Emkay Group Turning Cyberjaya Around
Chief Operating Officer, Mazrita Mazlan talks about EMKAY’s latest projects in Cyberjaya
There are powerful women who have been given a head start in this industry, and then there are women who build a career for themselves and work their way to the top. Mazrita Mazlan is the latter. Besides being Chief Operating Officer with Emkay Group, she is a mother and a daughter first and foremost. But being a family oriented person has never deterred her from being good at her job. Property Insight spoke to Mazrita, or MM, as she is fondly known as by colleagues and close friends, and asked her about her early days at EMKAY, their rebranding and positioning and their latest projects in Cyberjaya.
How did you begin your career at emkay?
I started my career 15 years ago as a business development executive. I knew nothing about the property industry at the time, but could sense the potential power of the business. That business development role gave me a quick insight on how things worked, for example, how does one look for land banks, how does one see if that piece of land that you intend to utilise is suitable for development. So many questions with so few answers, and in less than a year, I was assigned to streamline the policies and procedures of the company. It was then that I had a deeper insight on how the property industry operates.
Recalling those days, I have to say, it wasn’t just about writing the procedures in an air conditioned room, I actually had to sit with all the parties’ involved and interview them one by one and then to put that into writing so that people who weren’t familiar with a particular procedure, could understand and apply that to their day to day work. I was fortunate to be a part of the team that developed the total process. To be honest, I did the reverse of what most people would do, I started writing the manual first. While getting to know people within my company and within the industry, taking in everything that I possibly could, and today I am overseeing the operations of the group.
I owe my thanks to our Chairman, Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal, for giving me the opportunity to work on many such projects. I owe a lot to him. He is a great trainer for many of us at EMKAY. He would usually ask you to do something you hadn’t done before, and you wouldn’t dare say you didn’t know how. And that is how all of us at EMKAY learned to do things beyond our comfort zones. Back then, extra work was taken as an added opportunity, and that is how I perceive things because if you have the attitude that a certain task is not your job, you will not improve or climb to greater heights.
What insight can you give us on developments undertaken by EMKAY within Cyberjaya?
Right now we are focusing on a 50 acre stretch of land, whereby 22 acres has been developed which leaves us with 28 acres. The completed developments consists of more than 1 million square feet of office space within 6 buildings which have been sold. We are fortunate that the last of the 6 buildings have been sold.
Based on the insights of our prospective buyers and tenants then, we noticed that having retail outlets and eateries within the vicinity was important to them. People may actually have to drive out to get to a retail area. We figured we should do something about this within this stretch of the development, where the ground floor would be mainly for retail, while the upper floors would be offices. And that is how Radius Business Park came to be. Radius is currently under construction and we believe that whatever comes next, should complement the whole developmental plan.
We are also planning a mixed development which will consist of 402 SOHO units, plus a retail area of about 73,000 square feet. This may not seem like a big retail zone but it is enough to service the SOHO community, while the rest of the 25 acres will encapsulate more mixed developments; adding more residential elements to that stretch. However, we realised that, whatever that comes next must gel with the right concept because these days people really buy the concept, the story of the development itself, is more important. You have to really sell the story because the story actually defines our target market and it is the basis of how we communicate and reach them. And that is exactly how we plan our developments.
How do you feel about it? Do you feel excited about this new project?
Yes, I do. In fact, I’m thrilled. The most immediate project coming up is actually catered specifically for the younger generation, because we find that a huge population within Cyberjaya are made up of youth who are tech savvy.
There are so many affordable homes offered to first time home buyers, so we asked ourselves ‘where do these young people go’? I realised that they are a unique generation, they speak their minds and they want what they want, but they want things fast. So we looked at their wants and needs, and we said to ourselves, hey why don’t we come up with something for these young and ambitious people. Something of value that they believe would be a smart investment.
So our next development which is called Clique, and mind you, the name wasn’t just plucked out of the air, there’s a story behind it and it is relevant in so many ways.
We realised that we had an opportunity to tap into new markets as an alternative to affordable homes that would attract first time home buyers as well. We decided to build something that may be the first of its kind within Cyberjaya, specifically tailored for Gen Y (the mobile generation). Everything in the development will be tailor made to cater to their wants and needs, and this includes the unit itself, the surrounding space, the area and even places they would like to hang out at.
Connectivity is very important to them. They can live without a lot of things but the internet is a must for them. All these things have been taken into account. We have designated free wifi zones in the facilities area that enables them to stay connected even when theirout of their SOHO units; which ranges from 450 to 650 sqft.
We want people to come out and utilise the space around them; so we have squash courts and basketball courts; especially to those who stay indoors and tend to be cooped up in their homes. From the retail area of about 73,000 square feet, we also intend to have basic retail units, so it becomes a self-contained area. There will be laundrettes and hang-out places that are less ‘mainstream’ as they like to call it. Don’t ask me why they like that phrase, I just learned being ‘mainstream’ is not as cool as being a little ‘hipsterish’ and independant, from my kids.
The thing about Gen Y is that it doesn’t have to be an established chain of retail outlets, so Clique being a part of a SOHO type community, gives them some flexibility to experience ‘an office, a home, or both’. They can work from there or they can live there.
We have special packages to encourage them to own properties as their homes, or as space for their start-ups. We are helping Gen Y to move towards entrepreneurship. Take Steve Jobs for example, where did he start his career? That’s right. In his garage.
