Voon Tin Yow tells us how he keeps himself and his team motivated in a time of change and uncertainty, and where he would like to head to, now that international travel restrictions have been lifted.
Options: It has been just over a year since you joined IOI Properties Group last April. How would you sum up the journey so far?
Datuk Voon Tin Yow: It has been an exciting time for me despite the disruptions [of the pandemic]. Yet, as much as things have been disrupted, it has also given us time to reflect on things at a deeper level and a heads-up on what the future might be like, thus providing much clarity on what IOI Properties Group needs to prioritise in order to ride out anticipated challenges in the future. To date, I have enjoyed full co-operation from the team and strong support from the board of directors, to whom I am very grateful. I firmly believe such continued teamwork and support will allow IOI Properties Group to scale greater heights.
IOI Resort City is expanding rather marvellously. What are some of the highlights property buyers can look forward to in existing as well as upcoming projects?
IOI Resort City is indeed an exciting integrated development that offers an urban lifestyle in a tranquil resort setting. KL city is easily accessed and yet one is surrounded by lush greenery and fresh air — truly the best of both worlds! Connectivity is key here. This sustainable integrated development is well-connected via major highways while vehicles are diverted directly into underground car parks to create a safe and conducive environment for pedestrians and cyclists at ground level. Work is also underway to enhance connectivity of all components with solar-powered, covered pedestrian walkways and dedicated cycling lanes.
The construction of IOI City Mall Phase 2 is ongoing, with completion scheduled for 3Q2022. The expansion will add approximately one million sq ft of nett lettable area to the existing 1.5 million sq ft, making it one of the largest malls in Malaysia. Plans are also in place for Central Park. Spanning 10 acres, the community park will be divided into various interconnected zones, each catering to different activities such as wellness events, recreation, sports, waterfront activities and more, complete with a birdhouse and a dog park. We are also developing and testing smart city features with kickstarters from our IOI Kickstart programme. We intend to deploy smart city surveillance, smart home and office solutions and smart traffic management systems.
How has Covid-19 affected your industry and what have been some of the key moves you adopted in order to mitigate its effects?
The safety and health of our employees is our utmost priority, In gearing towards the full reopening of the economy nationwide under Malaysia’s National Recovery Plan, we have achieved almost 100% vaccination rate among our employees while also providing assistance to our contractors for Covid-19 testing and vaccination of their workers. Indeed, Covid-19 with the various movement restrictions and strict adherence to SOPs affected our usual business operations. However, our journey to digital transformation had started much earlier in 2013 with the setting up of an in-house digital marketing team. Hence, we were able to better navigate the challenges posed during the pandemic.
Just a month prior to the first nationwide lockdown in 2020, we successfully deployed our digital sales platform IOI e-Marketplace. Developed in-house, IOI e-Marketplace is a one-stop platform connecting purchasers, bankers, solicitors and the IOI Properties team digitally. This has enabled us to operate and perform large volumes of property transactions remotely without much difficulty despite strict lockdown conditions. For our retail business, we launched IOI SHOPZ, an online virtual mall and delivery platform this May to offer greater accessibility to online shopping at IOI City Mall. With the ability to consolidate orders from multiple outlets and the flexibility of choosing drive-through pick-up or home delivery, our mall customers are able to continue enjoying seamless shopping and food delivery from the safety of their homes. We have also adopted flexible work solutions to enable the team to stay connected and productive.
How did you keep your team and yourself motivated in this time of change and uncertainty?
People and culture are one of the key pillars of our business strategy, as reflected in our core values of People First and Teamwork. During the pandemic, it was imperative to continue motivating and empowering our people. We implemented a number of change initiatives with the objectives of enhancing corporate culture, strengthening executive capability and building talent pipelines to support the long-term growth of the group. These initiatives, underpinned by the group’s solid foundation, will enable us to continue maintaining our competitive edge in the industry. Also, virtual town halls and webinars were organised to ensure continued employee engagement. In such challenging times, it is important to ensure Team IOI is happy as we believe happy employees will take care of customers and, in turn, ensure continued business growth.
What has been the best piece of advice you have ever received?
A seasoned investor once told me: “Small profits don’t make a poor man.”
How did you keep yourself healthy, mentally and physically, during the various lockdowns?
When working from home during the MCO, I enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner with my family — something I would have not been able to do [as much of] otherwise. These meaningful family moments reminded me that, despite challenges faced, we can still focus on life’s simple joys.
How do you relax?
There is something therapeutic about exercise. It helps me relax after a hard day’s work. I enjoy long walks, hiking and working out in the gym. When the gyms were closed during the various MCOs, I made it a point to work out at home.
What books do you tend to reread and why?
Other than school textbooks [of the past], I seldom read any book more than once. But there is one I can read over and over again. It is Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff … and It’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson. It is one of the best self-help books I have ever come across. Some of the suggestions and advice given could even be life-changing! Like me, reading this over and over again might help you gradually develop a more positive attitude in dealing with every aspect of your life.
What are you reading right now, though?
Magazines. I enjoy the feel of holding a magazine and flipping through it.
Where would you like to travel to most once you feel it’s safe to do so again?
My family and I visited the Maldives and Sri Lanka in December 2019. No one saw the pandemic coming or that we would not be able to travel internationally for leisure for some time. This makes me appreciate family holidays even more and treasure memorable moments spent in different cities and countries. With the recent lifting of international travel restrictions, my next destination would be Mongolia. I am looking forward to immersing myself in the vibrant and multifaceted cultures of the Central Asian region. As a person who enjoys physical exercise and the outdoors, I am also attracted by the prospect of trekking while there!
This article first appeared on Oct 25, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.