercial office buildings, retail strata offices and residential apartments. And, the rest as they say, is history. “He immediately accepted the invitation as he thinks Star Development has been creatively put together as a brand he would like to be associated with. He is the first celebrity to endorse and lend his hand imprint to the Star Walk of Fame. I have always admired him as being the pride of Malaysia. He is not just creative, but able to brand himself into what he is today,” enthuses Koh further. In all, he hopes to have 36 worldrenowned celebrities leave behind their hand imprints on the glamorous walkway where residents and the public alike can enjoy visiting and taking pictures. “When I first looked at this development, I noticed that it has got a very long frontage so I knew it could be turned into something very special. “I know that within KLCC – besides the Petronas Twin Towers and Acquaria KLCC, Malaysia lacks tourist landmarks especially in the city. “Since there aren’t any tourist spots for visitors to really visit I conceptualised a logo revolving around the word ‘Star’ and incorporated a 200-metre Star Walk of Fame akin to the Hollywood Walk of Fame or Hong Kong Star Avenue. That’s how the name came about,” he enthuses. Star Boulevard is poised to be Malaysia’s latest tourist hotspot with the Star Walk of Fame located nearby the Food & Beverage (F&B) and Entertainment Hub. Once completed, the Star Walk of Fame and the other commercial F&B and entertainment hotspots will attract locals and tourists. According to Koh, the star appeal of the development lies with its Star logo. “It’s a project that has got all the
ingredients of celebrities or star appeal in it. That’s how I came to name this Star Residences. The retail element is also something special. We will be exploring restaurants, F&B and a Michelin-star restaurant that we will be bringing to Star Residences,” says Koh. “Star Residences is a vis a vis residential development promoting serviced apartments with unique artwork within a mixed-use project which also has a commercial retail component. There are basically three blocks of residences and one retail tower,” he relates. It is easy to see why Koh is all starryeyed over Star Residences which he affirms has got all the elements of a five-star development, having poured his passion into this superstar development that sparkles with inspiration. “Why do I say that this project has got all the elements of a five-star development? This is because the first thing I want to emphasise is that Star Residences’ logo represents a very lucky star. It is a very special star as it has got a love star within a cluster of stars. “The most prominent feature of Star Residences that excites me is basically the star logo itself which carries a lot of meaning. Right in the centre of Star logo is a clover which represents luck. “There is a three-star clover leaf which is basically lucky while a four-star clover life is very lucky. This very special star has got a five-leaf clover so therefore, it is a very lucky and very prosperous star. And that’s the heart and soul of Star development,” he explains. The glitzy development will also feature a rooftop area for the retail component which comprises a bar and dining area serving all types of local and international cuisine. A unique mosaic feature wall at the Sky Park measuring 20 metres wide and 12 metres high towers spanning three storeys will provide the wow factor and represent something special about the development in that sense. “We’ve engaged Samsung C&T Engineering & Construction Group which is also considered a five-star developer and world builder of one of the main builder of Star Residences. This construction giant is best known for the construction of the world’s tallest
buildings including the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur; Burj Khalifa in Dubai and now Merdeka PNB 118, which will be Malaysia’s tallest building.” “We actually went to new markets like Japan and Korea because we employed Samsung as the contractor for Star Residences and Samsung itself is known as a developer in Korea. So there’s some kind of branding and reputation there as people recognise the brand and want to buy. Samsung will act as its installer for security systems other than being the contractor for Star Residences. Star Residences will also have a MichelinStar restaurant and last but not least, basically represents a five-star development,” affirms Koh.
RAISING THE BENCHMARK The four-acre (1.62 ha) development with a gross development value (GDV) of RM3 billion (USD700 million) represents Koh’s comeback project undertaken by Alpine Return Sdn Bhd. The project represents a 50:50 joint venture between established Malaysian property developers – Symphony Life Bhd (previously known as Bolton Bhd) and United Malayan Land Bhd (UM Land). Alpine Return, has linked up with The Ascott Limited for the launch of its latest tower block. The Ascott, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Singapore’s CapitaLand Limited is a leading international serviced residences owner-operators.
