SP Setia MD calls for higher benchmark

By THE STAR

THIS year’s Fiabci Malaysia Property Man of the Year, Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin, has called on all his fellow property developers to raise the benchmark to compete with the “big boys” in the world arena.

In his five-minute speech after receiving the covetous award from the Sultan of Selangor on Oct 27, Liew reminded all players to keep on improving not only in doing better designs and concepts but in all areas.

“We must raise the bar of property development,” his words resounded through the grand ballroom of the new One World Hotel in Bandar Utama, Selangor, where more than 1,300 guests witnessed the annual “Oscars” of the property industry.

Liew, who is SP Setia Bhd group managing director and chief executive officer, also showed his humility when he attributed the award to his SP Setia team. He also thanked his sifu (master), veteran property developer Wong Chee Kooi, for showing him the “ropes.”

“I thank him (Wong) for his guidance and I hope to learn some more from my fellow developers. I still have a lot to learn from the rest of the world.

From left: Fiabci Malaysia executive director Yu Kee Su, president Datuk Richard Fong, Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Alhaj, Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin and Fiabci Malaysia honourary treasurer Yeow Thit Sang at the 15th Fiabci Malaysia Property Award

“We have gone to Dubai. We may be the biggest in Malaysia, but we are so small in the world. Malaysia must come up with more innovative products to attract more foreign investments.”

Under Liew’s stewardship, SP Setia has transformed from a RM200mil company in 1998 into the largest developer on Bursa Malaysia with a market capitalisation of over RM5bil.

The group has also established a dominant presence in three key economic centres in Malaysia – Penang, the Klang Valley and Johor Baru – with 20 current and upcoming projects valued at over RM30bil.

In May, the group embarked on its first overseas investment with a standard-setting township development in Vietnam.

Indeed, many Malaysian companies have in recent years gone abroad, to such countries as China, India, Vietnam, Australia and even Pakistan, to do construction and property development as well as to invest in properties there.

Some of the Malaysian companies like Gamuda have done well in the Middle East. Our expertise is being gradually recognised and sought after.

However, much more needs to be done to train not only the skilled and semi-skilled workers but also our professionals such as architects, consultants and engineers, who must be more aggressive to compete for jobs globally.

As it is, we are still very much dependent on a foreign brand, be it in retailing or having a famous foreign architect to design a high-end property as the foreign brand is supposed to help to sell properties.

Surely we are not short of innovative ideas. If it is our own ideas, it’s time to blow our own trumpet too. We should not be overly dependent on merely copying others and enslaved by a colonial mentality.

The time has come for our property developers as well as professionals in the industry, particularly our architects, to promote and market their brands abroad.

While many property developers are becoming more aware of the need for branding, very few of our property developers have achieved international “stardom”.

Hence the annual prestigious International Prix d’Excellence award conferred by the Fiabci (International Real Estate Federation) world body is one of the ways where Malaysian projects/companies can compete to gain international fame.

As Fiabci Malaysia president Datuk Richard Foong Loong Tuck said, four Malaysian projects (Setia Eco Park, Cyberjaya, Hilton Hotel and 1 Utama Shopping Centre) have made Malaysia proud for being recently awarded the International Prix d’Excellence award.

Meanwhile, more companies should emulate SP Setia’s efforts in corporate social responsibilities.

Liew said although SP Setia was continuously evolving into an international property developer, the most important thing was still the Setia Foundation.

He believes that the group has succeeded in making the difference not only in property development but also in charitable work.

“We cannot make money and then only do charity, but we must do it as we go along. We have raised money also from all our friends and those who make money from us. We ask them to contribute to the foundation,” he added.

Mooted by Liew in 2000, the SP Setia Foundation has raised a total of RM35mil that are channelled to various charitable causes.

One of the foundation’s most gratifying projects and one that is closest to Liew’s heart is the Setia Adoption Programme which funds the educational needs of primary school-going children in Malaysia.

To date, 2,300 pupils have been taken under the wings of the foundation.

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