Mr Chai Keng Wai, CEO of Agile Property Malaysia reveals the formula that has helped the company establish a strong foothold in the local property market.
What exactly defines success in the realm of property development? The short answer will always be a proven track record and strong creative focus on servicing the needs and wants of the market. This winning formula is never created overnight as it takes years, sometimes decades, for a developer to establish itself in a competitive market.
In the case of Agile Property, it has already begun to reap the rewards of success despite arriving in the Malaysian market just five years ago. It has already embarked on two highly-coveted projects in the country and is already looking to expand its reach in the country, and possibly the region, in the months to come.
“To be successful in property development, one must never ignore the basics, which are essentially attentiveness and after sales service”
But make no mistake, its accomplishments should not be passed off as a fluke. Agile Property is backed by a solid reputation as one of China’s largest and most successful developers. First established in 1985, the company has grown extensively across the Chinese market with a diverse portfolio of property development and management, as well as hotel operations and property investment.
In 2014, the company expanded beyond its shores by establishing a branch office in Malaysia. Fast forward to today and Agile Property has already delivered two highly enticing projects on local shores in Agile Mont Kiara and Agile Bukit Bintang. Eager to find out what Agile Property is slated to bring to the market, we spoke to Mr Chai Keng Wai, CEO of Agile Property Malaysia to uncover the secret to the company’s success and what the future holds for the company.
It’s interesting to note that Malaysia is Agile Property’s first overseas market. What specifically convinced the company to branch out here?
We chose Malaysia out of the other Southeast Asian countries because it is more stable and has a lower entry level. Many mainland Chinese also know and recognise the country. There is a huge Chinese population here, our culture is well maintained, the language is not a barrier, and it’s got good food and weather.
What has been the company’s greatest challenge?
We’ve been in the Malaysian market for less than five years and we’re still relatively new. So I would say that has been one of our biggest challenges. We’re established in China and we’ve got a huge database to leverage on, but Malaysia is still a new ground for us.
How did you overcome this?
We knew that we had to first gain recognition in the country. That was our first objective. We first set out to localise ourselves and adopt local strategies with incorporation of innovative approaches from our overseas experiences. So far, we have already achieved success in two segments and received recognition and awards in our relatively short time here.
Stunning view from the Sky Garden of Agile Bukit Bintang.
Let’s talk about your two existing projects in Mont Kiara and Bukit Bintang. Who are you targeting for these developments?
Well, first of all, these two projects are located in very prime locations. As such, we have no worries about digestion from the local or foreign markets. We have a huge database of millions of existing home buyers in China, but I’ve made it a point to ensure that we do not rely too heavily on foreign sentiment. Right now, we have a healthy mix of customers from both spectrums for these developments.
How has the response been for both projects?
I am glad to say that our Mont Kiara project is almost sold out. We are still maintaining one block which consists of only 16 units. We are holding on to that until the right opportunity comes. As for Bukit Bintang, we have launched two thirds of the units so far and achieved almost 70 percent of sales.
Agile Mont Kiara
What would you say are the USPs (unique selling points) for both projects?
For Mont Kiara, it is located in the middle of a fully-developed community area. It is an area that appeals to a broad spectrum of buyers. It is low density, with 813 units spread over ten acres with 6.2 acres of large green facilities. The development also boasts a multi-tiered design. Buyers have the option of having either a low-rise or high-rise experience with fantastic views of the palace or KL, with no obstructions.
The appeal of Bukit Bintang is, first and foremost, the location. It is within walking distance of everything, including commercial areas, shopping malls, golf course, hospitals and the TRX. It is also a stone’s throw away from the nearest MRT station.
“We first set out to localise ourselves and adopt local strategies with incorporation of innovative approaches from our overseas experiences. So far, we have already achieved success in two segments and received recognition and awards in our relatively short time here. “
We noticed that both projects are predominantly skewed towards the luxury segment. Is that the direction Agile Property is taking here?
When we first arrived here, we focused on servicing the luxury and niche market. This is the reason we chose Mont Kiara and the KL City Centre. For our upcoming projects, in the long term we are going to look at the local market segment. We have identified a long-term development plan, which will be out of central KL. We are working on that at the moment.
Chai sharing Agile’s plans and strategies for growth in the Malaysian market.
Are you aiming to replicate Agile Property’s success in China here?
In terms of products, I’ll be frank and admit it will be very hard, largely due to the diverse background and business portfolio that we have. I would say though that our main priority, like in China, is to ensure attentiveness to buyers. We own a public listed company in property management, which manages over 400 projects there, covering millions of home buyers.
This is a concept that we want to bring to Malaysia. We want to work closely with our buyers on the post vacant possession experience. When they move to our properties, we still maintain close contact with them, ensuring their daily conveniences and lifestyle needs are taken care of.
Is this how Agile Property is aiming to elevate the ownership experience here?
This is one of them. We are also looking to bring a new concept into our third project, which will be launching sometime in the third quarter of this year. We want to introduce an experiential hall whereby buyers can experience and get an idea of what they are going to get in the future. Not just from a well-designed ID perspective, but more of a technology-based 3D experience when they step into our showroom.
Here, they can not only get a feel of the property but also do a walk-through of the development and the units they have picked.
“Moving forward, we will still work very hard, look to acquire more land bank but also approach the market here cautiously.”
Do you think the property market has changed significantly over the years?
I won’t say it’s different, but the market has definitely seen some elevation from the needs and wants of consumers. Ultimately though, it is not that much different from when our parents bought houses, 20 to 30 years ago. To be successful, one must never ignore the basics, which are essentially attentiveness and after sales service.
Back then, the market wasn’t as competitive as it is now, especially with buyers growing more discerning – they want that relationship and care. If they buy a property from you now, they would likely remember you in five years when they’re planning their next investment. Primarily, we want to build that brand loyalty and relationship with our customers.
Are you confident of the opportunities for growth here?
To be frank, we’ve been in the China market for the last 25 years. We are experienced there but these are new grounds. When we set out here, we targeted an accumulative GDV of RM10 billion in the next 3 years. To date, we have already reached half of that initial target.
Moving forward, we will still work very hard, look to acquire more land bank but also approach the market cautiously. There are opportunities to grow for sure, which is why we will not forgo this market. I would say that in our pipeline, we will look at other countries and markets to go into but the Malaysian market is our decisive first step. We have set up a good platform and base here with a strong team. We aim to utilise this and the resources that we have to go into overseas markets.