Name: Datuk Ir. Khairil Anwar Ahmad
Position: President / Chief Executive Officer
Company: Iskandar Investment Berhad (IIB)
Datuk Ir. Khairil Anwar Ahmad is presently the President/Chief Executive Officer of Iskandar Investment Berhad (IIB) where he oversees the strategic planning and development of catalytic and commercial projects by IIB in Iskandar Malaysia. His current role includes forming collaborative efforts with federal and state agencies, global partners, other key players, and stakeholders.
Datuk Khairil first joined IIB in 2007 as the Head of Procurement and in 2008 he became the Head of Educity Iskandar Malaysia Sdn Bhd, where he was responsible for crafting the strategic planning and developing the masterplan of EduCity, Asia’s first integrated education hub. In June 2012, Datuk Khairil was appointed as the Chief Operating Officer of IIB. Datuk Khairil was then appointed as the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Medini Iskandar Malaysia Sdn Bhd, a position he held from June 2013 until October 2016. Datuk Khairil has over 31 years of experience in project management, construction, engineering design, property development and credit management and has been involved in the development of Iskandar Malaysia for over 10 years since 2007.
Datuk Khairil is a Professional Engineer and obtained his Bachelor of Science in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA in 1984 and an MBA from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow in 1993. Datuk Khairil has also attended leadership programs at Harvard Business School, International Institute for Management Development (IMD) of Switzerland and Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL).
In view of the many of Khazanah-owned companies in IP, what is the role of IIB?
Since our inception in 2006, IIB has played a key role as the strategic developer of catalytic projects aimed at stimulating long-term development of Iskandar Malaysia, with focus on high impact projects in key promoted sectors namely education, tourism and leisure, creative, logistic, and healthcare and wellness. In recent years, IIB has evolved into a strategic investment holding company including coordinating Khazanah linked companies in Iskandar Puteri in order to establish a robust economic zone with a vision to establish a sustainable and inclusive metropolis.
There is a lot of excitement about DRZ Iskandar (Drone & Robotics Zone Iskandar). Will this help to drive investments and create more jobs for local talents?
IIB is very excited with the announcement of DRZ Iskandar as the first Drone and Robotics Zone in Southeast Asia as it will boost digital innovation in Iskandar Malaysia. We are proud to collaborate with esteemed partners, DHL, a global leader in innovations, Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC), MDEC as well as domestic and international partners to jointly grow and develop the DRZ Iskandar ecosystem, positioning Iskandar Puteri as a primary destination for the drone and robotics industry as well as driving investments and creating job opportunities in Johor.
Recognised as part of the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), the DRZ Iskandar initiative helps us meet several goals. Apart from job creation, it can also upskill local talents and move them higher up in the technology value chain, thus creating a greater socio-economic impact. DRZ Iskandar is projected to bring in significant investment and high-value jobs by 2025 in drone and robotics. This is well-aligned with the Johor Digital Masterplan launched by the Johor state government recently.
Is Iskandar Malaysia still a vibrant attraction to talent and investors?
Absolutely. Iskandar Malaysia is continuously evolving into a vibrant, cultural, and sustainable city of international standing. As a catalytic developer in Iskandar Malaysia, IIB has delivered many notable developments mainly in Iskandar Puteri to ensure that Iskandar Malaysia grows into an inclusive and sustainable future metropolis. Together with various Khazanah linked companies in Iskandar Malaysia, IIB continues to invest and develop high-impact projects in the education, tourism and leisure, creative, logistics, GBS Iskandar, and health and wellness sectors to cultivate an attractive investment destination and a vibrant, liveable region.
To date, IIB has developed and successfully delivered several catalytic projects in Iskandar Puteri including 7 major infrastructure projects under Rancangan Malaysia Ke-9, EduCity Iskandar, LEGOLAND Malaysia Resort and Medini township, alongside the recently launched Iskandar NEXT to position Iskandar Puteri as the new nexus of business ecosystem and the preferred destination for IR4.0 related industries. On top of that, the state government’s plan to establish Medini as the Johor Digital Hub as announced in the Johor 2021 Budget, is timely as Medini is now ready with comprehensive built infrastructure.
IIB is committed to the long-term development of Iskandar Malaysia, as well as towards strengthening the position of the region as an attractive investment destination for local and international talent and investors. Through Iskandar NEXT, IIB has paved the direction to position Iskandar Puteri as the pulse and centre of digital economy and talent development, in line with the state government’s agenda in making Johor Vision 2030 a reality.
As a catalytic developer, IIB has paved the way for a complete ecosystem building in Iskandar Puteri. Our distinguished and award-winning stakeholders in Iskandar Puteri have also played vital roles in enhancing and complementing the ecosystem which in turn has rapidly spurred socio-economic activities and opened business opportunities for those in retail, food & beverage, services, and entertainment. For example, Gleneagles Medini Hospital launched its state-of-the-art Cancer Centre to provide comprehensive cancer treatment services to cancer patients across the region, and Sunway Iskandar is completing Sunway GRID Residence and will open the Sunway Big Box Hotel this year while CI Medini opened a new outdoor karting track for beginners to professionals. A café is also being built and upon its completion, Racing Underdog will be the first go-kart racing company in Asia to have a café on its own.
For nature lovers, they can opt for some recreational time-out after working hours at the Sunway Emerald Lake or the Medini Edible Park. Equipped with a workshop studio, café, designed gardens, and organic urban farm, the park was meticulously planned to allow residents, workers, and visitors alike to experience Medini, Iskandar Puteri as a city built within a park. We believe that the green ecosystem is an important component that drives the value of this township.
