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Like Father, Like Daughter

In this rare and exclusive interview, Felina Mustapha Kamal, the eldest daughter of Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal, who is Executive Chairman of MK Land Holdings Berhad, shares her plans for the Group since taking over the helm from her dad in 2017

BY YVONNE YOONG

MK Land Holdings Berhad Executive Chairman Felina Mustapha Kamal, 47, is every inch a spitting image of her tycoon father who is none other than charismatic property magnate Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal Abu Bakar. She has his laughter, smile, candid charm and spontaneity, confidence as well as charming sense of wit that comes naturally.

And, she radiates warmth and kindness – the sort that immediately lights up a room the minute she steps in. To top off this tall order, she also has a charismatic sense of leadership that is at once admirable and palpable. And, she exudes inspiration to all those whom she comes into contact with by virtue of  her charming disposition as she is very approachable and confident.

In fact, the way her top tier management and executive level staff surrounds her with attentive admiration – speaks volumes about this wonderful lady. After all, she fits into her many roles and responsibilities as loving wife and also doting mother to three children equally as snugly – as much as she plays her role as caring sister and the responsible eldest daughter to Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal and Puan Sri Wan Nong – the power couple known for their generosity in giving to the poor as they believe that The Almighty has granted them with so much already and it is only morally right that they give back to society. “I am truly blessed and I thank the Almighty for all my blessings, affirms Felina.

Felina is indeed the real deal – being brainy and a hands on person – even as she is the personification of the modern day corporate lady and property queen rolled into one who holds her own court in her many roles and responsibilities as wife, daughter, sister and head honcho of her property empire. This is even as she proves that just as she has inherited her father’s looks and mannerisms, sense of humour and wit – as a chip off the old block – she has also obviously gotten the knack for nailing down the nuts and bolts of property and resort development right down to the tiny details of the business.

Counted Among “Malaysia’s Property Queens”

Having started her career in 1997 as General Manager with MKN Holdings Berhad – her dad’s then private vehicle that controlled almost 40 per cent of MK Land back then, Felina later joined MK Land in January 2007 as Senior General Manager and was appointed to the board where her father was the controlling shareholder with some 47.4 per cent shareholding in the company when he was the Chairman and Executive Director of MK Land Holdings previously.

Taking over the leadership mantle of her father who founded EMKAY Group in 1983 after 35 years of helming its operations is no mean feat – but, it is a role that sits well with her. The entire EMKAY Group portfolio of projects developed since then is estimated at much more than 60,000 residential, commercial and office units spanning a total combined built-up area of way above 10 million sq ft. This entails a total combined Gross Development Value (GDV) spanning some RM20 billion. “I enjoy what I do. I started in 2005 with MK Land and understudied my dad for about eight years. In 2009, he chose me as the Executive Director and then in 2017 – with the support from the management, the Board members and the general support staff, I was elected as Acting Chairman when Dad left and after proving myself as capable, the BOD elected me as Executive Chairman of MK Land,” she shares. Felina Mustapha Kamal is hailed as one of the top women property developers in Malaysia today.

Supported by her management staff, Felina is also focussed on “Doing Things Her Way”

Commanding her own set of ideas was apparent in the pride she emits as we were whisked away to her Rafflesia project’s show unit located mere minutes away from the MK Land headquarters where her office is located. After the video interview and photography session ended, we were chauffeured to Rafflesia, and onto the site of “Felina’s Ladder”, a 285 step path of elongated steps snaking its way throughout the development, provides inspiration for residents to take a stroll or indulge in a bout of exercise within the development that provides a beautiful landscape against the lush canvas of a forest backdrop.

“The reason I want to bring you to the project is because my life is focussed only about two things:- My family and my work. You can interview me at my office and have take the photo shoot done there but it would not be the real for me. I am not one who sits in the office and don’t go down to the ground. My office is really at the site of the projects. I am bringing you to Rafflesia to show you why I love this project so much.”

