Redefining 21st century developer


THE first thing one notes on meeting Tan Sri Lim Kim Hong is just how energetic he is. Small in stature, he makes up for it with his exuberance and an ability to move fast, for example, when taking guests on a walking tour of the latest entry into i-City’s collection of theme parks: Red Carpet, which sits comfortably next to its other attractions like Snowalk, WaterWorld and FunWorld.

A chat with the executive chairman of I-Berhad -the developer of i-City in Shah Alam – reveals a frank man who enjoys the thrill of taking business risks.

“In business, an entrepreneur provides the impetus and he must be supported by professionals to bring his ideas to life. You could say that the entrepreneur generates one per cent of the drive while 99 per cent of the ensuing efforts come from the professionals.

“But that one per cent can turn the whole thing around. One per cent can influence a lot of things,” he says matter-of-factly.

He should know.

This businessman is a titan among his peers in his ability to enter a business or industry, introduce innovations and, then, come out tops.

He is most famous for introducing spring mattresses to Malaysians under the Dreamland brand – having started as a mattress dealer at age 25.

Today, the entrepreneur is again at it – rewriting the rules of what it means to be a 21st century developer. And the signs are clearly written on I-Berhad’s 29ha pet project, i-City, which was started in 2005.

Through i-City – a development that comprises retail; office space; leisure; hotel and residential components – Lim says he is redefining Shah Alam as a living and leisure destination as well as a shopping mecca when a 1.5 million square feet mall opens in 2016.

If the gross development value (GDV) of i-City was reported at RM2 billion in the early days of its launch, today, that value has ballooned to RM5 billion.

“In our property segment, there’s our i-SOHO project. These SOHO-styled units on a 4.8ha site on the western part of i-City and with a GDV of RM1.3 billion will be developed over three phases. Phase 1 (GDV RM331 million) was launched in May and it will be followed by Phase 2 next month and Phase 3 next year.

The company is also focused on growing its recurring income streams and is, therefore, keeping a keen eye on its leisure and property investment portfolio.

“i-City has invested about RM75 million on the various rides and attractions forming the i-City Theme Park. This business is a cash cow and we plan to invest another RM25 million in upgrading and introducing new attractions by the time our regional retail mall opens in 2016.

“Two of our latest attractions are Red Carpet@i-City, an interactive wax museum, and House of Horror.

“Red Carpet is a Visit Malaysia 2014 initiative that was opened by Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz on August 15; while House of Horror will open its doors in September.”

At the moment, 20 per cent of the 29ha land on which i-City sits on has been developed.

As new developments take their seat on the parcels of land in i-City in the coming years, the GDV of the project is expected to grow significantly.

Lim’s entrepreneurial streak has led to i-City deploying new business models, like the pay-per-attraction nature of the theme park attractions as opposed to the more common pay-per-entry model.

In exploring new ideas and ways of doing things, the sprightly 168cm-tall entrepreneur says he appreciates honest and candid feedback from those around him.

Among the tenets that the normally jovial 62-year-old holds close to his heart are his operating philosophy, which is “If I scold you, it is because I am right, not because I am the boss”; and “If there is a problem, flush it out and move forward -do not waste time on post-mortems”.

For this reason, the cadre of senior staff are surprisingly candid and honest in their dealings with him. For them, it is a level playing field with their boss.

As Lim excused himself from the interview for another appointment, his vision of a modern urban living environment with a slew of high-rise dwellings that the state capital of Selangor has never seen before is gaining momentum.

Read more: Redefining 21st century developer

– Malaysia Real Estate News

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