Fostering an innovative mindset

This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on November 6, 2017 - November 12, 2017.

We will be focusing on developing more affordable properties under different price points...” — Leong

Mah Sing CEO Datuk Ho Hon Sang (third from left) with The Edge Media Group publisher and group CEO Ho Kay Tat, president of the Malaysia-China Business Council and prime minister’s special envoy to China Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting, managing director and editor-in-chief Au Foong Yee and City & Country editor Rosalynn Poh

One Legenda in Cheras

Southville City show village

Ferringhi Residence 2 in Penang

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No. 7 – Mah Sing Group Bhd

The headquarters of Mah Sing Group Bhd has been given a makeover, its new white exterior standing in stark contrast to the former pastel pink-red palette. In the lobby, a predominantly green backdrop evokes the vigour of the developer’s current projects while the vibrant office spaces speak of a millennial workforce.

“They (employees aged below 40) are the backbone of our company,” managing director Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum remarks, revealing that the majority of his employees are from the millennial generation.

Since the group’s new logo was unveiled in late February, Mah Sing has been in transformation mode, redefining its corporate image and direction with innovation and productivity-based initiatives. Its [email protected] concept is the core driver of the “new Mah Sing” that has embarked on the next phase of its journey.

“We don’t want to become irrelevant to the fast-changing landscape of the real estate industry today. We are creating a modern environment to foster an innovative mindset,” says Leong, referring to the millennial-inspired layout of the HQ.

Corporate rebranding has taken centre stage in Mah Sing’s strategising this year, he adds, with the transition happening steadily.  The solid-red logo and the naming of projects with an “M” are two paradigm shifts for the developer, which has been consistently ranked in the Top 10 list of The Edge Malaysia Top Property Developers Awards since 2010.

It has been a busy yet exciting year for Mah Sing so far, having kicked off the rebranding exercise and launched several projects to date. “We will continue to do more landbanking that meets our business strategy. What we are looking at is strategic location with good connectivity, fair pricing and favourable payment terms,” Leong explains.

He attributes Mah Sing’s impressive balance sheet over the past seven years, featuring property sales in the billion-ringgit range, to “proper planning and strategic launches”.

In the first half of the year, the developer recorded sales of RM819.3 million, staying on track to achieve its RM1.8 billion target for the year with at least five last-quarter launches.

“We will be focusing on developing more affordable properties under different price points in well-connected locations, especially those with convenient public transport. We will continue to develop mass-market housing projects priced below RM500,000 per unit,” Leong says, adding that this segment is expected to contribute about 33% to the group’s total sales forecast for this year.

The other affordable price points are RM700,000 and below RM1 million, which are expected to account for 73% and 95% of the sales portfolio respectively this year.

In his interview with City & Country, 

Leong elaborates on the group’s achievements and expectations going forward.

City & Country: Could you describe Mah Sing’s performance and achievements in the past 12 months?

Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum: This year, we unveiled our new corporate logo to reflect the transformation of the company and introduced our new slogan, ‘Reinvent Spaces, Enhance Life’, which can be seen everywhere. We also did a major makeover of our headquarters to provide our team with an environment that is exciting and more conducive to working.

Meanwhile, we bought four parcels of land for the 11.25-acre M Vertica in Cheras, 8.9-acre M Centura in Sentul, 17.3-acre M Parc in Permatang Tinggi and 3.6-acre condominium development in Titiwangsa.

We also launched the Residensi Seri Wahyu Rumawip (Rumah Wilayah Persekutuan) project in March, which is more than 87% sold. Then came OLO Residence of D’sara Sentral in Sungai Buloh as we entered the second quarter; this overall development has so far recorded a take-up of 78%. In July, we unveiled the landed Covil @ Meridin Bayvue with 68% overall take-up, followed by Fern and Dandelion in Meridin East with a combined take-up of 50%.

What is your focus for the next 12 months? What will be the likely product mix?

We will be focusing more on strategic landbanking as we see renewed interest and strong fundamentals in the market, which will further bring positive outlook for mid and long-term prospects.

With our strong balance sheet, we are on the lookout for more land acquisitions, joint ventures and investments. Klang Valley expansion will remain our focus, considering our highest demand comes from this market. We target to increase our land bank in the Klang Valley from the current 67% to 75%.

Mah Sing’s current product-mix strategy revolves around developing affordable properties in three categories with prices below RM500,000, RM700,000 and RM1,000,000 respectively. Therefore, when it comes to acquiring land, we take into account the location factor, nearby public infrastructure and facilities as well as the right pricing.

