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Thriven – Driven To Thrive

It is not every day that one meets a developer who literally walks the talk and practices what is being preached. Besides exercising restraint when developing projects, this developer also takes the initiative to organise monthly walking trips to a forest reserve in Kuala Lumpur in order to educate its employees on the importance of preserving nature while undertaking development projects in the future.

Additionally, the developer has organised  a six-month “Thrive to Fit” wellness campaign and sponsored a forest trail at the Kota Damansara Community Forest named Serenity Trail for hiking and  cycling enthusiasts and local residents. These are some of the silent initiatives by this niche boutique outfit which is starting to get the attention of even the bigger players in the property market with its thoughtful offerings.

This was precisely what the Property Insight team encountered during an early Friday interview with Thriven Global Berhad Group Managing Director Ghazie Yeoh Abdullah at the developer’s headquarters in Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, KL.

A cut above run-of-the-mill developers, Thriven does not subscribe to cookie-cutter solutions. Attention to detail is pivotal  in all its developments,  backed by a comprehensive ecosystem of complementary services. Little wonder then that all of  Thriven’s projects have recorded an average 70% take-up rate to date.

Even its office exudes avant-garde understated elegance and ambience cocooned in serenity.  Its break-out area also comes complete with a pool table and gymnasium for employees.

Gracing its walls is the group’s unusual ring-shaped organisation chart.

“If you ask anyone in the company about the organisational chart, they will draw you a ring circle. And, that’s how we work,” shares Ghazie.

“A ring circle means everybody keeps everybody informed  regarding all of the projects’ progress, feedback and setbacks. Everyone knows that they need to support one another in this Thriven ecosystem. We don’t work in a hierarchical structure which then takes a long time to resolve issues,” he says.

“We group together to share and resolve issues and problems as a family and group. And, we ensure one thing – that people who work in our group are healthy in all aspects which translate to a sharper, faster and healthier workforce. We  give incentives and provide them with training and infrastructure, a gymnasium and flexible working hours,” says Ghazie. 

THE NEED FOR BALANCE

The company’s monthly walking routine at the Taman Tun Dr. Ismail forest reserve initiated two years ago for its employees is still ongoing today.

“As a developer, we want to ensure that no one will ever develop this forest. We understand that certain things are meant to be developed while others are not meant to be touched,” says Ghazie.

The need for balance is more important now than ever he opines, as some developers’ mentality lies in wanting to cut down everything in the name of development which he feels very strongly against.

“The 75 people in our organisation are one day going to be leaders one way or another in this industry. So, they need to know about balance when developing projects to provide for the nation, population and community,” he adds.

This sense of social responsibility  is second nature to Thriven which thrives on giving back value to its property buyers via its comprehensive business ecosystems. 

PAST INCLINATIONS AND PRESENT ENDEAVOURS

“Thriven was previously known as Mulpha Land and May 2015 was when the company changed its shareholders and took on a new direction. Mulpha, as a company, has extreme exposure in the international markets and are very entrenched in Australia.

“We adopted its good practices and developed supporting core businesses which include  property management and investment, facility management as well as hospitality and lifestyle retail based on a proven track record of Mulpha’s assets in Australia.”

Ghazie, who has 15 years of experience in property development in the city centre says that Thriven is the combination of the words “thrive” and “driven”. Besides him, the backbone of the company includes Executive Chairman Datuk Fakhri Yassin Mahiaddin and Executive Director Dato’ Low Keng Siong who, all having done business together in the Middle East previously, decided to join forces to establish Thriven.

The sense of camaraderie between them is evident as Ghazie, referencing the book “The Airbnb story – How three guys disrupted an industry, made billions of dollars… and plenty of enemies” in his WhatsApp chat to his partners was met with a witty reply – “Can we three guys disrupt the industry, make billions of dollars and plenty of friends”. That remark alone speaks volumes about the essence of the cornerstone of their success story.

Testimony to its exponential growth  is its projects currently being launched and executed amounting to a gross development value (GDV) of RM100 million in 2014 to its current GDV of RM1.4 billion  in active projects, and a further RM700 million GDV in developments that will kick off in the next two years.

Thriven’s total GDV today is RM2.1 billion. Growing tremendously in sales value, it recorded RM250 million in 2016 while this year, it is targeting RM450 million in sales value.

