Richard Teo: A Flair For Leadership And Property

With presence dating back to 1997, the Teladan Setia Group is a property developer with an established portfolio of landed, low-rise and high-rise residential properties in Malacca. The Group’s milestones in the industry have also received positive market acceptance.

Having taken over from his father, the late Datuk Teo Poh Boon, Richard Teo, the Managing Director of Teladan Setia has led the company as a visionary leader who pushed boundaries and brought the company to new horizons.

In a conversation with BusinessToday, Richard shares his thoughts on 2020 and what it meant to lead his company through a storm and the transitions that took place.

An early start

“It was never my intention to follow my father’s footstep. I was sent to Singapore to study and I went on to graduate overseas and worked as a software engineer. 2 years into the role, my father asked me to come back and help as he needed someone he could trust to run operations,” he says.

The software engineer turned property developer thought the break from the software field would only last a year or two. But it was after working in the industry, his interest turned to the property market completely.

“Malacca was a small town when I came here during 1997 but in the year, 2008, the city was awarded the world UNESCO heritage site and that immediately put it on the map. Tourists started flocking in and along with it came purchasing powers.

The locals went into F&B and hospitality and this eventually also grew the locals’ purchasing power and they started to look for more properties to buy,” he highlights.

 “While landed property development was and still is our bread and butter, venturing into high-rise was a natural progression for us. No doubt, it was an uphill task when we first started as locals favoured landed properties more. So to succeed, we worked extra hard to ensure our design, location and pricing were all on point to sway home buyers. Despite the challenges, we were adamant to add high-rise into our portfolio early on because we believe Malacca would eventually grow into the city KL and Johor is today where land would become limited and expensive. Looking back, we are glad we did those projects as things are starting to turn in our favour on that front as locals are more receptive to high-rise properties,” he says.

In 2011, the Group ventured into their first high-rise on their prime land in Taman Sentosa in the city. The project was well-received by the locals and sold out quickly.

While most Malacca residents prefer landed properties, Richard says high rise buildings must be built in town areas so locals purchasing it could opt to either make it their home, rent the property or turn it into a homestay.

During the initial Movement Control Order (MCO), the city saw boutique hotels close and with a shortage of hotels in the city, it was Airbnb segment that supported the arrival of domestic tourists after domestic borders were open again.

A people’s leader

“2020 was unexpectedly challenging for us with the COVID-19 pandemic and the MCO. I think I’ve grown to be a better leader over the past year, learning how to command confidence and motivate my staff during periods of uncertainty. These valuable lessons will stick with me forever,” Richard says.

“I feel that a company’s best asset is actually its people and to me this is important. I alone cannot get everything done but with the support of my staff, we are able to achieve big things. Thus, retrenchment or pay cuts did not cross my mind at all. Now more than ever, their welfares need to be taken care of. Once this is over, we will be able to continue growing together,” Richard says.

Having been with his senior management for more than 10 years, Teladan Setia has experienced minimal turnover rate and Richard’s leadership has only created an environment that his staff look forward to working with him.

Overcoming challenges and building trusts

While the property sector faced unprecedented challenges, to Richard, the crisis was one he knew he could overcome. “Since our inception in 1997, we have come out of each economic downturn stronger. We are confident that there will not be any exceptions this time around as our business remains resilient with a healthy financial footing. We believe every crisis presents new opportunities.”

“Our focus now is to resume our business momentum. The new circumstance has prompted us to adopt fresh approaches to tackle the shift in consumer behaviour. One of the many initiatives was incorporating digitalisation to our promotional activities. Customers are now able to virtually view our new projects in the comfort of their homes. This has helped in keeping client engagement intact.”   

“Ultimately, we believe what sets us apart is our presence of over 2 decades here and we have grown along with the locals. In 1997, when we sold our first house to a couple, it was received very positively. Soon word of the mouth did its job, and we continued to deliver quality houses, establishing a track record,” he tells BusinessToday.

“It’s the trust and reputation that we have established with the locals that got us here, and I believe it to be the very thing that will bring us even further.”

And with the reintroduction of Home Ownership Campaign announced in the recent Budget 2021, Richard believes buyers will get to enjoy even more incentives. For his portfolio of high-rise buildings, the Managing Director says they continue to receive interest from investors outside Malacca.

Teladan Setia’s seaside project, Bali Residences serviced apartment is seen as a reliable investment particularly as a homestay for tourists to enjoy during holiday seasons. The project is set to complete in 2021.

“By the end of the year, we will launch the Taman Bertam Heights project which is a gated and guarded development. As the purchasing power of Malaccans rises, they look for houses with security and added facilities such as swimming pools and gymnasiums. In the past, we have completed small developments of similar style. Premised on that, we believe it is time to expand this concept to a grander scale. Taman Bertam Heights is set to be one of the largest gated and guarded developments in Melaka,” Richard says.

“We are also completing the Taman Desa Bertam project with phases 2 and 3 slated to be finished in 2022,” he shares.

Richard attributes these decisions to the growth of Malacca and with tourism set to be a key driver to boost the industry, he foresees that demand for houses will further increase.

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