“I wanted to show you the park because there were a lot of challenges developing this park. I first saw ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ while in Perth, Australia, and I thought it would be perfect for Rafflesia as I want people to come home to healthy surroundings in the development. I want residents staying here to be safe and surrounded by beautifully landscaped greenery as a symbiosis to the leafy jungle in the background. For me, living and breathing clean air amidst this green backdrop of Damansara Perdana is a testimony to God’s gift to us,” she enthuses.

In encouraging a healthy lifestyle, respect was also the order of the day so trees that were taken down were replanted.

“A tree of this size will take 100 years to grow and within 10 minutes, people cut it down. There goes one tree worth about RM700 to RM1,000 – and, that’s it. It takes 100 years and the monetary and also intrinsic value of the tree are gone. We transferred some of the trees and made sure that those that are beautiful were kept,” she adds.

Taking us on a private tour of the Parcel B Rafflesia showroom unit, “Felina’s Ladder” could also be viewed from the vantage point distance of the Rafflesia show unit’s balcony where eight acres of landscape and park occupy pride of place. These is also a pond complementing the development.

Priced from RM3.5 million per unit, the leasehold Rafflesia development is the property developer’s highest priced high end landed project.

“Parcel C is all sold out while Parcel B is the second batch comprising 36 units,” she says about the successful take-up rate of Rafflesia.

Launching Affordable to High-End Properties

The next launches Felina says would entail northern projects such as Meru Perdana and Klebang in Perak as well as another development in Bukit Merah, also in Perak.

“Most of our developments comprise apartments and we also have landed units. Dad started off the Group with affordable homes, starting with Flora Damansara then priced at around RM25,000 per unit and then it moved on to the apartments at Metropolitan SQ featuring the commercial component followed by boutique apartments.

“We started from the affordable segment and saw that we could do this. Then, we launched the executive apartments and went into the high-end property segment with Rafflesia,” she relates adding Armanee Terrace was the Group’s signature trademark double-storey units which it launched as one of the first double-storey developments “in the sky” slightly over a decade ago.

“I wasn’t involved in the detailing of Armanee Terrace but I was monitoring their progress of work. Dad didn’t want me to just sit in the office but told me to go to the site to meet the consultants, contractors and also suppliers. He told me it is also about teamwork and how to be a responsible developer. He had this long property development process chart in his office – starting from how we get obtained the land as well as put into place the construction process starting from the earthworks to the final handing over of the development. My Dad made me internalise and understand the entire property development process and I can proudly say that today, this has become second nature to me. He is the best teacher,” she relates.

However, she acknowledges that since the global economic downturn, the property market has been hit as well. Hence, the focus on high-end residences has now taken a step back and so the Group intends to showcase homes which are more affordable whereby the take up rate can be higher in tandem with increased volume of units that can be produced at a lower cost as compared to high-end units. The strategy she explains, is to complete the whole process of development on time, within cost and with quality in mind.

“Not that we are abandoning high end projects – we are still doing it but not so aggressively,” she adds sharing that the Group will continue churning out affordable housing projects in the next couple of years to meet the demands of the rakyat who are in need of homes that will not be a burden to them in the long run. “Property developers must be sensitive to the needs of the market and not merely strategise with the dollar sign as the goal. The smiles on people’s faces will ensure MK Land stays relevant, even if the bottom line is reasonable,” explains Felina saying that MK Land has gone beyond mere profits per se.

Giving Back to Society Via Affordable Homes

The Group’s next project would be concentrated on giving back to society by virtue of some units being priced at approximately RM70,000 to cater for wage earners who earn below RM1,500 per month and also those categorised in the Bottom 40% (B40) income group.

“The proposed project is in Simpang Pulai, Ipoh but we haven’t given it a project name yet. It is a new baby comprising 100 units that are priced as low as RM70,000 per unit. We have just finalised an agreement with the Menteri Besar Incorporate of Perak to build these units because we want to tell everyone that they can have their own homes. Where can you get a house worth RM70,000 now? However, if you think of school teachers, the uniformed personnel and the lower ranking staff below the B40 category – when will they have a real home? All this time, they have had to rent. I am sure all the teachers who earn around RM2,000 per month will find it difficult to afford a house priced at RM250,000 to RM300,000.

