The Edge - 7 December 2015 - Vision + Passion = Success
7 December 2015
Tan Sri Danny Tan has been at the helm of Tropicana Corp Bhd for more than 23 years. Earlier this year, however, he handed over the reins to group CEO Datuk Yau Kok Seng and deputy group CEO Datuk Dickson Tan- Dickson is the eldest son of the Tropicana founder After all that time and what he has done for the business, no one would begrudge Tan if he walked off into the sunset, put his feet up and enjoyed life. However, you can take the man out of the business but you can't take the business out of the man. "I don't think [I can stop working] so I still work part-time as an adviser to the company-I still try to help in whatever way I can and also do a bit of networking.
I try to do some investments here and there," he says. The company he founded in 1992 was called Dijaya Corp Bhd before the name was changed in 2013 to Tropicana Corp, after the group's hugely successful 625-acre Tropicana Golf & Country Resort development in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Other significant projects include Tropicana Aman, a 863-acre mixed township development with a gross development value (GDV) of RM13billion; Tropicana Heights, a 199-acre mixed development with an estimated GDV of RM 2.18billion and Tropicana Metropark, an 88-acre integrated township with an estimated GDV of RM7.2 billion. The group's current market capitalisation as at Dec 2,2015, was RM 1.41 billion.
In recognition of his success in building one of the top property development companies in the country,Tan was presented with The Edge Malaysia Outstanding Property Entrepreneur Award 2015. Asked about the secret to his success, he puts it down to having a clear vision- "I believe successful entrepreneurs must be visionary and passionate about what they do. Once you have set the vision, you must inspire and lead your people to transform the vision into reality,"Tan says. "In everything we do, we must be passionate about it. when you have the passion,you will always give your best and will go the extra mile to achieve your goals, vision and passion, plus work hard, work smart and think positive, are what drove me to where I am today. Ever since he was a child, had a personal vision that he would one day be successful "I always told my friends then that I wanted to do well in life " he recalls. '*A lot of them did not believe I could make it."
Humble beginning, Tan grew up in Batu Pahat,Johor, He wasn't a very good student, he says as I was mostly thinking about making money". He saw a chance to do that at the age of 20, when he decided to follow his brother, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, the founder of Berjaya Corp Bhd, to Kuala Lumpur "My first job was selling encyclopaedias. At that time, I had no experience at all and I did not know how to market the product " he says, of course, sales were not good and I was so poor that I could not even afford to buy a motorcycle-" He eventually decided to stop selling encyclopaedias and followed in Vincent's footsteps, joining AlA to sell life insurance policies.
The brothers then decided to join forces and started a reconditioned vehicle business, "During that time, we got the dealership from Hino to sell heavy vehicles and machinery. In 1980, we became Toyota and Proton car dealers," he says. "To attract more customers, sometimes we had to ride on our motorbikes early in the morning to go to the Road Transport Department to bid for special car number plates " They then decided to try their hand at property development. The first project they completed was the UPC Court Apartment in Johor Baru. "We also embarked on other property development plans. These included some shophouses and condominiums in Old Klang Road [such as Sri Desa Condominium in OUG), a mixed housing project in Taman Indah, Johor Baru, and the Bukit Banang development in Batu Pahat, "Tan recalls. In 1990, Tan decided to strike out on his own,and bought the Tropicana Golf & Country Resort land for RM60 million. He was then only 35 years old. 'When we first launched the project in the middle of 1991, the bungalow lots were priced at RM36 psf. Prices now are over RM500 psf. In fact, when we launched it, we imposed a condition that buyers had to be members of the golf club before they could buy the bungalow lots," he says. Because of the size of the site, helicopter rides were arranged for prospective buyers so they could better visualise the vision of the resort.
