Malaysian tech icon undertakes to build property project in his home state
Reassures his foray into property will not distract him from building MOL
“FOR around US$2.4 million (RM7.5 million) you get the entire four-storey building at Cyber Enterprise Complex, and get naming rights for the building too. That’s 18,000 sq ft of space and it comes with MSC Malaysia (Multimedia Super Corridor) status,” enthused the entrepreneur.
“And our 400 units of SOCO, or Small Office Cyber Office, starting from 859 sq ft, cater specifically for small startups and e-commerce companies. It would suit DNA (Digital News Asia) too!”
This wasn’t your ordinary property developer talking here. Meet the latest iteration of Ganesh Kumar Bangah (pic above) – property developer! And marketer too – he coined the term ‘SOCO.’
Before you do a double flip, be reassured that to Ganesh, this is not a new core business he is going into because the tech business does not pay. Far from it.
“Building MOL is my core – it will always be my core,” said the founder and chief executive officer of MOL Global Pte Ltd, an Asian e-payment service provider.
So what is Ganesh, of all people, doing in a property project? Is it the money? Just Phase 1 of the project, called MSC Cyberport City, is expected to have a gross development value (GDV) of US$197 million (RM626 million). With average margins of around 20%, that could net him and his partners US$39.4 million in gross profits.
It may seem like big money, but Ganesh argued out that the risks are high too as are the investments into developing the project. He and his partners have to fork out over US$155 million (RM492 million) to develop Phase 1, whose centrepiece will be two 30-storey office towers to house the SOCO units.
One of those partners is tycoon Vincent Tan (the largest shareholder in MOL Global Inc) and three others, all shareholders who own 70% of Cyberport Holdings, with the state government of Johor owning the remaining 30%.
Ganesh declined to reveal the total estimated GDV of the entire project that will have three phases spread over 10 years.
He stressed that he is doing this project in his private capacity and has seasoned property professionals to run the show for him.
But why is he doing this? “It was a commitment I made to the [Johor] state government. This is about contributing back to the state, about creating an ICT icon for my home state of Johor. It is not about the money,” he said.
The southern Malaysian state of Johor, nestled just north of Singapore, is seeing strong local and international demand for the mega development it is building called the Iskandar Malaysia development hub.
And the state has turned to its iconic tech personality to build it an iconic smart city that will be targeted at attracting tech companies, from the two-person Internet startup to the global players.
Who better to do this than Ganesh, a son of the state, who is building MOL into one of the largest Internet companies in Asia while expanding its footprint into the Americas too?
“If I had a choice, I would focus all my time on my tech business. As I say, it is not easy to build an MOL; while property development is a dime-a-dozen business. But I have given my commitment to the state government and will deliver,” he said.
The tech ecosystem can breathe easy then. Ganesh is still focused on taking MOL to the next level, which will involve its eventual listing.
And, that will surely net him much more than his foray into property development.
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