LIVING THE LIFE OF HER DREAMS Armed with a head for numbers, a heart for aesthetic designs and a soul for preserving culture, meet Jacqueline Fong who has a passion for hotels and an interest in the preservation of arts and craft By: Yvonne Yoong
arawakian-born Jacqueline Fong has an irrepressible quality about her that is almost infectious â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the moment she steps into the room, the vivacious and bubbly Scorpion and Dragon star sign lady turns on her natural charm without so much as batting an eyelid. Conversations with her border on the witty, and she is never short of an opinion. However, Fong is naturally down to earth which adds to her natural charms. Although she tries to shun the limelight, the attention she generates by way of her career achievements is nothing short of making the news, she having been featured recently in a couple of magazines recently. Certainly, Fong is no ordinary gal next door. Throwing caution to the wind, she did the unthinkable for someone entrenched in investment banking giving it all up to venture into starting a hotel business which she admits is not a natural career progression chart for most. After all, at 41 years of age, she is today the Director of Batik Boutique Hotel Sdn Bhd which manages three separate accommodation properties namely the Batik Boutique Hotel and 360Xpress City Center Hotel in Kuching, Sarawak as well as BBBunkers in Damai Beach, Pangkor. Altogether, there are 140 keys while the total headcount for all three properties is around 30 people.
Adding another feather to her cap of achievements, Fong is co-founded a social enterprise focusing on preserving heritage craft Tanoti Sdn Bhd which is an enterprise concentrating on songket weaving as a craft. “Tanoti is community of 20 people operating within its core business. It also has a community initiative whereby no less than 100 artisans from 20 villages benefit from our work in developing the rattan basketry craft,” enthuses Fong in vivid detail. These are early days for Fong, venturing into these businesses, stating candidly “This is me still living my chance!” For the moment, she says she is not planning to embark on other future projects as of yet. When quizzed whether she consider herself successful as an Entrepreneur, the irrepressible go-getter humbly states that she thinks she is far from being a successful Entrepreneur in the “eyes of many”. “But to me, I think I am a very lucky Entrepreneur as I am surrounded by people who love and support the causes that my businesses run on,” she affirms positively. “To me, being an Entrepreneur means believing in myself and having the confidence in my chosen path. Embarking on entrepreneurship means not allowing yourself to have a safety net. Fong admits her days working from 1997 to 2001 as Assistant Manager at Utama Merchant Bank Berhad and from 2001 to 2015 as Director of Investment Banking, CIMB Investment Bank Berhad varies extensively from her
business operations. This because she realises that the livelihood of her staff depends on the success of each day’s business performance. Hence, the more effectively the businesses runs daily, the stronger the company will be in its ability to sustain their livelihood. “At the end of the day, the conscience must remain pure. Always.”
QUICK SNAPSHOTS WITH JACQUELINE FONG How did the hotel business take off and what was the inspiration behind it? I started the hotel business as a muse. It was the culmination of my many travels and my appreciation of the accommodation being a destination in itself. Although many admire the architecture, interior design of the hotels and facilities in the property, I was most impressed with how smaller properties make much better tourism ambassadors as they bring their guests closer to the real people. One property which left a deep impression on me was a small 16-bedroom in Sultanahmet, Istanbul. The owner of the property was most engaging. In fact, many guests return repeatedly year after year, just to interact with him and the company that he attracts. The Batik was modelled against the Kybele as it exudes the vibe, cosiness and the ever-generous insights into the city.
When did you realise it was time to start your unique projects
Every business should be conceived with a core objective to solve a problem so that it can positively contribute to the community” - Jacqueline Fong
Rewinding back to several years before, I was seconded to Jakarta in Indonesia. Being an expatriate for the first time, I embraced everything about my new environment. The strongest impression I obtained was from the textiles of this land. I quickly became a fabric enthusiast and this interest continued until today. My hotel is called Batik Boutique Hotel after my newfound affinity towards Indonesian batik tulis. Similarly, I was drawn to the idea of taking over a weaving workshop purely because I knew that our handcrafted textile industry is indeed on a decline and I was presented with the priceless opportunity to participate in rebuilding songket weaving as a craft.
From counting ringgits to building your own little empire, did your banking days help you fashion your business setup? Throughout my years in banking, I became very good at analysing business plans, financial models and writing proposals. These skills helped me tremendously when I decided to venture into each business.
How is what you are doing now different from your earlier years working at CIMB? It is extremely different because I know that many livelihoods are depending on the success of each day. I am aware that the more effectively I perform each day, the stronger the company and its ability to sustain the livelihoods of the people it employs.
Did you have a tug-a-war in your heart in terms of making the shift from these two industries? Only superficially because after working for almost two decades, I had become used to receiving my monthly pay cheque. But I knew that I needed to evolve. Hence, I had to decide to make the move as soon as I felt ready.
