Thursday 30 May 2024
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It all began 35 years ago when Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal Abu Bakar armed himself with the determination and passion to build homes that people could afford, especially first-time homebuyers.

Today, the group has collectively developed an estimated 60,000 units of residential, commercial and office units of over 10 million sq ft in total worth a gross development value (GDV) of RM20 billion.

It has developed projects worth more than RM2.5 billion in just Cyberjaya alone, building a significant presence there in the process together with its associate companies MK Land Holdings Bhd and Setia Haruman Sdn Bhd. This is to support the multimedia super corridor development which was once a palm oil estate. It is also the developer of Mercu Mustapha Kamal and Damansara Perdana which have become prominent landmarks in the Klang Valley.

Following his father’s footsteps, Mustapha started off as a civil servant. During the course of his duties in the civil service including being an Assistant District Officer for Ulu Selangor, he felt it his moral duty to help communities in need, even initiating an applied nutrition programme for the residents in the Kuala Langat district.

Working with the communities from the rural areas had planted within him a desire to build sustainable communities which led him to quit the civil service and become a property developer. He has never looked back since.

Although he has reached great heights in his career, there is not a slight hint of arrogance in the man who was once known as the “King of Affordable Housing”.

“I did not come from a wealthy background. My grandfather was just a vegetable seller. Even when I was studying in school, I was not among the top students. But of course, I was also not among the weakest. I was just an average student. Typically, the pathway for Malay university graduates was to join the government civil service. But then it was when I met a humble Chinese tycoon that I realised that I wanted to be an entrepreneur.

“It doesn’t matter what background you come from. If, and only if you consider me to be a successful businessman, then I want to say that anyone, including you, can also make it,” says Mustapha.

From Mustapha’s maiden project in Taman Meru Jaya — a six-acre mixed development and his first privatisation project of Bandar Baru Sungai Buloh in 1985, he has come a long way.

Besides the RM2.5 billion properties he has developed, he also, among  others, owns three Grade-A office towers, namely Wisma Mustapha Kamal in Cyberjaya as well as Menara Mustapha Kamal and Mercu Mustapha Kamal in Damansara Perdana. The rents from these buildings are the source of sustainable income for the company.

EMKAY Group’s upcoming development called The Mulia Residences is due to be launched in 4Q2018. It is set to become a new landmark in Cyberjaya while adding another feather to its cap. With a GDV of RM720 million, this 50-acre stratified residential development comprises 383 units of townhouses and 417 units of high-rise components located in Cyber 10, Cyberjaya. The overall concept is based on multi-generational living; inspired by traditional Malay architecture. The design aims to create functional and practical spaces, enabling harmonious living with different generations.

Building more affordable homes

The Group has to date developed 54,000 units of homes of which 35,000 of them are priced below RM100,000. Mustapha believes that his calling at this stage in life is to build more homes for those whose income are not sufficient to finance a home due to escalating house prices. The completed Damansara Damai and the Bandar Baru Sg Buloh projects are two typical examples of such affordable housing developments which he wants to replicate in future.

Thus, he has come up with a plan to build affordable homes to be sold at RM70,000 with a built-up size of at least 600 sq ft in Kuala Lumpur city. He believes this is possible through cross subsidisation, he said at a media briefing in conjunction with the group’s 35th anniversary.

“For example, in a 100-acre development, 40% of the homes can be priced below RM300,000 while another 40% can be of any price the developer wants, 10% will be commercial units while the remaining 10% will be the units priced at RM70,000. Profits earned from the other 90% of properties can be used to subsidise the RM70,000 affordable homes,” he explained.

These houses, he added, will only be for those in the bottom B40 group, especially those who are earning between RM1,800 and RM2,000. These [RM70,000] homes are for groups such as teachers, the police, the firefighters and the lower rank army personnel who have worked so hard and sacrificed for our country,  he shared.  “This programme needs the support of the Federal government, the State government as well as the local authorities, and the key theme is ‘together we make it happen’ on time, within the target cost and with quality,” he added.