"The project was so successful that we settled the bank loan well ahead of time. The bank was very surprised and asked us to slow down in redeeming the loan!" Tan adds that Tropicana Corp was one of the first developers in Malaysia to come up with the gated community and resort-living concept,
A nose for property In a competitive industry like property development, how did Tan keep ahead of his rivals?
''Always capitalise on the windows of opportunity. I am quick to identify a good business plan, act fast and remain steadfast in my decisions," he says. "Between Vincent and myself, I am more of the property man. For example, I helped him to negotiate the purchase of the prime land that eventually became Berjaya Times Square in Kuala Lumpur in 1995, Initially, the deal was a 50:50 venture between us but Vincent then bought out my shares in Matrix International Bhd, which owns Berjaya Times Square. "To me, property is all about location. As long as the location is good, nothing can go wrong. A strategically located property can only appreciate in the longer term. " Besides having a good nose for property, he also understood the need to create a thriving brand which was how the Tropicana DNA came about.
"After more than two decades in the property industry and having pioneered residential resort-style living with the advent of Tropicana Golf & Country Resort and Tropicana Indah Resort Homes, we established a development DNA that sets us apart. The DNA focuses on accessibility, connectivity, innovative concepts and designs, generous open spaces,amenities, facilities, multi-tiered security and quality," Tan explains. Although retired, he still keeps abreast of what's happening in the property market- So what are his views? " Even though the overall property market has remained soft in the past year, we nonetheless adopt a longterm positive view in Malaysia, due to the growing population backed by the expanding middle income group. These two factors will continue to ensure a demand for properties, especially among first-time home buyers and those upgrading to better homes' he says. "Interestingly, we have also seen changes in consumers' buying behaviour. Rather than just buying a home.consumers today, especially the younger generation,are looking for a holistic lifestyle, What I mean is they are looking for a neighbourhood that offers great facilities, amenities, security,accessibilityand connectivity. A swimming pool and a playground are simply not enough these days!" Besides landerstanding the changing demands of the consumer also realises that developers are becoming more than just house builders. "We are also seeing a shifting trend as property developers are today evolving into master builders of communities,
Instead of just building brick-and-mortar homes-Hence, we need to ensure that there are more mixed-use developments that incorporate residential,commercial, entertainment, recreational and even cultural components-These integrated developments will see homes, offices, restaurants,shops and entertainment outlets stacked vertically on top of each other or constructed within walking distance, thus reflecting the changing behaviour and mindset of young home buyers as well," he says. One example of the integrated lifestyle Tan mentions is Tropicana City in PetalingJaya, which was launched in 2009, The main components include Tropicana City Mall, Tropicana City Office Tower and Tropicana City Tropics serviced apartments. It was the group's first foray into property investment. This year, the group sold Tropicana City Mall and Tropicana City Office Tower for RM540 million to CapitaMalls Malaysia Trust. Tan is optimistic that the property market will recover next year " We anticipate property demand recovering towards the second half of 2016," he says. "Notwithstanding this, Tropicana's ongoing brand-building initiatives have allowed us to mitigate the weak consumer sentiment, allowing us to remain competitive." Although he has taken a step back from the life he has known for over 20 years. Tan is now occupying his time with other pursuits, in addition to his part-time involvement at Tropicana Corp "I exercise every day, one hour in the gym, I am very health conscious. I became a vegetarian four months ago. My children said I would not last a month," he says with a smile. His children are gradually following in his footsteps, Dillon, his second son, is deputy managing director, Southem Region, and is based in Johor, overseeing projects there. His third son Dion is an executive director- His daughter Diana and youngest son Din are not involved in the company at present.
So what advice would a man who has survived the ups and downs of the industry have to give to the new generation of property developers? "My advice is to start thinking strategically, be passionate about what you are doing, and be innovative and always think out of the box. Young people must not be content with where we are right now-They must look for the game changer in order to be successful- It is also very important to leverage the use of technology, such as the internet,to transform the business-This is the way to go, work hard and work smart as there are no shortcuts in life" Tan sums up