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Kip-ing It Passionate

Success agrees with Valerie Ong, Director of KIP Group of Companies. Behind her cover girl looks and charming disposition, she works hard at juggling her many business platforms including property, food and beverage (F&B), hospitality and fashion.

Loving every aspect of real estate, Valerie belongs in the crème de la crème league of Generation Y developers.

Smart and sassy, vivacious and bubbly, the fresh-faced beauty is a familiar face on the social scene, lending added glamour to various high society events.

Recently appearing on Moët Hennessy’s grand celebration video clip, she shares some nuggets of insights into her life:- “I start the day with meetings with my staff, consultants and contractors. If time allows (for it), I would go for site visits and end my day with good food and wine.

“The particular achievement that I’m proud of is being able to juggle all of my businesses and yet not neglect my leisure time with my friends, family as well as my business associates,” she says.

Valerie asserts there is never a typical day at work as the projects she undertakes have varying property profiles, with each fresh day bringing on new challenges.

This includes her maiden KIP Sentral mixed-use development in Kota Warisan, Sepang. Besides having her fashion business, she also owns The Point Restaurant & Wine Bar in Damansara, Kuala Lumpur which lets her experiment with her chef’s reconstructed dishes combining fine dining and local cuisine.

“Basically, I started with a vision three years ago for a place and space where I can spend time with my peers as well as network. I’ve travelled a lot and have been to the finest of the finest three-star Michelin restaurants, and there’s also all the street food which I love. I wouldn’t just restrict myself to only fine dining as I love Hokkien mee and bak kut teh.”

Coincidentally, in conjunction with the launching of The Point’s new Wine Bar, it also received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence 2017 from the acclaimed Wine Spectator’s Restaurant Awards, being one of the only seven restaurants to receive the award this year.

And, that’s just a glimpse into the various platforms and businesses that Valerie juggles at any one time – although not necessarily in that order.

True to form, she undertakes everything with classy exuberance. Her uniquely inimitable and gregarious style of doing things also has a trickle-down effect of introducing fun into what would otherwise be strictly serious business in the world of bricks and mortar.

Valerie acknowledges that being a female in this largely male-dominated industry is another challenge.

“It’s tough as we are typically being stereotyped as not knowing much about the industry. Often, females are shy to ask questions when they don’t have certain knowledge, and they keep quiet.

“I think it is very important to consult industry experts before making decisions. There is no secret in this industry as everything has been done or explored before,” she says opining one could consult industry experts or property gurus for answers.

COMING INTO HER OWN

At 29, Valerie is determined to excel in the world of real estate having already worked in the group for over six years now. Meeting her dad’s high expectations has certainly not been easy, given the fact that Dato’ Eric is a veteran in the industry.

“I had to prove myself. The first year  I came back after completing my studies in Australia in 2010, I learnt as much as possible about the business. In the second year, I made sure that I knew everything I needed to know and met as many people as possible.

“I told myself that by the third year, I must achieve certain expectations that I have for myself,” relates Valerie on how she joined the KIP Group in time for the launch of Harmony Park in Dengkil, Selangor.”

During that time, Valerie was also involved in the planning details of 8scape in Johor Bahru as well as overseeing the inception and operations of KIP Hotel located off Jalan Ipoh in Kuala Lumpur.

Today, Valerie oversees the  hospitality aspects  of  the  group. KIP Hotel is a 199-room lifestyle boutique hotel that caters to leisure and business travellers.

“At price points ranging from RM148  to RM188 (depending on the season), KIP Hotel  enjoys over 70% occupancy on average. Although the hotel rates are affordably priced, guests get to enjoy enhanced lifestyle facilities including a 24/7 gym and an Infinity Pool.

“My interest has always been in the travel industry and property development. The property industry is interesting as it is based on market conditions and the economy. Furthermore, you are able to determine your own sector,” she shares.

Giving herself an honest assessment of her performance, Valerie thinks that she has done quite decently for herself.

“I believe I have achieved what I have set out for myself. I’ve always been a curious person who is keen to learn.

“My dad used to tease me saying that I’m a Jack of all trades and master of none. However, I was recently very happy to hear him say that I’m a Jack of all trades, without completing the quote. So, I’m glad to say I’m not a master of none,” she smiles.

Dato’ Eric, who co-founded the KIP Group, has been sharing the finer ropes of real estate with her. The camaraderie between father and daughter is obvious.

Valerie enthuses, “Working with my dad has been the best experience of my life as I have gained lots of knowledge and experiences besides having the chance to spend quality time with him,” she enthuses. 

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK

Valerie readily chips in to agree that she is a chip off the old block, heeding her father’s best advice given to her which is to be patient, as experience comes with time.

“We’re constantly learning to improve ourselves. No one is totally right, and we have to continuously take life as a learning curve.

“To have a successful relationship, both parties need to put their egos aside and think about what’s best for the company,” she adds.

Dato’ Eric shares his philosophy – “It’s not the millions one gives you, but the ten ringgit that was given along the way to get you to where you are today that is important.”

DIFFERENT MANAGEMENT STYLES

“KIP Group Founders Dato’ Eric and Dato’ Chew Lak Seong have been in this industry  for over 30  years. They focus  more  on the company’s corporate side of things while Valerie manages the day-to-day operations of the group.

“There is always healthy competition  between the management and myself. We constantly provide or feed each other with information but separately process them for benefical conclusions,” adds Valerie.

