Name: Benjamin Ong
Position: Senior General Manager
Company: Mah Sing Group Berhad
Benjamin Ong is the Head of Southern Region (Johor) for the Mah Sing Group. He is responsible for the overall operations of the property development of the group in the southern region that covers business development, property and asset management, as well as sales and marketing initiatives. Ben has 18 years of real estate development and investment experience across the region and he has spent 10 years in property development in China prior to returning to Malaysia. He has been involved in many prestigious projects namely the SWFC in Shanghai, Taikoo Hui in Shanghai, CIMB Tower in Kuala Lumpur and Avira in Johor to name a few. He is a Chartered Quantity Surveyor and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Quantity Surveying from the University of Reading, UK and an MBA from the University of Strathclyde, UK.
What’s new with Mah Sing in Iskandar Malaysia?
The 1,313-acre Meridin East Township is the Group’s largest township by acreage by far. The entire development is targeted to complete by year 2040. To ensure that our residents have quality living experience, we have reinvented the concept of community living with Meridin East. 40% of the township will encompass lush green spaces and in order to ensure the preservation and enhancement of the natural flora and fauna, several thousand native trees will be planted around the 9-acre Mulberry Lake.
We are also allocating 110 acres of land to develop space for various activities, such as the recently completed 2.5km cycling and jogging paths to encourage healthy living. Meridin East’s 16,000 sq ft sales gallery and show village will also be converted into the township’s clubhouse in future; housing a swimming pool, community hall, gym, yoga room, lounge and café, mini theatre and other features.
There are many skeptics of Medini out there, tell us more about Meridin and why Mah Sing chose Medini?
Medini is slowly taking shape with the number of world-class companies setting up a base there. It’s only 10km away from the Tuas Checkpoint and has a close proximity to EduCity Malaysia with top class education with many world renowned Universities. It’s in a free tax zone. The office clusters developed by MiM and Khazanah is also fast growing. On top of partnering with Educity for student accommodation, we are also offering professional living in Medini, creating the first co-living enclave in JB. We have also partnered with i2m to offer expat accommodation to the working community there. MBIP is also taking shape in Medini all within 5 mins drive from our development, and we envisage that over the next 3 years when it is developed, Medini will thrive as the Mont Kiara of JB.
You have been busy lately with MoU signings with Educity and i2m, care to elaborate what is it all about?
Our partnership with EduCity, NMIT, and i2M is very much in line with our company’s tagline “Reinvent Spaces. Enhance Life”– to provide quality accommodation for students studying in EduCity.
Meridin Executive Suites will be the first external student accommodation provider for Iskandar Malaysia’s Education Hub, offering a total of 183 fully furnished units which will cater to approximately 370 students, namely Meridin International UniLodge. Whereas, Iskandar Professional Suites will cater to professionals/ executives working in Medini.
There is a lot of talk about properties with unsold houses allocated under the Bumiputra quota. What’s your take on it?
As the world changes rapidly, government policies should not and must not be stagnant. They must be reviewed to meet the challenges of the day. I believe that the Malaysia today is developed far beyond the times when the Bumi policies were drafted. Johor has transformed itself to be a modern economic powerhouse and the Bumis today no longer need current policies to help them in owning a house. Instead of the current regulation, perhaps forming affordable housing clusters is probably a better way forward to cater for affordable housing needs of the rakyat.
Will house prices come down or is it where it is supposed to be to begin with?
I would like to pose a question to provoke an intellectual thought. How can the price of bread come down if the price of flour and raw ingredients keep going up?
The fact of the matter is the ingredients into building a house have all gone up – i.e. Land prices, raw material, labour cost and compliance cost. The SST is all but a minor reduction to the overall cost of things in which all of them have gone up.
In order for a nation to grow, you need good inflation. I think we should put more focus on how to increase the real income of the rakyat as that will solve a lot of our current issues that we face.
However, we also understand the needs of our customers and have launched the ‘*Desire campaign’ as our solution to address the rising demand among homebuyers for high-quality ready-to-move-in homes as well as workspaces with affordable prices. We understand the hassle that comes with renovating and furnishing a new home, which is why we’ve come up with a product that allow buyers to pack up their clothes and move-in instantly.
We offer a myriad of attractive perks when buyers purchase any of the nineteen Mah Sing Group’s completed homes and commercial spaces nationwide such as complimentary renovation consultation from its professional panel of ID consultants as well as furnishing packages and moving-in services.
In our bid to help the masses with homeownership, we are also offering financing packages that include flexible financing schemes with low down payment as well as the option to adjust the payment of financial schemes to limit down payment.
*For more information on the Desire campaign, visit mahsing.com.my/desire
What are your plans for 2019?
2018 has been a better year for us than 2017. I am cautiously optimistic on the property market in Johor in which I believe will continue to grow. We are still in acquisition mode and are on the lookout for more lands in the region. I don’t believe that there is nothing that cannot be sold in the market. Of course in this market, the real estate development game is not for amateurs. A lot more resources and hard work is required to be invested in order to make a project a success. On that note, in 2019 we will still need to work extra hard but I’m a workaholic so that’s ok!
What does Benjamin do when he’s not busy at Mah Sing?
I am always busy (laughs)! But when not at Mah Sing, I train a lot in Jiujitsu and Muay Thai. Martial Arts have been my motivation for many years; it has become a lifestyle. I try to train 4 to 5 times a week and compete whenever I can as it helps me catch up with the younger ones!