THRIVING INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS

Thriven in Malaysia has the hallmark of building “very efficient and effective properties” given its track record.

“Two of our main brands are Lumi and eNESTa. Both items are on different levels of the playing field. Lumi focuses on the high-end segment priced from RM700,000 to a circa RM1.5 million. On the other hand, eNESTa comprises properties that range from RM150,000 all the way up to RM700,000.

“All our products are cost-competitive. What we are doing is to provide branded levels of products, and a high level of service at affordable pricing – be it for our affordable eNESTa series or for the high-end Lumi collection ” says Ghazie.

“As a developer, we don’t just focus on building and leaving after the handover. Instead, we believe in going through the whole cycle from building to maintaining.  Our core businesses form a complete ecosystem – from property development and investment holding of developed projects, facility management to hospitality services and lifestyle retail operation.

“As a start, we will retain the retail component called Marketplace in Lumi Tropicana. We will filter and select tenants with businesses  which we want to be there. We  provide the interior designs so tenants’ Capital Expenditure’ is zero and they only come up with the Operating Expenses. We don’t take rental but engage in profit-sharing with the tenants.

“In that way, we control the tenancy mix so that whatever we promise during the development stage, we will deliver.”

“We are here to make a difference by providing international standards in design and construction – right up to the time when we deliver the properties to residents. They will find Thriven is still there, being part and parcel of their daily lives- helping them ensure that the buildings are clean, well-maintained at a high standard while providing value-added housekeeping and concierge services.  For all of our properties, we are not just selling the hardware but also the software by providing solutions,” he explains.

“Let’s take Lumi Tropicana for example, which is an all-in-one development. We have serviced apartments, SoHo (Small office Home office) units and retail elements besides many forms of facilities. This is to ensure that our residents are able to live a holistic lifestyle whereby their daily needs, children’s activities and even business  requirements are well taken care of. Each tower has a specific branding to it be it Play, Action, Wellness as well as Business and Lifestyle,” explains Ghazie.

“We are going to release the final Business and Lifestyle Tower at the beginning of 2018. We provide spaces for people to have meetings, conferences or dinner events and functions at the Sky Terrace. If residents wish to throw a dinner event for 20 people, they just have to contact the concierge which will then arrange everything – from the dinner to wine selection and catering services and the activities  on our ground floor retail area will  support the activities upstairs.

“At the end of the day, it is an ecosystem that not only provides services but also ensures that the businesses operate well in terms of giving our food and beverage (F&B) and retail components supplementary business. So, that’s the kind of business model that we are looking at when we plan. In the aspect of wellness, if someone is looking to lead a healthy lifestyle after working out at the gymnasium, there should be retail places to find healthy food.

“The Wellness Tower provides all of these activities to ensure that people are able to lead a healthy lifestyle so the operations of the F&B segment relates to wellness as well. After all, we’re not just building properties but providing solutions.”

FORGING AHEAD WITH TIMELY OFFERINGS

“What we are doing is not new in Australia but is a fresh approach in Malaysia. Here, many local developers build and leave (after the development is completed) whereas our brand DNA sees us staying to ensure that facilities management and the upkeep of the buildings are there for the long term,” he relates.

Despite the downturn, the first half of 2017 has been fruitful for Thriven, marked by the launch of three projects in the Klang Valley. These include its RUMAWIP Residensi Enesta Kepong affordable housing project, mid-range eNESTa Kepong serviced apartments and the luxurious Wellness Tower @ Lumi Tropicana development.

Acknowledging that issues on affordable housing  will continue to top the national agenda, Ghazie says  Thriven prioritises affordable housing in the central region. This is  where its Kepong projects including RUMAWIP Residensi Enesta Kepong and eNESTa Kepong serviced apartments are spearheading this effort.

“The groundbreaking ceremony and balloting event for RUMAWIP Residensi Enesta Kepong was held on May 16. The first queue number was given to a qualified balloter who arrived at 4am. By 10am, the queue numbers for non-Bumiputera units were fully distributed,” says Ghazie.

According to him, Residensi Enesta Kepong is among the lowest density RUMAWIP projects, with only 254 units housed in a single block of 35 residential storeys. Each level  contains eight units designed mostly in a semi-detached layout. All units also come fitted with water heaters. Only Bumiputera quota units remain as all non-Bumiputera units were successfully balloted, with a further 60 qualified balloters placed on the waiting list.