“Initially, we will start to build the RM70,000 per unit house for all these people in Perak and hope the financial institutions will support us on this. We want to do this as a pilot project so that others can follow suit in promoting affordable houses,” explains Felina. The State Government of Perak has also given its support to this project.

The company is aligning its launches of affordable homes in line with the new Federal Government’s manifesto of targeting one million affordable homes that is needed throughout Malaysia.

“We have taken this initiative so as to respond to the Finance Minister’s call to provide affordable housing. So, we have the RM70,000 and RM250,000 priced properties as well as units priced from the RM250,000 to RM280,000 range. After that, comes our plans for a mixed development to enable us to do the cross-subsidisation process as in our Damansara Damai project in Petaling Jaya. We are very focused on what we will be doing for the next three years,” she emphasises.

“Meanwhile, we also have over 400 units at Suasana@Damansara Damai that is priced at about RM250,000 per unit. The buyers I am sure, have worked very hard to buy the units so we have not only given them the products but also included comprehensive facilities. They will have the complete package – a swimming pool, children’s playground and surau besides providing two car parks per unit.”

And, looking at the Group’s total land back which currently stands at 7,200 acres of which there is a balance 4,800 acres of land yet to be developed, it looks like the company will be able to assist in helping to meet the Government’s goal of providing more affordable homes that will be more realistically achievable.

Quick Candid Takes with Felina Mustapha Kamal, Executive Chairman of MK Land Berhad

Were you groomed from the start to take over your father’s business?

After I have completed my Bachelor of Business Degree, I wasn’t given any other choice to work at any other place but to come back and work with him. He said “If you enjoy it, you can stay. If you don’t, you can tell me what you want to do. He’s a very diplomatic father and he always gives me a choice. He also advised me that whatever the choice I make – to not turn back, just go for it! “Do what you want to do – not what you have to do” was his simple philosophy.

How was it like working with your dad?

I enjoyed working with him although he was strict and often being reprimanded but I learnt a lot. There was one big event back then which I had organised at Bukit Merah Laketown Resort in which over 25,000 people came. But, my dad didn’t even say thank you or commend me on a good job done. At that time, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who was the Prime Minister then said “Good job!” but Dad didn’t even say thank you to me. So I went back and cried to my mom. I guess Mom spoke to Dad and he told her – “Look, it’s her job. She’s supposed to do that. When it comes to the job, she’s my employee. Then, I thought about it and we had a talk. “7,001 actrea need to teach you the hard way and if I throw you in the sea – you must learn to swim by yourself. That is what he said to me and also:- ‘Failure is not an option. That’s it!’”

Describe your dad

He’s a very cool dad. Cool dad, cool grandfather. He loves playing cards with us. He always tells us and the children as well the grandchildren – whoever loses and whoever has the most cards, has to do the final counting. So, he’s actually teaching us how to count fast. It’s not so much about the game but about strategy – about how to win and also how counting and mathematics is important. If you watch Crazy Rich Asians, they play mah jong right. So, it’s about strategy and I guess that’s the old way of teaching us. He’s fun and likes to eat outside and has taught all of us to eat nasi daun. Curry is his favourite dish and after a while, we were into it also. He loves to play music but none of us know how to play musicalinstruments. So we sing whenever he plays the guitar- all of us will sing and dance along. We also love holding parties among ourselves – with 15 kids from my brothers and sisters between us, and 4 kids on my side with my spouse – so it’s enough for big party. Yes, and that’s why we are this size (laughs).

What type of value system has your dad shared with you?

Always be fair. Don’t be greedy. Life is already difficult, so make it simple. Be kind and fair to people. Be reasonable. Trust is the basis of all relationships. His mantra is “Together we make it happen, on-time, within cost and with quality”.

What are your plans in continuing your dad’s legacy which he established for the group, now that you’re helming the huge MK Land Berhad ship as Executive Chairman?