Tell us more about Iskandar NEXT
Iskandar NEXT (New Economic Experience & Talent) marks another key milestone for IIB in attracting businesses to Iskandar Puteri. Launched in October last year by the Menteri Besar of Johor, Datuk Ir. Haji Hasni bin Mohammad, this programme is designed to be a public-private partnership programme to support the state’s agenda in creating job opportunities for Johoreans and reinstate investors’ confidence in Iskandar Malaysia. Our objective is to promote the digital economy in Iskandar Puteri to create jobs, attract investments, and develop talent for Iskandar Puteri, for Johor and the nation.
Iskandar NEXT enables collaborations among industry players to focus on digital innovation, emerging economies, and talent development in Iskandar Puteri. Two months after the launch, we are proud to see the first collaboration between IIB’s subsidiary IIB Ventures Sdn Bhd, DHL and Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) to jointly establish the Drone and Robotics Zone in Medini, called DRZ Iskandar. We look forward to announcing more new initiatives under the Iskandar NEXT umbrella that would be beneficial for the Johor’s economy and the people.
Under the Iskandar NEXT programme, we look forward to establishing a drone academy in Medini in Q1 2021. It will offer a high-quality drone programmes that are customisable and feature professional training, scenario-based training, and industry-specific advanced drones training.
Share with us the latest happenings at EduCity
We established EduCity Iskandar back in 2009 with 9 international learning institutions. Just last year we launched EduCity 2.0, to change the landscape of education and position EduCity as a brand destination among other global players.
One of the initiatives under EduCity 2.0 is Perantis Iskandar, a scheme to revive the economy via human capital development. Modelled from Germany’s Apprenticeship programme, the programme is designed to meet industry’s demand and needs via reskilling and upskilling initiatives. The objective of this initiative is to offer apprenticeship opportunities to ensure Malaysian youth are employed in the right industries, with competitive and right salary to begin their career with.
EduCity had organised various key events which are essential in their brand campaign in Q1 2021. The year had a positive start with the inaugural EduCity Leadership Summit 2021 (EdLeadS 2021) organised from 11th January until 11th February 2021. Supported by the Ministry of Higher Education, the series amongst others featured Sensible Soccer, an international organisation led by elite level speakers, Mike Phelan and David Horrocks that offers various trainings and on-ground programmes for students and the corporate community, using sports as the medium on self-advancement.
We are also excited to share the news that EduCity Hub will feature new F&B tenants, on top of the two recently launched cafes, Del’s Kitchen and August Cafe. The first Indian Muslim restaurant set in a comfortable café setting, Assalam will feature a fantastic set of menus where one of their must try menu are their chapatis bread. Pezzo Pizza has also recently opened at EduCity Hub, perfect for those who are on the go. In early February, EduCity launched the Food Truck at Hub that offers local, western and Chinese cuisines from dedicated food trucks that are stationed at the EduCity Hub, next to McDonalds EduCity.
Furthermore, in 2021 The Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS) will be opening their new campus in EduCity targeted at enrolling 6,000 students, which will increase the vibrancy of EduCity.
What is the recovery strategy for Medini & Iskandar Puteri post pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on many businesses and operators in Medini and Iskandar Puteri, impacting the surrounding economies and livelihood, and has forced us to rethink and strategise our business plans. Our priority is to protect our existing investments in real estate and start the virtuous cycle of attracting new investors and increasing our asset values. We aim to create a more resilient circular economy and to attract investments in industries which are relatively recession proof such as integrated healthcare, food security and renewable energy. This will in turn create new high-income jobs and develop new talents.
The Johor state government has come up with several robust initiatives to help the affected industries and IIB and our stakeholders will continue to support the state government in promoting Iskandar Puteri as a preferred destination for tourism, hospitality, sports, education, creative industries, healthcare/wellness, and talent development.
To revive the tourism industry, we are working closely with the state government through the recently established Iskandar Puteri Tourism Action Council (IPTAC) where we plan to integrate and promote events and activities in Iskandar Puteri and promote together with our stakeholders namely UEM Sunrise, Sunway City Iskandar, LEGOLAND Malaysia Resort, IRDA and MBIP, among others.
Medini since its inception has been master-planned to be the central business district of Iskandar Puteri. Various sets of incentives have been granted by the Federal and State Governments to attract investors to Medini, and I am happy to share the good news that the Medini incentive support package has been extended. This is indeed welcome news as many businesses are facing uncertainties during this challenging time. We sincerely hope that the extension will entice more local and multinational brands to set up their businesses in Medini, and existing businesses to further flourish.
The state government’s announcement to create Medini as a Johor Digital Hub will also boost this township to become an ideal destination that focuses on digital innovation, emerging economies, and talent development in Iskandar Puteri. IIB is working closely with both Federal and State agencies to establish key enablers so that relevant businesses that set up operations in Medini can grow and thrive, bringing economic multipliers to Iskandar Malaysia.
Moving forward, what will be among the new normal adopted by IIB both internally and externally?
Our daily operations are not impacted by the movement restrictions set by the Government. We have ensured that our employees are equipped with the proper tools and means that they require to continue our business as per normal without having to travel for work.
Under the theme of sustainability and inclusivity, IIB is always working towards ensuring equitable growth for all, especially our surrounding communities. Apart from helping to stimulate the business community in Iskandar Puteri, IIB has also invested heavily in giving back to the community in Iskandar Malaysia through our various corporate social responsibility initiatives. Recently, we embarked on a humanitarian aid mission to ease the burden of those badly affected by the floods in Johor. Staying true to our social inclusion beliefs we also organise annual CSR programmes such as the Back to School programmes for underprivileged students, the beach cleaning activities to promote social integration of various local, disadvantaged and indigenous community members as well as other community outreach programmes.