In an attempt to elevate design standards, its eNESTa Kepong serviced apartment units located on Jalan Kepong was designed by multiple award-winning Italian-based MD Architecture Studio. In addition, the units are partially fitted with air-conditioners, kitchen cabinets and water heaters.

The development is located opposite the mass rapid transit (MRT) Line 2 Jinjang Station (just 100 metres away) which is currently under construction.

According to Ghazie, the unit selection day for eNESTa Kepong that was held on June 17 at the Thriven Sales Gallery together with the unveiling of its Type 2 show unit saw enthusiastic prospects arriving as early as 7am.

“Aside from Kepong locals, we also had a fair number of prospects from areas such as Petaling Jaya, Damansara, Cheras and Ampang who were attracted by the reasonable pricing and easy MRT access. All non-Bumiputera units were booked by 2pm,” he enthuses.

“We are also previewing the eNESTa Lifestyle Commercial Hub now. As part of the eNESTa Kepong development, 15 retail lots with built-up areas from 1,851 sq ft will enjoy great visibility complemented by wide shop frontages and main road access boasting a large catchment pool coming from the immediate surroundings. The MRT Line 2 Jinjang Station will also benefit from the thousands of commuting MRT passengers daily,” says Ghazie.

In addition, Lumi Tropicana, which received its Green Building Index (GBI) Gold certification earlier this year, saw the launch of the second phase of its Wellness Tower following the sell-out of its non-Bumiputera units for the first two towers named Play Tower and Action Tower respectively.

“We are also planning for the launch of Lumi Section 13 by next year comprising 310 units of serviced residences located on Jalan Semangat in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

KEEPING UP WITH NEIGHBOURING JONESES

Thriven’s existing land bank is about 166.5 acres, with ongoing projects contributing about RM1.33 billion in GDV while a conservatively estimated GDV for undeveloped land stands at over RM700 million.

“This total GDV of over RM2 billion will keep us busy for the next five years while we replenish our land banks via joint ventures and/or outright purchases,” shares Ghazie.

He affirms that the Klang Valley will be the main region for its expansion besides the Northern states, given the ever-improving connectivity following the completion of the Sungai Buloh – Kajang MRT line. This will further be boosted by the currently under-construction Sungai Buloh – Serdang – Putrajaya MRT Line 2 and LRT Line 3 which will witness population mobility increase.

“More and more people will accept living further from urban centres such as KLCC and Petaling Jaya. We’re also currently looking at opportunities around the Klang Valley and will make announcements in due course,” says Ghazie.

Thriven’s strategy he says, has always focused on offering value-added solutions to its purchasers, be it  for the middle-priced or luxury segments. In essence, the firm operates on  facilitating a comfortable lifestyle  whereby a homebuyer or investor will be able to move in or rent out the unit almost straightaway after the handing over of the unit.

“At Lumi Tropicana, we offer housekeeping services to our residents and rental management services whereby investors assign us to handle their investment properties – from sourcing for tenants, housekeeping and maintenance – to banking in the monthly rentals into their accounts.

Phase 1 of Lumi Tropicana which was launched at a net price of about RM850 psf in 2016 fetched RM930 psf this year while its latest Wellness Tower was sold at RM985 psf.

“For any launch in this trying times to see a 16% appreciation over one-and-a-half years is already very encouraging,” analyses Ghazie adding that public transportation and ease of accessibility are the trends moving forward.

“Both our Lumi Tropicana and eNESTa Kepong projects are going to benefit from being practically at the doorsteps of proposed public transport networks.”

Not satisfied to rest on its laurels, Thriven aims to continually improve.

“We are looking at our neighbours and seeing how they are progressing tremendously and ensuring that we are keeping up with them.

“Singapore has come up with a very strong brand – the Fraser’s Group with its serviced residences – Capri and Modena. And now, they are (available) worldwide. That’s what we are aiming at with our brand Lumi – to become a full-fledged hospitality brand.

“There are many developments in Malaysia that are tagged as serviced residences but Lumi is the one which provides full-fledged services in the aspect of rental management, housekeeping and facility management. We started with Lumi Tropicana and the next in the pipeline is Lumi Section 13.

And, when it concerns going the extra mile in providing value added services,the extra dedication and commitment towards delivering excellence alone speak volumes about Thriven walking its developer talk.

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