Was it difficult to shift from a Banker to an Entrepreneur?
have decided that my businesses shoud be run by intuition: If it feels right, then it should be. This is the complete opposite from having formularised strategies and performance indicators which defined my banking life. My businesses are designed in such a way that their objectives are to positively impact everyone they connect with in order to build a strong community and have long-lasting relationships with these parties. Our customers become friends, our vendors become family and our partners become our firm allies.
more financially enriching to me. The difference now is that the wealth is spread across to empower the people whom my businesses support.
How important is it to you that businesses should play a role in the community?
Looking back, would you have preferred doing things in reverse for example being an Entrepreneur and then becoming a banker?
Every business should be conceived with a core objective to solve a problem so that it can positively contribute to the community. Businesses which become more influential and/or earn more money should further develop Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives by way of charity or supporting the wellbeing of the community.
How much more profitable or less are these two businesses as compared to your banking days? For
What is the most challenging as well as most rewarding parts of the business? The challenging part is when we let our problems overwhelm us and we don’t have a way out. The most rewarding part lies with us constantly building new relationships and learning new things which will enrich our lives on many different levels and in many diverse ways.
I believe that we always do what we believe is best for ourselves at any one particular time. On this basis, I stick by my decisions so there’s no looking back for me.
Any tips for budding Entrepreneurs? Passion should drive your business, not money. Don’t get caught up with making money because once you get bored, your business will not be able to survive your boredom and your existence will no longer be required.
In my capacity as a banker, I was already made aware of the business of banking. Each respective team and department had its profit and loss (P&L) to manage and our job was to work towards key targets. As an Entrepreneur, the difference is that these targets are set by myself and our P&L meant more than just our right to a bonus… It meant our ability to continue our existence or our propensity to expand.
How did you leverage on your expertise and experience from your banking days to running your own hotel business? How did the Eureka moment come about for your hotel? Over the years being part of a large corporate structure, I observed management styles and made mental noted on what elements I should borrow and what I am happy not to see again. I
ENTERPRISE OF THE MONTH
FLYING HIGH IN THE AVIATION ENTERPRISE GTA Chairman and Founder Datoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Nonee Ashirin Mohd Radzi shares her insight as a woman who has overcomed the glass ceiling in the aviation and aerospace industry By: Mages PV Lingam
There are only six nations in the world in which the military owns this Airbus A400 which runs on TP400 using the most powerful turbo-shaft engines with giant propellers. GTA in Malaysia is the only country having the expertise and TP400 engine in this region. We have the capability to assist our clients” – Dato’ Nonee Ashirin Mohd Radzi
igh flyer company Global Turbine Asia (GTA) Sdn Bhd is truly a flight above in providing comprehensive services in the aviation industry. Located at the Helicopter Centre, Malaysia International Aerospace Centre at the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang Jaya, GTA is the sole provider supporting the Malaysian military, police missions, Oil and Gas services,commercial sectors while also providing personal medical assistance. This conglomerate is spearheaded by GTA Chairman and Founder Dato’ Nonee Ashirin Mohd Radzi whose late father was Dato’ Mohd Radzi Manan, the Founder of Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA) Airshow and Perak State EXCO. He was the person says Nonee who was responsible in stirring her passion and excitement for the industry. As long as Nonee can recall, in the past 20 years, she has been mesmerised by the sight of airplanes flying above her. The aerospace events that she would attend with her father that were
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held biennially in Langkawi holds fond memories for her. This Perakborn Entrepreneur who completed her barrister-at-law from Lincoln’s Inn in the UK later ventured to establish her own practice in Ipoh, Perak.
STARTING IN THE BEGINNING In 2007, Nonee’s love and determination to build the only aerospace and aviation business in Malaysia continued to burn strong until GTA was incorporated in 2010. As a result, she left her law practice and used her networking circle to build her company represented in GTA. “In GTA, there are different tiers in the aerospace industry comprising maintenance repairs as well as overhaul and the manufacturing of certain parts and components,” shares Nonee. She adds that aviation is a niche and highly-regulated industry with safety being a paramount factor at all times. Despite the aerospace industry posing minute interest to most people, nevertheless the travel industry has contributed highly to the local economy and towards fulfilling the Government’s aim to become Southeast Asia’s aerospace hub aimed at achieving a total revenue of RM55.2 billion in 2030. Nonee’s modus operandi was firstly rooted in building strong rapport with the French counterparts in terms of networking and consultation with the Safran Group based in France. The group which holds a 30% stake in GTA represents a huge French multinational aircraft engine, rocket engine, aerospace-component, defence and security company. Nonee who has a credible record of accomplishments and high level of trust in business relationships has overcomed many challenges and grown in terms of her business acumen. Furthermore, her ability to network effortlessly with international clients is also praiseworthy. She has also opened the doors for the the aviation industry market to penetrate into the Asian region, starting with Malaysia. This pertains to clients from the Military, Oil and Gas industries who are seeking authorised dealers for engines and maintenance engineering.