This was the case when an architecture team proposed a modern, non-conventional full-length glass facade for the group’s planned KIP Sentral Shoplots in Kota Warisan – with Valerie immediately warming up to the idea.

“I thought the  concept was something out of the norm especially in this area, with its design which features full-length glass windows fronting the main road.

“Kota Warisan  in Sepang is not exactly the city centre landmark but I thought bringing something new and fresh to the development would have a higher impact for the area. This would in turn, improve the whole integrated development (favouring the three other components in KIP Sentral) although the cost would be higher. It was a risk worth taking,” she enthuses.

Valerie says that her dad was initially skeptical as it would substantially add to the development cost.

“When it comes to design, the extensive usage of glass costs more than the conventional way of constructing a shoplot,” she explains.

The management eventually agreed to her request on condition that the units could sell. Valerie proceeded with the challenge and was amazed at the end results – with the shoplots being snapped up quickly a few years back.

“I’m happy to say that we closed many sales for the shoplots with minimal marketing effort by utilising our database. People were calling us at all times, eargerly wanting to buy the shoplots which were sold out in three months.

“In fact, this was the most exciting project that I’ve handled. At that time, I didn’t even have a full-fledged team of my own yet but a sub-division to work with which was handling real estate marketing for the company. We did well for ourselves and that motivated me to circumvent any challenges that were in my way and tell myself that I could only go forward from here on,” she enthuses.

ZOOMING IN ON KIP SENTRAL

All of the 132 Phase 1 KIP Sentral Shoplots have already been sold and handed over to buyers on Sept 1, 2016.

“To our surprise, there is a lot of demand and interest – with many businesses having started operations.

“These include four hotels, supermarkets, convenience stores, retail outlets, banks, international fast food chains like Pizza Hut, Burger King and Domino’s Pizza springing up within six months,” she says of its overwhelming success.

Valerie is now promoting Core SoHo Suites housed in two towers within the freehold mixed-use development while securing tenants for its upcoming KIP Mall which is targeted to open in August.

“Core SoHo is a very exciting project situated next to KIP Mall. The product mix that we have and the size of the studio units spanning 450 sq ft each is a right fit for the population there.

“There are many universities around the area so we think it’s a very good size that is easy to maintain. The units are ideal for students and people working at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) 1 and KLIA 2,” she says.

Core SoHo Suites is situated in the upcoming township of Kota Warisan, Sepang where other developers are also building. It is located nearby upcoming townships and renowned universities including Xiamen University Malaysia within a few minutes’ drive.

Despite current market conditions, Valerie says there is ongoing interest, and she hopes to sell off all the Core SoHo units this year. An Alibaba Distribution Centre hub coming up nearby with established developers launching landed properties here also augurs well for KIP Sentral.

“Having our mixed-use development in Sepang is a strategic move as ours is the first integrated entertainment, shopping and lifestyle development in the area.

“In fact, the availability of higher learning institutions has become one of the main catalysts for Kota Warisan’s development,” she opines.

KIP Sentral’s hybrid community-centric mall will  serve   the   everyday   lifestyle   and entertainment  needs  of  residents  and the growing student population which was previously lacking. Competitively priced daily essentials and fresh produce can be purchased in a more conducive environment there.

“The 13-storey Block B tower is already 95% sold, with 85% of the owners having signed the Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA).

“Meanwhile, the 15-storey Block A has just been launched in April this year. The Gross Development Value (GDV) of Core SoHo stands at RM140 million whereas Core Avenue, the shoplots below Core SoHo, has a GDV of RM50 million, bringing the total to RM190 mil,” she says.

In all, both towers contain a total of 466 Core SoHo units, with each unit allocated one car park respectively.

There   will  be   three  levels   of   car parks with a total  of 778 parking  bays. Facilities include a gymnasium, swimming   pool,  children’s playground, pocket gardens and multipurpose hall.

Meanwhile, the  maintenance fee  is  at 25 sen psf which works out to be a mere RM112.50 a month. Core SoHo Suites will be completed by October 2019.

KIP Mall, with its 200,000 sq ft of net lettable area located just next to Core SoHo Suites has already secured The Fresh Market, Econsave and even a KFC drive-through as its anchor tenants.

Valerie anticipates its soft launch in August will be a huge boost to the area. International fast-food chains and various outlets including MBG Fruit Shop, MR D.I.Y. and Boat Noodles are some of the tenants at KIP Mall. These F&B, convenience stores and facilities will be available within walking distance, which is perfect for the catchment area.

SURVIVING THE INDUSTRY

“Being in the property department is actually very tough because it basically involves orchestrating different departments. In building a property, you will need consultants from various divisions,” says Valerie.

“You would need Mechanical and Electrical (M&E), civil and structural engineers. You’ll need architects and different specifiers and you have to deal with the authorities. Sometimes, when you deal with the consultants, they might not want to deviate from their original plans so it can be taxing and very time-consuming,” she explains.

However, at the end of the day, the key is to remain positive.

“Challenges may keep pouring in and you may want to give up. But, at the end of the day, persevere.

“Think about it again. You have spent a lot of time in making things happen. Tomorrow is a better day. Make your dreams come true, persevere and do your best,” she advises.

At the end of the day, her goal is to come up with better products – be it in property development, hospitality or F&B.

Her definition of success lies in meeting her goals – big and small.

In closing, the determined go-getter shares her formula for success stating, “Don’t sit and wait. If you have a dream, don’t procrastinate. If you have a plan, execute it.”

By: Yvonne Yoong

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