“Providing affordable homes has always been our bread and butter, so we will strive to continue providing opportunities for first-time homebuyers.

“We are committed to assist in addressing the issue of affordability of homeownership,” he said.

Moving forward

After 35 years, Mustapha also now wants to focus on the group’s CSR work and philanthropic causes through foundations such as Yayasan EMKAY, Pulau Banding Foundation and the Bukit Merah Orang Utan Island Foundation.

He has passed on the baton of managing the Group to his four children, aided by almost the same Board members and a senior management team that have been with the group since the very beginning. They will facilitate and ensure a smooth transition moving forward.

Today, EMKAY Group is made up of a strong team of more than 2,000 professionals.

“I always tell my children that it is important to work together as a team and I believe that every purchaser deserves a quality product for every ringgit he or she puts in. The smile and satisfaction of our customers are priceless and something we strive to achieve in every project of ours.

“We aspire to use the experience garnered over the 35 years to one day become a trusted global brand,” says Mustapha.

Giving back to society

For many corporations, PAT or Profit after Tax is a figure that one loves to look at because it shows how much the business has made at the end of one’s financial period. However, for EMKAY Group chairman Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal, PAT also stands for “Peace of Mind and Tranquillity in Life”.

“To me, I have reached a stage in life where money itself is no longer the end game. To me, it is about giving back to others and the society now because God has given me so much. If you give me the option of whether to put my money into building more projects or to preserve a 130 million-year-old forest which you cannot get elsewhere in the world, I will choose the latter,” says Mustapha who has founded three foundations — Yayasan EMKAY, Pulau Banding Foundation and the Bukit Merah Orang Utan Island Foundation.

Under the Pulau Banding Foundation, Mustapha hopes to promote the sustainable development of the fragile ecosystems of the Belum-Temengor Rainforest. The forest reserve forms the last and largest contiguous block of natural forest in Peninsular Malaysia. It covers an area of over 300,000ha in Perak and into Southern Thailand.

Mustapha shares that in order to ensure sustainable development on the island, the Pulau Banding Charter was formed on July 24, 2007 by a panel of advisers comprising experts from the ?elds of forestry, environment, and local stakeholders — as a self-imposed guideline for all development on the island.
One requirement of the Charter was the setting up of a research centre which has now been completed to conduct studies on the Belum-Temengor Rainforest so that efficient conservation measures could be initiated. To date, many scientific expeditions have been carried out with exceptional success.

The forest reserve also houses EMKAY Group’s Belum Rainforest Resort, one of Malaysia’s premier ecotourism holiday destinations. The resort receives visitors from all over the world. Hopefully one day, the Belum Rainforest would be on the world atlas as equal to the Amazon Forest.

Mustapha took it a step further by launching the Belum Forest Friends (BFF) initiative in February this year as part of an overall drive to get more Malaysians involved in rainforest conservation and environment. Pioneers of the BFF initiative include celebrities Datuk Sheila Majid, Datuk Yasmin Yusuff and Jaclyn Victor.

With a contribution of RM100, BFFs can choose to support either a tree-planting programme managed by the Pulau Banding Foundation or a school uniform donation drive for the Orang Asli of Belum-Temengor facilitated by Yayasan EMKAY.

Mustapha’s other ventures which he personally oversees include: the Green Ranger Malaysia programme (GRM) under Yayasan EMKAY where university and school students get to have hands-on experience learning about the importance of protecting the rainforest; the construction and setting up of toy libraries amongst Orang Asli settlements; and the Bukit Merah Orang Utan Island Foundation, with the specific objective to do research, rehabilitate and promote awareness of our endangered red-haired friends. Along with these foundations — Yayasan EMKAY and Pulau Banding Foundation — the Bukit Merah Orang Utan Island Foundation has also created working collaborations with local universities for research works and education programmes.

Mustapha is a man who has opened up his hands — and his heart — to not only the Malaysian community, but has also become a protector of the flora and fauna of Malaysia. —

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