Nornee says that most of the company’s engineering staff comprise graduates from University of Kuala Lumpur (UniKL). They were trained abroad for competency levels and skills as special accreditation licences are needed to deal with the components or parts of the engines. According to her, graduates in aviation are highly valued and sought-after in terms of employment in the aerospace sector especially in the neighbouring regions in Asia. Subsequently, Nonee has been responsible in contributing to nation building and developing competent human capital. During LIMA 2017, it was an eminent achievement for Nonee as she signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) valued at RM50 million. The MoA is to build a manufacturing facility and kickstart an aerospace maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) company. This facility which will be fully completed in 2019 is situated on eight acres of land at the Subang Aerospace Park in Selangor.
MOVING UPWARDS “We have garnered tremendous achievements over the years while increasing our staff strength from 10 to 30 people now. We are seeking new contracts with the Government sectors ranging from dealing with MRO on helicopter engines to bigger airbus planes,” adds Nonee. She also cut a deal together with the company’s Spanish counterpart recently and is expecting a contract by next year which would gain double turnover for the enterprise. “There are only six nations in the world in which the military owns this Airbus A400 which runs on TP400 using the most powerful turbo-shaft engines with giant propellers. GTA in Malaysia is the only country having the expertise and TP400 engine in this region. We have the capability to assist our clients,” she says. Nonee adds that one propeller engine costs EURO15 million (RM75 million) and is designed to power the Airbus Military A400M military transport. GTA’s marketing strategy is to have the right people with the right mindset
working at the company. The objective of the company is to ensure clients get familiar withthe group’s footprint here. Furthermore, the idea is to cement a working relationship with a company which has the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) substantially establishing a faster landmark achievement for GTA. In the long run, Nonee also believes in training her staff to achieve their maximum level of capability. She also has plans for her long serving staff who have been loyal to the company for many years to become part of her internal succession plan. As the world of technology is anticipating Industry 4.0 now, Malaysia is also vying to stay relevant in terms of technology advancement. At GTA’s new manufacturing facility, tools and engine parts would be produced in multiple quantities with quality control being governed by the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) and relevant authorities. GTA’s next challenge is to get approval from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) accreditation for Part 145 which allows the group to undertake work for its European clients in accordance to the group’s standards.
SUCCESS FACTORS Nonee shares that the top factors which have sustained her in the business include equipping oneself with skills and knowledge; being perseverant,
disciplined and hands-on in approach. Nonee says she was naturally motivated by her mother who is a teacher. However, Nonee who has three grown up children believes in maintaining a sense of balanced lifestyle now. “I have exposed my children at an early age to this industry and business,” she adds. Nornee is also contemplating embarking on a more diversified portfolio which include journeying towards
entrepreneurship and venturing into property investment. After expanding into international business deals which is her core business, she is more than ready for the next challenge that is to put a deal together for her manufacturing facility. “As an Entrepreneur, I have the business acumen in my bloodline as compared to my siblings. “Even though my biggest hurdles were during the early years in business,
I didn’t give up but picked up the pieces and moved on,” testifies Nonee who has overcome several downturns in the past. Her vision for GTA now is to make sure that the goals for the company is met. She aims to achieve this by turning the business into a public listed company. Nonee says there are no shortcuts in the aviation industry. Next on Nonee’s bucket list is seriously considering venturing into property development and piloting a helicopter!
