Malaysia’s property landscape is constantly evolving. While urban liveability continues to expand and density continues to rise, land constraint remains a major challenge faced by most property developers today. Ever in demand and increasingly scarce, cities like Kuala Lumpur are running out of unutilised parcels, forcing many residents working in the city to look outside the Kuala Lumpur area, or even further, for affordability.
Taking these challenges in stride, there is one developer who aims to take this challenge head on while at the same time, commit to offering quality, affordable city living right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
Having successfully taken on this mission, SkyWorld Development Berhad (SkyWorld) has managed to accomplish what many industry players would have found to be near impossible. Because of this, the Company’s endeavours have finally been recognised, and on the world stage no less.
SkyWorld has been a regular fixture in the media for its award winning projects including Curvo Residences which won an award in the Residential High Rise Architecture category at the Asia Pacific Property Awards (APPA) 2023, SkySanctuary Park which was honoured with the Landscape Development Awards under the developer category at the Malaysia Landscape Architecture Awards (MLAA13) and most recently SkyAwani 2 Residences which elevated both SkyWorld and the Malaysian property industry in the eyes of the world after being crowned the World Gold Winner at the FIABCI World Prix d’Excellence Awards 2023 in Miami, US on June 2023.
Growing from strength to strength since its first project launch in 2014, the publicly listed urban developer is known for its proven track record for delivering innovative and quality craftsmanship to the communities in the city. With a focus on city-centric development of high-rise residential and commercial as well as affordable properties, its ongoing and planned domestic projects are strategically located within the Klang Valley, primarily Kuala Lumpur.
The city developer has a total land bank of 55.66 acres within Kuala Lumpur city, and currently has 13 projects launched totalling RM5.9 billion in gross development value (GDV), 7 of which have been completed while 6 are still ongoing.
BusinessToday recently had a chance to sit down with SkyWorld’s founder and Non-Independent Executive Chairman, Datuk Seri Ng Thien Phing, who has recently been on a whirlwind schedule for the Company’s IPO. We managed to grab his attention to discuss the SkyWorld’s strategic focus and vision.
Datuk Seri Ng, who leads the formation of business strategies for the Company as well as its business direction, is no stranger to entrepreneurial endeavours with a key eye in turning businesses to successful ventures. Prior to founding SkyWorld, Datuk Seri Ng had already set up several well-established companies namely NTP World Forum Sdn. Bhd., a corporate training provider as well as ICT Zone Holding Sdn. Bhd. and ICT Zone Sdn. Bhd., ICT solution providers for both public and private sectors.
Striving For Excellence
Despite his casual demeanour and down to earth appearance, Datuk Seri Ng strives for excellence in everything he does. It is this combination that brought SkyWorld to the world stage in such a short period of its operation history.
“SkyWorld has definitely seen our focus on quality and excellence repaid manyfold in the form of accolades from the industry and the overwhelmingly positive reception of our projects by our customers,” he explained.
Datuk Seri Ng proudly mentioned that SkyWorld’s SkyArena Master Development in Setapak was honored with the coveted ‘Excellence in Place Regeneration Award’ at The Edge Property Excellence Awards 2022 for its catalytic role in revitalising the neighbourhood. The master development’s first phase, dubbed Ascendas Residences, was first launched in 2014 and saw a 100% take up rate amidst an overwhelming response from the public. SkyArena also boasts Setapak’s first multi-level and multi-facilities sports complex.
“In 2015, we subsequently launched the ‘Awani Series’ as part of the Malaysian Government’s affordable housing programme with all units priced at only RM300K. To date, we have developed 5 projects in the Awani series – SkyAwani 1 to SkyAwani 5, located in Sentul, Setapak, and off Jalan Ipoh – all of which have recorded a noteworthy 100% take-up. In particular, SkyAwani 3 Residences, which is located in Setapak, was inducted into The Malaysia Book of Records for having the ‘Highest Residential SkyBridge in Malaysia’,” Datuk Seri Ng further added.
In 2021, SkyWorld unveiled a 2.92-acre, residents-only central park as part of the SkySanctuary master development, complete with lakeside amenities and lush greenery.
“The effort and commitment to creating sustainable communities that prioritise the well-being and quality of life for our customers earned us the Landscape Development Award at the prestigious MLAA13 ceremony,” he added.
Not only recognised for its property developments, Datuk Seri Ng pointed out that SkyWorld has been named one of the best companies to work for in Malaysia for 4 years running by the Kincentric Best Employer Malaysia Award.
“I think that we have proven our ability to create a workplace where every single one of our talents are highly engaged and happy to contribute to the company’s success,” he quipped.
Focusing On Quality
Being a conscious founder, Datuk Seri Ng noted that SkyWorld’s vision of ‘Always Best City Developer’ is underscored by its ambition to be the vanguard of urban development.