I think to continue what he has left means to continue his legacy that is to make sure his purchasers, and my clients have quality homes. We are known as a developer for affordable homes. And, because we are into property development and resorts as well as education – we have to give our buyers quality for every ringgit they spend as they have worked hard to earn it. So, I will continue what he’s left. And hopefully, there will be organic growth.

How do you achieve a healthy work life balance given your huge role and responsibilities in business as well as family life?

It’s not easy as I’m wearing several hats at once. Being a daughter to Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal is not easy – and, being a mother, wife and managing my family is not easy as I have to juggle everything. In fact, every night, I will have dinner with my parents if I’m in the country. Sometimes, it’s not easy to say no to them and I have to rush back. Sometimes, I may be in a meeting and Mom will call me “Are you coming back? Dad is waiting for you to have dinner. So, I have to sacrifice a lot and juggle my time for everything.

Your advice for women who want to make it big in the corporate world?

I would advise those who want to be in a high position to be willing to sacrifice their time and manage it properly. Just don’t say “I don’t have time”, and that’s it. It is about discipline and knowing your roles and goals. Please surround yourself with competent people and trustworthy. Set your priorities right and the rest is about compliance and conformance to the statutory requirements and company’s Standard Operating Procedures (S.O.P.).

Your thoughts on Ombak Villa Langkawi and Residensi Suasana@Damai, Damansara Damai – two of MK Land Berhad’s projects being awarded with Best Beach Resort Destination and Best Lifestyle Oriented Development respectively?

I think the group deserve the awards especially in relation to the Ombak Villa Langkawi resort. When we first built it, dad didn’t want a normal building but a traditional one. So we sat down with the architect and the contractors. But when I was in Dubai, I met this Arab guy who remarked that “If you don’t know Ombak Villa – then you don’t know Langkawi. And, I am proud that the Prime Minister only stays at our villa when he comes for his official visit or holiday.

Your thoughts on your dad winning the Best Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Award for his work on Yayasan Emkay?

I think my dad deserves this title as not only does he plan but saw Yayasan EMKAY through.

It took time for the Orang Asli to warm up to us and this was via something as simple as bringing them toothbrushes and my father also brought toys for their pre-school kids. His “Green Ranger Movement”, the Orang Utan conservation project, Belum Preservation Project in Perak and the “Kampung Angkat” education programme as well as Dialysis Centres all over the country were probably be the reason for him to be awarded the CSR Award. I think in showing his sincerity, he deserves the award.

What are some of your CSR initiatives?

I have this special group of children in Langkawi. I look at my children and nephews – their future is there. But, what about these children? So, I’m taking these 34 children under my CSR project initiative at Ombak Villa in Langkawi. I’ll take them to my resort and show them a normal life. I have a physiotherapist staying with them who give them 24/7 treatment. I take them to my resort and show them a good time and to enhance further their lives. Some of them can now move their hands. When they grow up, they can work around three to four hours per day at the resort. So I want to show people that they can take these children and support them. I just want to make sure they get their education and their health is taken care of. I want to make sure that people have quality houses and I think as developers – we should complement each other. I want people to continue this legacy of my father’s by focussing on this CSR initiative.

What are some of the values entrenched in this company? What can you compare your project’s branding to?

For MK Land, when we take on a project – it must be affordable. I want people to appreciate each project that we build. I want each project to be a unique development that people can appreciate that doesn’t need to be so complicated. The projects don’t have to be so complicated but we want to make sure that they enjoy the property. It’s just like Gucci or Prada – some people may like Gucci or Prada so I want people to enjoy my project. Should I liken the prices of our projects to Hermes, Prada or Chanel – not too high – not too low – or Gucci or Prada – the brands that people enjoy? I want to ensure that we deliver our projects on time.

I also want to ensure that theinitiative is not only on my level but I want other people to continue on the legacy of my father focussing on quality products and services – especially on the Nursing College which my dad has built for CSR purposes.

Also, one of the key values I believe in is the quality time spent between both the employer and employees. After working hours, I am not only a boss – but also a friend to my employees because I think that having a good relationship with the staff is key to outstanding success for the company.

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