ENTERPRISE OF THE MONTH
PRESIDENT OF RETAIL MRCA President Dato’ Garry Chua’s insatiable appetite for the food and beverage as well as the building sector is inspiring as he trailblazes new grounds in these two industries close to his heart By: Yvonne Yoong
agnanimous, larger than life and yet grounded, Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA) President Dato’ Garry Chua comes across as a tad serious yet substantial. Generously dispensing advice on work and life while dishing out nuggets of insights into how he juggles a healthy work-life balance, his ideas are simple yet profound, concrete yet workable as seen in the success of his businesses. The ROTOL Group of Companies is a leader in the exterior facade building maintenance, repair and restoration centre having undertaken over 50% of work on many high-rises in town . These incude Grand Hyatt; Mandarin Oriental, Shangri-La; Traders Hotel; Ritz-Carlton; KLCC Petronas Twin Towers; Matrade; Summit City and projects by developers such as IGB, UOA Group and many more. Besides the ROTOL Group, he is also Group Managing Director of Sanook, Chakri Palace and Rainforest. Chua has been there and done that but he is not without the human touch. Born on Jan 1 which is the tail end of the year of the Rooster, this Entrepreneur’s crowning success is certainly something to crow about, even as the date denotes the beginnings of the year of the Dog which hints at his dogged determination in getting things accomplished. Philosophical in his approach towards life, he shares his views from the macro level trickling down to individual values. “Touching on values, I wish to reiterate that talent and looks are God-given - so be thankful. Fame and money are in a way, men-given – so be grateful. Attitude and ego are self-driven – so be careful and stay humble,” he opines. Endowed with the ability to multitask, Chua says that even as he approaches 60 early next year, he is still very serious about his learning curve, and makes it a point to jot down any new observations. At the root of it all, one can conclude that here is a man without pretense who is big on the power of gratitude and sharing as he generously and willingly imparts gems of wisdom to benefit the new generation of young Entrepreneurs. Personable and approachable, it is obvious that this Entrepreneur is wellregarded among industry circles. At a recent
media appreciation event, he individually took the time to name and thank key media personnel, MRCA Advisors and Council Members present. Chua believes that the media is a catalyst for the country’s retail industry in terms of the dissemination of MRCA’s role and achievements. Understanding the importance of creating awareness of issues concerning the retail and franchise industries, the MRCA President’s rapport and close working relationship with shopping malls is also reflective of his inimitable casual yet distinguishable style of interaction which is a class act of its own. Having outlined a six-point action plan which has been fully implemented, MRCA has already surpassed its target of increasing its member count by over 50% to 420 members currently and a majority are chain members. They have expanded their retail businesses locally and globally and are now competing with international brands. MRCA aims to strengthen existing interactions and ties while building trust among stakeholders. “With the inauguration of the Northern and Southern Chapters, we should have 500 members soon. With a strong organisation of leading franchise and retail store operators covering more than 25,000 outlets throughout Malaysia, these members create over 150,000 job opportunities nationwide. This is in line with MRCA’s unique theme entitled ‘Enriching Members for The Future’. “MRCA and the retail sector in general have certainly contributed in no small way to Malaysia being ranked as one of the world’s top shopping destinations in supporting tourism development in the country,” he opines. Chua affirms that MRCA will continue organising its Charity Fundraising via its Charity Run, Charity Golf and visits to charitable organisations. In addition, MRCA will hold business trips for overseas collaborations, annual events, monthly meetings as well as marketing and promotional initiatives. These events facilitate networking and the exchange of ideas besides the sharing of resources while promoting the expansion of the retail industry here and abroad in a supportive environment. Ideas can be shared while benefitting from other members’ experiences and combined efforts to enable
the discovery of new opportunities and enabling businesses to grow overseas. MRCA continues promoting its ongoing mission to operate as an association for leading retail chain store operators and franchisors in Malaysia. Since it was established in 1992, it has been assisting its members in their store expansion plans while promoting growth in the retail-chain and franchise industry. Being the nation’s leading active retail association, MRCA promotes Malaysia’s franchise brand names abroad while supporting the Government’s policies in promoting the country as one of the top shopping destinations globally - in particular with the Tourism Board headed by Datuk Siew Ka Wei. Besides the MRCA Branding Education Charity Foundation, it has a recognition fund for the children of its members and employees who achieve excellent academic results. The association is planning its prestigious MRCA 25th Anniversary celebration on 9 November that will gather 1,000 guests including Entrepreneurs, CEOs and corporate senior management with Datuk Sri Hamzah Zainuddin as special guest of honour. MRCA has also held engagements with many Ministers and the Prime Minister’s office to share on its plight in order to derive benefits for the people, country and economy.
ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE The charismatic gentleman adds that being an Entrepreneur is not easy as there many challenges to overcome
including managing cash flow. However, the upside of being an Entrepreneur in his opinion, is always better. “I look at entrepreneurship as granting one the freedom to innovate and do what one is passionate about. Passion is very important. Of course the other thing is, if you’re employed, I’m not discouraging that. Some people are good at working in a corporate environment. Others who are more adventurous may want to be Entrepreneurs,” he opines. Known for taking the bull by the horns in terms of overcoming challenges, he cemented his career at two giant paint companies - ICI Paints (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd and Jotun Paint Malaysia before striking it out on his own as an Entrepreneur at the age of 36. Looking back, Chua says he would still choose the entrepreneurial path if he had to do it all over again. He would however, avoid certain mistakes especially those based on emotional decisions. “That’s why I want to give talks and share my experiences with the younger people on investments to other business decisions. Many share on their successes but we should also share on our failures. These are words of wisdom so they younger generation will not make the same mistakes which is very important.” “You don’t make friends with ulterior motives to see what you can get out of friendships although many though not all businesses are like that.” Chua credits good role models as businessmen who are “so rich and yet are humble” but ever willing to help.
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“There are those who have contributed over 90% of their wealth to charity to help society for the betterment of mankind. These are people I really look up to especially Warrenn Buffet and Bill Gates. “On the local front, there is Sunway Group Berhad’s Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah who started the RM1 billion Sunway Foundation. He’s a good example of an Entrepreneur who gives a lot back to society,” he adds. In more ways than one, Chua too has clocked up credible achievements in furthering the role of retail. With the retail scene contributing to some 20% of Malaysia’s economy, the role that this sector plays is tremendous. Although in terms of purchasing power, local consumption is limited unlike Japan and China which have huge domestic purchasing power hence making these countries self-sustainable, Malaysia’s population base is limited thus requiring outside support especially from tourists. Chua says that the entrepreneurship level in Malaysia is “tremendously high among the new and older generations” and thus, the retail sector outlook is rosy. “Everyone I meet wants to be an Entrepreneur so the level of entrepreneurial is so high in Malaysia. If you go to Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Singapore or the US – everywhere, even in Australia – some of the top businessmen
are Malaysians or ex-Malaysians. “Imagine if the Government were to tap into this and if we could form another entrepreneur club with the Government that is backed by the Government. We can do so much for the country but implementation wise, this is lacking.” Chua acknowledges that many may not volunteer their services to the association as it’s pro bono unless they are driven by passion for the industry. And for that, he earns a standing ovation.
UP, CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH MRCA PRESIDENT DATO’ GARRY CHUA You have such a diversified range of businesses. How do you maintain your focus in terms of separately managing all these different businesses? Basically, my businesses revolve around the food and beverage (F&B) as well as the building industries as reflected in the Rotol Group. In F&B, we have different brands such as Chakri Palace and Rainforest, with the latest one being Sanook and Raintree. How do you and your children intend to take your businesses to the next level? Our exterior building facade services is basically to take, restore, repair and give (the properties) back to the clients. The technology behind our exterior
façade building materials actually came about many years ago. We have joint ventured with a US partner over 20 years ago and set up a sector here.We even have a licencee in Japan. This technology can go very far and we have bought it over. I told my 27-year old son Marx Chua who is in this business for over five years’ that we have to look forward to see how we can take this business to China and other countries where there are many high-rise buildings. My daughter Calen Chua, 28, is running the F&B business and overseeing Chakri Palace. What is the secret of your success? It’s not just working about hard nowadays but you have to work smart, move forward, pursue innovation, gather information and be very persistent. There are many factors in business. Anything normally too easy doesn’t last so one has to work hard in order to build up a sustainable business. You have to explore new ideas and see what’s going on in the world in terms of the latest happenings as these changes are going to affect your business. Financial technology (Fintech) outfits like Alipay and WeChat will turn financial systems upside down. Banks have to think outside the box or bereplaced. What is the future trend? Technology is changing the way we live, work and play. It looks like everything will go digital. Even among Fortune 500 Companies, more than half of them are digital companies. Robotics, artificial intelligence, electric cars and going digital – all these are the future trends. Drones will be delivering all the goods, everything – to your house in the future. With drones, you can call for groceries within the vicinity – be it in Kuala Lumpur or in Shanghai and it will arrive within half an hour. This is now being done overseas and especially in China which is probably one of the biggest drone manufacturers. Future retail and e-commerce trends? The retail scene is going to be very efficient. That is why we have to ride on this technology concerning e-commerce. Eventually, it will be a