“With a purpose to ‘Make Living Better’, especially in the city where we will remain focused, we assure our customers through our actions and awards that we are staying true to our brand promise of ‘You Can Now Own A Quality Home and Living’, which is about nurturing a lifelong commitment to excellence in a sustainable ecosystem for generations, now and beyond.”
Datuk Seri Ng attributes much of the group’s success to its culture of excellence centred on 3 key brand pillars.
“Our 3 key brand pillars are ‘Value Creation’, where our projects are supported by an abundance of amenities and facilities set within a communal environment; ‘Integrated SkyLiving Experience’, with both residential and mixed projects strategically located within a mature and thriving neighbourhood, with good connectivity and easy accessibility to public transport and public landmarks; and ‘Innovation’, where the company’s designs and concepts are guided by a market-driven approach, giving customers the choice of attractively-priced products sporting the latest living trends,” he elaborates.
Datuk Seri Ng also stresses that the Company’s growth strategy concentrates on doing one thing well.
“In our case as an urban developer, it’s providing better-quality products & services to customers, scouting for land in strategic, highly populated locations with ready infrastructure. Essentially, we provide our customers the right products at the right pricing in the right locations.”
As a distinguished urban property developer, SkyWorld places importance on the quality of its developments. In 2018, the first-of-its-kind SkyWorld Quality Centre was launched as a pledge by the Company towards its commitment to quality workmanship.
“In the construction industry, quality is a concept that can’t be quantified or scored. In Malaysia, quality is measured according to the Quality Assessment System in Construction (QLASSIC), which is inspected and scored by the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB). All of SkyWorld’s products, including our SkyAwani series of affordable homes, undergo stringent QLASSIC assessments, with several such projects achieving remarkable scores. For instance, SkyLuxe on the Park achieved an 85% QLASSIC score which was the highest in Malaysia under the High-rise Residential category at the time, while SkyAwani 2 Residences achieved a 79% QLASSIC score, the highest in the Residensi Wilayah category. This is a noteworthy accomplishment for our affordable housing project,” Datuk Seri Ng proudly points out.
He also notes that the company pays great attention to customer service.
“As the number of SkyWorld homeowners continue to increase, our innovative teams created a mobile app that enables users to easily and conveniently receive updates vis-à-vis site progress, facility reservations, bill payments, and customer feedback. The SkyWorld Connects app, which is developed and maintained by the Company and free to use for all SkyWorld residents, incorporates Solution+ as an e-commerce module providing homeowners with the opportunity to connect with 3rd-party service providers.”
The proof is in the pudding, which Datuk Seri Ng notes is testament to SkyWorld’s success to date. The company’s 3-year average return on equity (ROE) of more than 20% is one of the highest in the industry. From the launch of its property development business in 2014 through to 2022, SkyWorld recorded an overall take-up rate of 98%, with a total of 11,500 units launched.
Envisioning A Bright Future
The future is extremely bright for this young property developer swimming with the larger veterans in the market. For one, SkyWorld has many of its upcoming projects in very strategic locations. The group plans to launch another 10 developments with a GDV of RM4.08 billion in various high demand areas including Setapak, Setiawangsa, Bukit Jalil, Taman Desa, and Cheras.
On this, Datuk Seri Ng mentioned that the Company plans, over the next 3 years between 2023 and 2026, to retain its ROE of above 15%-20%, while also embarking on two distinct strategies.
“First, we intend to develop build-to-rent assets, including commercial squares and co-living spaces in Kuala Lumpur, as a way of putting our currently unused land to good use. SkyWorld will take advantage of the vacant land to build temporary structures, which we will then lease out to generate additional cashflow for the company. For example, SkyBlox at SkySanctuary in Setapak, features a co-living concept for youths. Each container unit comes fully furnished with individual bedrooms, ensuite bathrooms, communal kitchen, gaming room, dining area, and laundry space.”
Datuk Seri Ng is also planning a regional expansion of the company’s urban property development business model to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
“Our team has been studying the Vietnam market for more than 4 years, and we noticed there is large potential there. Vietnam has one of the highest rates of foreign direct investment among the ASEAN countries, with a significant demand for housing. While the urbanisation rate in Vietnam is below 40% compared to Malaysia, whose urbanisation rate is nearly 79%, we noticed that these two markets are otherwise very similar, hence there is plenty of room to grow in Ho Chi Minh City. Additionally, the recovery in transaction volume, coupled with the limited supply of apartments, indicates there is opportunity in the property industry there.”
In a nutshell, Datuk Seri Ng’s SkyWorld has found its niche in the local property market, catering to the ever growing young, urban population who require a developer to understand their needs and deliver all their requirements at a price point that fits their budget.