Mah Sing has projects in all the main regions of the country. Which development in each region should investors/homebuyers keep an eye on?

We believe demand for properties will continue to be strong in the Klang Valley (Kuala Lumpur and Selangor), commanding the highest transactions in terms of value and volume.

According to the National Property Information Centre (Napic), the value of residential property transactions in the Klang Valley last year was RM30.9 billion, accounting for nearly half of the RM65.6 billion achieved in the whole of Malaysia.

Mah Sing currently has 48 projects in total in the Klang Valley, Johor, Penang and Kota Kinabalu. Projects to look out for in the Klang Valley include the 428-acre Southville City in KL South, priced from RM400,000; the 96.7-acre M Aruna in Rawang, priced from RM550,000; the 6.5-acre D’sara Sentral in Sungai Buloh, featuring OLO Residence and priced from RM589,000; the 11.3-acre 

M Vertica in Cheras, priced from RM450,000; and the 8.9-acre M Centura in Sentul, priced from RM328,000.

In Johor, demand is strong for landed properties. Investors and homebuyers should look at projects that are near developed areas such as Iskandar Puteri. Proximity to the first and second links to Singapore is also a good choice for those who are working in Singapore. We have the 1,313-acre Meridin East in Pasir Gudang priced from RM403,750 and Meridin Bayvue in Sierra Perdana priced from RM390,000. The township has direct access to links and major highways like the Pasir Gudang Highway, Senai-Desaru Highway and JB East Coast Highway.

Are there plans to develop projects overseas? If yes, where and why that particular country?

We do not have any projects outside Malaysia at the moment. However, we are always open to opportunities to expand to locations like Australia, London and Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, but we are not in a hurry as we have enough remaining land bank to keep us busy here for the time being.

Mah Sing’s current strategy is to embrace new ideas and change in the group. What have been the results since it implemented the changes?

The goal of our transformation is to reflect ‘The New Us’. We want to be a meaningful corporation for now and the future. Now, in everything we do, we want to, firstly, enhance life. We want to ensure all live well; our customers, our people and our stakeholders. We have begun implementing this mindset in our corporate culture as well as project planning. At the end of the day, we want to help everyone own their own home.

In our 23-year history, we have gained a track record for delivering quality homes but we want to do more. We want to provide our clients with the best customer experience possible.

We want to be leaders in our industry and customer loyalty is essential. Our whole company believes in this and our customers are our No 1 priority. Prioritising our buyers, we develop projects where luxury is made affordable. For example, the freehold M Centura residential development located only 5km from the KL city is priced from RM328,000. And Tower C of Lakeville Residence, which is only 2km from the Sri Delima MRT station in Jalan Kuching, is priced from RM668,000.

When do you see the company fully converted to the new ideas and way of doing business? What are some key aspects that investors/buyers can look forward to in the future?

The transformation we are talking about is a continuous journey of creating a better version of ourselves. Every time we hit our goal, there will be more things for us to improve on.

We started our transformation programme in 2014, and this year, in particular, we went all out to change our logo and renovate our HQ. We understand that ‘Rome was not built in a day’, so we carefully planned and executed the changes in Mah Sing in stages.

The company has also adopted an innovative and more effective way of doing business. For example, we came up with innovative sales campaigns that would benefit our buyers. We launched the 

RM23 million Celebration Rewards and Business Incentive Grant programme, which has seen overwhelming response.

We also do things differently, such as engaging with our customers to fortify our brand. The objective is to acquire quality leads for our teams to follow up on. When it comes to organising events and roadshows, we take a different approach to dressing up our booths and featuring unique activities for more effective engagement. We always keep a close eye on popular trends that are in line with our marketing strategy.

The culture at Mah Sing has always been customer-centric. We believe our best brand advocates are our customers, therefore, we are committed to total customer satisfaction. We welcome feedback from our customers as this helps us understand them better, so we can come up with programmes and products that meet market needs.

Mah Sing bought land and launched new projects at about the same time this year. How will you keep the momentum going amid a soft market? And where and what are the new launches?

The market will always accept well-planned developments in a good location by a trusted brand. With detailed market research, proper planning and execution, we have been able to successfully acquire land and launch developments to meet immediate demand.

For instance, M Vertica and M Centura have received overwhelming response with more than 9,800 and 6,000 registrations of interest respectively.

Projects scheduled for launch soon include Southville City in KL South, M Aruna in Rawang, M Vertica in Cheras, M Centura in Sentul, Meridin East in Pasir Gudang, M Vista serviced apartments in Southbay City, Penang, and M Parc industrial park in Permatang Tinggi, Seberang Perai.