balancing act. There is no such thing as bricks and mortar won’t exist because people still want to experience, feel and see actual products. But malls have to get very innovative as America’s retail sector sees the concept craze becoming very innovative so a restaurant is elevated to an experiential place for all. We encourage Entrepreneurs to engage on the digital online business platform for easy start-ups and unlimited opportunities. This trend is seen in the launch of the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) and Alibaba obboard. Eventually, it has to be a balancing act. Those operating online will try to have a physical bricks and mortar presence to boost their business and vice versa. How do you describe yourself? I’m very simple and always positive. Some may veer towards the negative but I am always positive. I always try to practice gratitude, kindness, respect and empathy for others to make the world a better place. We should try to help each other in business or whatever other areas and support the unfortunate. I’m also invited to give many talks which I oblige as I wish to impart my knowledge to the younger people. My motto in life is that it is never too late to learn anything as I picked up wushu at the age of 50 since I missed out on martial arts in my younger years as the late Bruce Lee is my idol. I also started playing my guitar again last year. Your advice to young Entrepreneurs? As an Entrepreneur, the environment is always ever-changing so you have to be very alert to what is happening and be adaptable. If you look back centuries ago, animals or human beings have to learn to be adaptable in order to survive. If you are adaptable, you can survive. Like the dinosaur and Kodak, if you cannot adapt, you won’t survive so you have no choice but to adapt for the future. The older generation has no choice but to adapt to new technologies. There are many skills and habits that can be picked up by the younger generation including mastering public speaking, public relations and people skills. These
Touching on values, I wish to reiterate that talent and looks are God-given - so be thankful. Fame and money are in a way, mengiven – so be grateful. Attitude and ego are selfdriven – so be careful and stay humble” – Dato’ Garry Chua
are good skills to master that will make you a happier person, allow you to be heard and hones you to be a leader. Also, be consistent and honest. Be confident about yourself – otherwise who else will? Difference of being an Entrepreneur? Working in the corporate sector is just like living in a rented house. You can rent a bungalow but it doesn’t belong to you. Once you retire, it is no longer yours. As an Entrepreneur, even if you own a RM100,000 low-cost flat, it is still yours. But, if the bungalow which the company allows you to stay in is worth RM10 million, once you retire, the company takes it back and it doesn’t belong to you. Of course, there are also many who did very well in the corporate world. Will the retail sector survive the glut? It’s true that Malaysia has too many malls and occupancy now is less than 85% generally. The first five or six firsttier malls like Petronas KLCC, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, 1 Utama, Mid Valley Megamall and Sunway Mall will still do well. However, second-tier malls need to innovate in a way to create new excitement. It doesn’t help when there are more and more malls coming up with Malaysia being a small population. The way to sustain is to get tourists to come here and spend, and make Malaysia their second home. With the
influx of tourists, Malaysia will prosper. Just imagine, outbound China tourists spent USD260 billion (RM1.1 trillion) last year. The 135 million China tourist figure is also growing yearly. In fact, the whole world is courting China - from Europe to the US and Asia - especially Thailand which received almost 10 million alone out of 40 million tourists from China. The first quarter was dull followed by a robust 5% growth in the second quarter. There’s a projected 4.5% retail growth with the influx of tourists. I think the economy will pick up with tourist arrivals. Credit goes out to the tourism board for its efforts in promoting Malaysia despite a budget cut. Has the market already bottomed out? There are both sides to everything there’s the fiscal policy or the private sector policy. It’s important to me to always get the Government’s issue on matters. I depend less on fiscal policy which is taxing to the Government. When it’s taxing to the Government, it will tax the people more to build up the fiscal policy. The Government should find a way to make it more conducive for the private sector to flourish. When this happens, the dependency on the Government will be less so for thatcooperation to happen, there must be some form of collaboration.
MAKING IT BIG ON KIOSK FRANCHISE In a recent interview with Entrepreneur Insight, Chief Executive Officer Bryan Loo shares on how it all started - elaborating on his companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s progress and his future plans for expanding the business globally By: Felicia Soon
I think product and price is very important when it comes to loyalty. The product has to be relevant and price friendly and when the experience is good, your customers will come back ” - Bryan Loo
am from humble origins”, says Tealive Chief Executive Officer Bryan Loo when asked about his childhood. Hailing from the small town of Perlis, his parents own an airconditioning business which operated out of a shoplot where they lived in. Wanting to break out from living in this type of confined environment, this led to Loo’s passion and interest to become an Entrepreneur in Kuala Lumpur city. Upon his graduation as a biochemistry student from Monash University, Melbourne in Australia, he landed his first job as a salesman at a biotech company Down Under where he worked for two years.
