The next generation of leadership
Ang Hui Hsien 

Property developer Emkay Group has always been synonymous with its chairman Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal Abu Bakar who founded the group in 1983.

Since then, the group has collectively developed an estimated 60,000 units of residential, commercial and office units with a total gross development value (GDV) of RM20 bil and built-up of 10 mil sq ft.

Despite being at the helm of Emkay Group for the most part of its 35 years of operations, Mustapha has taken a backseat in recent years, gradually relinquishing the leadership to his children as part of the developer’s succession plans.

His son, executive director Ahmad Khalif Mustapha Kamal, reveals that he and his siblings have taken on more active roles in managing and running the group in the past five years.

“We’ve always been led by a very iconic figure in our father who has actually made sure that the 35 years have turned out in a very good manner.

“That’s not to say we spent those years without any bites and scratches but we’ve been able to weather even the tough times because of his leadership,” he tells FocusM.

His sister, executive director Farah Mahami Mustapha Kamal, reveals that in spite of the challenges, the journey has brought the entire family closer.

“Our father, the chairman, has taken on a more mentoring role over my siblings and I, allowing us to share the responsibility of growing the business and nurturing the succession plan with good corporate governance and best practices,” she says.

Similar to Khalif and Farah, their sisters Datuk Fazwinna Mustapha Kamal and Felina Mustapha Kamal also hold directorships in Emkay Group as well as its associate companies MK Land Holdings Bhd and Setia Haruman Sdn Bhd.

One of the wisdoms the Emkay founder has imparted to them is teamwork and the belief that everyone deserves quality property for every dollar they put in.


Staying relevant

“It’s crept into our team which is family-led and includes the likes of our senior management who have been with us for about as long as the group has been around,” relates Farah, revealing that they have grown from a team of 10 to over 1,500 people today.

Khalif agrees, noting that their father has always stressed on the importance of the team as there is only so much one can do on his or her own.

“It has always been the people that make the difference in Emkay Group. Hopefully, they will continue to make a difference over the next 35 years,” he says.

He nevertheless acknowledges the need to incorporate new methods in order for the group to stay relevant in current times.

“First and foremost, we understand that what got him here today may not get us there in the future. Hence, based on the good values and fundamentals that he has taught us, we are trying new things such as social media, digitalisation, interaction with customers and so on,” he explains.

Farah reveals there are currently over RM2 bil worth of on-going projects to propel the group forward, and alludes to plans to further cement the Emkay name in the industry by going international (see sidebar).

“As the Malaysian property landscape is becoming more crowded with local and overseas players, to ensure sustainable growth for the group we intend to strengthen our standing in the local industry and one day create a global footprint and build communities around the world.

“We have big dreams and we aspire to use the experience garnered over the 35 years to one day become a trusted global brand,” she says.


Completed projects

The group’s maiden project was Taman Meru Jaya, a 2.4ha mixed development in Selangor consisting of residential and commercial components which it undertook in 1983.

Its major breakthrough came two years later when it was awarded a RM200 mil project hailed as the first ever large-scale privatised property development scheme in Selangor by the state government.

Bandar Baru Sungai Buloh, a township comprising residential and commercial units, won Emkay Group many accolades and recognition as a serious property developer.

The developer then went on to take on more large-scale projects such as the 254.5ha Serendah Golf Resort which was designed by American golf consultant Max Wexler.

The group’s second privatisation project, the resort development carried a GDV of RM300 mil and had an 18-hole golf course surrounded by a golf complex, 320 bungalows with orchards, 140 luxury apartments plus recreational and tourist centres.

Not content with limiting its presence to Selangor, Emkay Group embarked on another privatised development in Perak – also the first in the state – known today as Bukit Merah Laketown Resort in 1994.

It was in 1996 when the developer undertook a 320.1ha mixed development called Damansara Perdana in Petaling Jaya, which today houses two of four office towers bearing its founder’s name including the 21-storey Menara Mustapha Kamal.