We understand that EMKAY is undergoing a REbranding exercise could you elaborate PLEASE?
In 2012 when EMKAY turned 30 and mind you, that is also when Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal passed the baton on to the next generation, we had a strategy workshop with the management team. We hit the pause button and we tried to reflect on what we had done in the past. We looked at what we had done right and we asked ourselves, how do we stay relevant? We realised that amongst other things, we needed to work on a rebranding exercise. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing negative about how we used to do things. But we did think we needed a new look and feel. We got everyone involved in the process, and what came out from the rebranding exercise was the efforts of everyone. We engaged a professional consultant to conduct research as well, because we wanted to know what the public’s perception was. The fresh new look also denotes the new leadership as well, plus we define where we want to be in the next 30 years.
There is a legacy change from father to children, can you tell us how that is working so far?
It was definitely a challenge for Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal 30 years ago to build from nothing to what you see today, but it is not going to be easy for the next generation of leaders as well. Staying relevant, yet perserving what was, will help take the company to the next level.
For me personally, I am very fortunate because I am able to work with both generations, it really gives me good exposure, especially with the young workforce now, I think a younger leadership is timely and fortunately I am able to adjust.
How are you going to reintroduce your brand to the property market today when there are already so many property developers out there?
Ok when we talk about the rebranding as far as we are concerned the essence of the brand remains the same. What is going to be different is the way we operate, the way we approach things, the way we reach our market, the image we portray and the work culture. You know how everyone talks about the Google culture? Well, we aspire to be just like them. The emergence and how we embrace social media plays a huge part in ensuring our brand remains relevant in the property industry. We have to be very careful with what we say and do in social media as it can work for you or against you.
What is the property supply like right now in Cyberjaya?
I would say that the general perception is that there is an oversupply, but then again there is a reason for that. The MRT will be coming to Cyberjaya soon, and the announcement that a hospital will be built here (which is timely), could be one of the many factors that the big players are coming here. I think that kind of explains it all. People have always had the perception that Cyberjaya is far away and I really don’t understand why but when I started to work here I realised that ‘hey it is only a half an hour drive from PJ and KL.’ Plus Cyberjaya is so well connected. Cyberjaya is accessible via 5 major highways. As for public transportation, there is currently a dedicated transportation system (DTS) that comes through Cyberjaya and with the coming of the MRT, I really don’t see the problem. The real question to me is, why stay in Kuala Lumpur? Everyone knows that the prices there are really high. Gen Y cannot afford the prices in Kuala Lumpur especially if they are just starting out. If you ask me, people that work in KL travel for more than an hour every day. With all the facilities and advancements to come, prices for properties in Cyberjaya will rise, so why wait?
What kind of future plans do you have for the surrounding area?
We started with office buildings and we wanted to do justice to this community, so we developed Radius to help service the community better.
Then we thought about the living element, and that is how Clique came about. It is a mixed development that has a little bit of everything. We will still include office buildings in our future developments but, these will not be the main elements, so I foresee that there will be more residential developments. Again we have to consider market trends and needs and analyse the target segment further. We would like to attract end users, but we are not going to reveal too much. However, we would like to ensure as much as possible, that the vision for a lifestyle concept will not be diluted.
TELL US A LITTLE MORE ABOUT CLIQUE, IT REALLY DOES SOUND INTERESTING.
Just to talk about the SOHO units, we want to make sure that our purchasers are able to afford it. Smaller spaces are very affordable however, if they have deeper pockets they can purchase 2 or 3 units and they can even knock down the walls in between the units. Clique was designed to be flexible and that is why we provide only the basic needs. In short, we are telling them the first quarter of 2016. It is somewhat challenging with the current market but i think with the right approach it could work.
How do you think Radius is going to be able to contribute toWARDS Cyberjaya?
Radius is a shop office development, so we welcome retail and small offices. It is a development that complements the earlier phases. Not everyone can afford the whole block but with Radius we offer the opportunity for the smaller ones, we even sell by the floor. Those who are renting can actually relocate to their own space and those who are outside Cyberjaya can relocate because Cyberjaya is growing fast, I think there is a captive market here. Radius offers something different, other than doing business and just selling it off we would like to contribute to the growth of Cyberjaya by attracting people to relocate to Cyberjaya. We are still talking to some people but one name that is already here with us is Jakel Group. With the coming of Jakel Group we hope to attract big players to Radius.
Could you tell us about youR light industrial development, Autoville?
Autoville is the first and only light industrial development in Cyberjaya. Targeted to be fully operational by Quarter 1 2016, Autoville comprises a combination of 40 detached, semi-detached, double storey and single storey industrial units. It’s name and concept reflects EMKAY Group’s focus on creating an area to cater to the automotive industry ancillary services in particular; and also light manufacturing businesses and F&B outlets in general.
The challenge we always have is promoting the location. All developers within Cyberjaya are promoting the location because property is always about location, location, location. In reality there is nothing wrong with the location at all. Where else can you get detailed facts about the area you are developing? The players in Cyberjaya, including the developers, are all closely knit and information is readily available. What I see in Cyberjaya in a matter of years is that it will be an all-inclusive city, where you have developments of various types and purposes, and you don’t have to leave Cyberjaya for anything at all. It will be self-sustaining and self-sufficient in the very near future.
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