Name: Gerard Soosay
Organisation: Sunway Iskandar Sdn. Bhd.
Gerard Soosay graduated with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and obtained a Masters in Business Administration from the Paris Graduate School of Management (European MBA). In 2015, he also obtained a Premier Business Management Programme from the Harvard Club of Malaysia.
Gerard joined the Sunway Group in 1999 and has more than 25 years of experience in the construction and property industry. He was instrumental in the setting up of the regional office in Sunway Iskandar in Johor and is currently the CEO of Sunway Iskandar Sdn. Bhd.
In his current role, Gerard champions Sunway Property’s next smart sustainable Sunway City in Johor – Sunway Iskandar.
The 1,800-acre development site lies on the riverine of the Pendas River and overlooks the Straits of Johor. With more than 30 billion GDV, Sunway Iskandar is one of the first townships to be awarded the GBI Silver Rating in Johor.
Under Gerard’s leadership, the township has won the Best Comprehensive Township Award for 3 consecutive years and the Best Southern Developer this year at the StarProperty Awards. Besides the awards, Sunway Iskandar is the first developer to enter the Malaysia Book of Records for introducing online customisation for its notable project – the Sunway GRID. Recently, they also picked up the “Best Green Product and Technology” and “Special Awards on Sustainable Development Goals” for the integration of solar panels within Sunway Iskandar’s township and other sustainable initiatives at the Malaysia Green Building Council’s Leadership in Sustainability Awards 2020.
In addition to its many residential development, Sunway Iskandar also focuses on world-class education institutions alongside many attractions such as the Sunway Big Box- the first retail hybrid park, XPark Sunway Iskandar- biggest adventure sports, Sunway Emerald Boulevard 88, Sunway Citrine Hub with first Jaya Grocer in Johor, Caltex petrol station – the first petrol kiosk in Medini and soon to open Sunway Big Box Hotel and Sunway GRID Hub.
How is the general business climate during this COVID-19 pandemic time for Sunway?
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on global economies including Malaysia’s. For Sunway, it has been no exception, with our tourism-related businesses more affected than others.
As a group, we recalibrated on three focus areas.
The first was ensuring the safety and health of our people and customers, especially those on the front lines. Our Crisis Management Taskforce, formed at the onset of the pandemic, continues to monitor and advise us on the continued SOPs, which all our businesses should minimally adopt. Most of our teams started working remotely and returned to the office with staggered working hours. We are fortunate that we had earlier invested into digital infrastructure so the transition to remote working was relatively seamless for most.
To ensure the safety and wellbeing of our wider community, we donated safety equipment and food to those who were more severely impacted, as well as offered rental waivers and health checks across the communities we operate in. We had all our frontline employees trained to observe WHO and national standard operating protocols, so they can keep themselves and our communities safe.
The second focus area was on cashflow conservation. At the same time, we also planned for capital raising to shore up our balance sheet – in preparation for any prolonged impact, while constantly on the look out for good business opportunities.
The third area is to ensure minimal disruption to our businesses by constantly engaging with our customers, suppliers and stakeholders, to share our plans and challenges where appropriate. As this is a health and economic crisis, no one can survive on their own and there is a need for people to come together to ride through these challenging times.
Many property players have reported lacklustre sales but Sunway on the other hand had reported RM100 million worth of bookings. What’s the secret ingredient?
Sunway Property, through Sunway Iskandar has been focusing on building an integrated township for future generations to continue to thrive in a safe, healthy and well-connected environment. The company recently launched the YES (Year End Sales) campaign on 10.10.2020 with a minimum of 10% rebate, Zero Maintenance Fees for 12 months, Ready-to-Move-in, attractive incentives, and a buyer referral scheme for all our projects.
The campaign allowed purchasers to enjoy financial aid and competitive pricing and at the same time interact with our sales representatives through virtual tours, live chats and other digital channels. This has helped boost sales during this crucial period.
As a Master Community Developer, Sunway Property is synonymous with its Build, Operate & Own (BOO) model. We not not only build or sell buildings or homes – but manage and even operate its entire township.
The rental market for office spaces and retail space at malls were already under a lot of pressure pre-COVID times. Will there be a recovery for this sector and is Sunway offering anything new to entice take up?
As pointed out, our malls have been significantly affected as most retailers were unable to operate during the MCO. We have since activated flexi-operating hours, rent relief, term repayment and month-on-month lease, among others – in the hope that these initiatives will further alleviate their financial burden before businesses normalise.
The Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT) exemption will be extended till the end of Dec 2021. Do you think the relaxation measure will help market recovery?
Yes, potential investors or homebuyers in Sunway Iskandar will get to enjoy Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT) exemption. There will be no minimum threshold for foreign purchasers, no corporate tax (selected businesses up till 2021) under the special Medini incentives aimed to spur investment in the area.
What are your plans for Sunway Iskandar post COVID-19?
What we have in store for the next few years are pretty extensive. In 2021, Sunway is looking to complete the Sunway GRID Residence and our Sunway Big Box Hotel will also be opening. In the same year, we are also launching DUO living landed homes – Sunway Maple, and a Starbucks Drive-thru. Moving forward to 2022, SJK C Cheah Fah should be open and Sunway Big Box Office Tower will be completed as well. We will also be focusing on eco-tourism initiatives such as solar + urban farming, expansion of XPARK Sunway Iskandar and a Global Learning Village, to continue to be the next Sunway City in Johor.