Sited on a 2.2ha parcel of land within Grade A office development PJ Trade Centre, the building is designed to be close to nature and features plenty of natural light and cross ventilation.

Meanwhile, as the newer of the two, the 0.6ha Mercu Mustapha Kamal is set to be Emkay Group’s landmark.

It is located within mixed development Neo Damansara at the entrance to Damansara Perdana from the Damansara-Puchong Expressway (LDP) and consists of two office towers, retail units, a banquet hall and a Muslim prayer hall.

Apart from that, the group has two office towers - Wisma Mustapha Kamal which has a GDV of RM150 mil and Bangunan Mustapha Kamal. Comprising two 11-storey towers, the former also houses Emkay Group’s corporate office and is part of a 8.6ha mixed development called NeoCyber which is also billed as the first integrated development in Cyberjaya.

The eight-storey Bangunan Mustapha Kamal, on the other hand, is part of Star Central which is the first project in Malaysia to provide exclusive free-standing office towers with Grade A features.

Targeted at small and medium-sized enterprises, each semi-detached tower is sold from RM12 mil onwards and offers businesses naming rights to the building.

Both projects are in Cyberjaya, where Emkay Group has a significant presence via its associate company Setia Haruman.

Currently led by Khalif as its executive chairman, the master developer of Cyberjaya has been responsible for the development of office buildings, retail spaces and residential units including Radius Business Park.

Bearing a GDV of RM198 mil, the eight blocks of shop offices with a dual frontage design occupy a 2.4ha site next to Telekom Malaysia and Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences.

According to Setia Haruman’s website, more than 20,000 residential units and some 1,500 shops have been completed to-date in Cyberjaya.

Henry Butcher Malaysia Sdn Bhd notes that since its launch in 1997, the town has come a long way and grown to be a sustainable township in and of itself with most franchises establishing branches there.

“Combined with a major student population and commercial opportunities, Cyberjaya is poised to grow and develop further.

“Investors can capitalise on the future rental potential it has to offer although currently, there seems to be excess supply, while homemakers can give the town due consideration with its close and quick access to the capital city,” states the real estate consultant.


Pledge to provide

affordable housing

Although Emkay Group has amassed a portfolio of upmarket residential, eco-resorts and commercial projects, Farah stresses that the developer’s focus will very much remain on delivering affordable homes which she describes as the group’s bread and butter.

“We want to continue providing opportunities to first home buyers and upgraders to own quality homes with new lifestyle features.

“What keeps us going at Emkay Group are the lives of individuals and communities we are able to touch with our properties,” she says.

Of the 60,000 units that have been developed, Khalif estimates about 40,000 are in the affordable range while the rest are in the middle to upmarket segments.

“Last year, we handed over 960 units of affordable housing in Cyberjaya within the price range of RM200,000 to RM280,000. The project was a hot commodity and we hope to build more of such units in the near future,” he says, revealing that they are in the midst of land negotiations with the Selangor government.

That development, MasReca n19eteen, consists of 850 sq ft Rumah Selangorku apartments housed in three blocks which are surrounded by 67 double-storey shop lots – 19 of which are affordable units.

“To date, most of our affordable housing projects have been in high-demand areas and we have been fortunate enough to meet the requirements of the state as well as our own requirements for building affordable homes.

“Yes, the margins are low but it is something we look forward to delivering because that has been the reason we have been surviving for the past 35 years and we hope that it’ll still be the main bread and butter for the next 35 years,” says Khalif.

This commitment from a reputable developer bodes well for most Malaysians who, according to PropertyGuru Malaysia country manager Sheldon Fernandez, find owning a home a big challenge as house prices in the country are 4.4 times the median income.

Hence, involvement from the private sector coupled with the new government’s plans to tackle the country’s affordability issue are encouraging.

“We have been advocating for a long time for affordable housing schemes to come under one entity, so we were very pleased when it was announced there will be one by year-end.

“It will bring effectiveness to the programme, to know things like the location of the affordable houses, who are eligible and how the entire process is managed,” says Fernandez. FocusM

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 295.