After quitting his job, he returned home to Malaysia and told his father that he wanted to start his own business. His father was totally supportive and took him to several trade shows overseas to explore the different types of businesses that he could venture into. Eventually, Loo choose to be involved in the Food and Beverage (F&B) industry as he saw an opportunity in beverages because the market for tea was still underdeveloped back then. This led to Loo and his father going to Taiwan to observe and explore the potential of the tea businesses there. He then started to approach milk tea brands in Taiwan. However, all of them
turned down his business proposals for franchising in Malaysia. Disillusioned, he returned to Malaysia where his friend happened to introduce him to the Chatime bubble-tea brand and that moment became a turning point in his life. “I realised that I wanted to do something on my own and by default, landed in the quick-service kiosk industry,” recalls Loo. He went on to obtain approval from La Kaffa International Company Limited, a Taiwan franchisor and opened his first Chatime bubble-tea outlet under the name Loob Holdings Sdn Bhd in Pavilion Kuala Lumpur on August 10, 2010. “The business took off from there and Chatime became the premier Malaysian lifestyle tea company with a total of 165 outlets in Malaysia,” recalls Loo.
A SHIFT IN DIRECTION In January 6, 2017, following a legal disagreement with the Taiwan franchisor La Kaffa International, the company operating under the name Loob Holdings rebranded a total of 161 outlets to the name Tealive the following month. Tealive now sells similar drinks to Chatime albeit with some small changes in the variety of flavours and toppings. When quizzed on why he chose the brand name Tealive, Loo says that this is because the company has been promoting the motto “Tea is our life” to its customers. “We have come to a point where we can say “Tea is who we are. Tea is what we stand for and hence, Tealive is our name,” Loo shares. Concerning his management style, Loo emphasises that he and his staff enjoy a healthy working relationship in which efficiency is highly valued. “This is a fast-moving industry where those who are looking for a quick drink can just grab and go from our kiosks.” Loo adds that although Loob Holdings primarily operates and owns most of the kiosks, they are still open should an individual wish to be a Franchise Owner. He says that the challenge lies in producing the same quality of beverages at each and every kiosk. “I believe the commitment to quality
applies to all businesses – be it the product or customer service. However, we are still human beings and oftentimes, we are swayed by our emotions. Hence, it is important to maintain levelheadedness to ensure the smooth operations of our daily businesses,” shares Loo openly. He says that Tealive is on track to achieve its expansion plans. Following the success of the first Tealive store outside of Malaysia which opened in Vietnam in September 2017, Loo says that he aims to make Tealive a global franchise in the next two years which he anticipates will be exciting as “the industry potential is huge and markets have not been fully explored overseas.” He further adds that Loob Holdings plan to open another five outlets in Vietnam this year. He also hopes to increase this to another 20 outlets by the end of next year. On company growth, Loo says that he is happy but not yet quite satisfied as he wants to reach greater heights. “We like to keep our debts low. As we hold a variety of investment portfolios, this makes it easier to roll funds for the day-to-day operations of our business,” Loo adds.
PLANNING AHEAD Loo says that his best achievement has been in building an unknown brand into a premier lifestyle tea chain with stores operating nationwide. He hopes to overcome the challenges of
rebranding the outlets and continuing to reinforce the tea culture here. His hard work and perseverance have not gone unnoticed as he has been featured extensively on various media platforms. Loo also won the 100 Most Influential Young Entrepreneurs (100MIYE) Award 2016 organised by Entrepreneur Insight. Dispensing advice to young Entrepreneurs, he says that being approachable and willing to learn is key to survival in running any business. One must also adapt accordingly in an ever-changing business climate. Loo shares that the most successful form of marketing Tealive comes from social media as it primarily targets the younger generation. An example is Moola and Go Get which attracts the younger crowd whereby they just need to snap a photo of a car bearing a single digit to enjoy RM1 off a RM6.50 Tealive drink, etc. To build a successful customer base is to build a strong relationship with your customers he says. “I think product and pricing play important roles when it comes to loyalty. The product has to be relevant and pricefriendly. When the experience is good, your customers will return,” shares Loo. In parting, he says in order to succed in business one has to first, think big. “You cannot do anything if you are not open to opportunities. Second, start small. If you set your mind to engage in business, take the initial step to look for funding or partnerships to kick-start your business.” Lastly, build up a good set of skills to stay relevant in the industry.
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