Of the leap of faith and rise of the phoenix

AT the cusp of her success, Sheng Tai International Sdn Bhd founder and chairman Datuk Leong Sir Ley has remained humbled and grounded. Naturally, a warm and positive person, Leong seems unfazed by her growing fleet of properties and offices that span the globe.

Despite the pandemic, she has remained positive and managed to find opportunities to keep her business growing. FocusM sat down with her to dive deep into the secrets of her successes.

Thank you for agreeing to have a chat with us. Before we go further, would you please provide a brief overview of Sheng Tai for our readers?

The Sail (aerial view)

Sheng Tai is an award-winning developer with branches across Asia. We are a diversified company and have ventured into development, real estate, investment management, hospitality, plantation agriculture and property tourism.

We also provide an extensive range of real property products, services, and brands that cater to the luxury, upscale, and economy markets. Our projects include the NOVO, Regalia Beachfront Residence, Metrasquare Serviced Suites, and Ames Hotel.

But our most prestigious work to date is The Sail, a piece of art set against a panoramic view of the sea. The project was uniquely designed to resemble a regal ship and houses a mix of hotel suites, residences, retail areas, and offices.

It will bring together people from all around the world into this bustling and cosmopolitan community, thus elevating Malaysia as the focal point of Southeast Asia and the world, particularly along the One Belt One Road initiative route.

What about yourself? Kindly share a bit about yourself?

I was actually trained as a lawyer and was a corporate legal advisor. I graduated from the University of London with a bachelor of law and also hold an honorary degree from the Malaysian legal profession.

Datuk Leong Sir Ley

My passion for real estate came from my daily dealings with the industry as a lawyer. I found the details very intriguing and saw Malaysia’s potential.

Thus, I decided to venture out into the world and open the doors to Malaysia as an investment tourist destination.

What about your entrepreneurial journey? How do you manage to succeed in a male-dominated field?

When I started Sheng Tai, Malaysia’s property market was quite soft and the banks were not so supportive when it came to giving out loans. Without support from banks, property developers could not go ahead with their construction activities. Thus, I decided to think out of the box and venture out into the world.

Instead of milking an already soft market, I open up the potential of Malaysia to the rest of the world. After all, Malaysia is a beautiful country with many potentials.

I am glad that my leap of faith proved to be the right thing to do. My exploration into markets such as Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Japan was pivotal for Sheng Tai. From our first initial foray into property tourism, we managed to open a new perspective to the world of real estate. We can now show it and see it for themselves.

Offering our customers the opportunity to experience Malaysia and gives us the edge against our competitors. We have successfully tapped into markets with higher investment potential.

Due to the current pandemic, the landscape of the world has changed dramatically. Has this impacted Sheng Tai and if so, how do you plan on overcoming it?

When the COVID-19 pandemic occurred, Sheng Tai was affected as we are unable to welcome tourists to Malaysia.

Sheng Tai’s property tour group

Before this, my sales team (also known as White Prince) have been doing very well by welcoming 600 to 700 tourists to Malaysia every month.

From the moment they step off the plane, the team ensures that everything is taken care of – from accommodations to food, travel to places of interest, even to the point of showing potential investors ways to apply for visas, schools for their children and the many details a person has to consider when buying a property overseas.

While the pandemic did cause us to pause for a bit, our newly launched Sheng Tai International One-Stop Centres has put us back in the driver’s seat.

Our One-Stop Centres located in Hong Kong, Beijing, Japan and Shanghai allow us to focus on various strategic partnerships. This is about bringing about more foreign direct investment to Malaysia as well as offer marketing solutions to international corporations looking to raise their profile in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.

Another opportunity that has arisen during this health crisis is the new ‘norm’, where people are encouraged to work from home. This has made the location of the office in relation to the home irrelevant.

People can now live anywhere and work anywhere, thus opening up the suburban property market. International brands are realising this surging trend.

We have recently inked many attractive deals with global brands like FashionTV, IWG and Memorigin to set up unique establishments in Sheng Tai’s projects. These will infuse confidence and opportunities for the country.

As a unique business figure in the property sector, what would you say is your inspiration?

When I was growing up, my father was my main mentor. He was the one who pushed me to be independent and strong. He taught me that life has so much more in store for me if I am willing to learn and work hard.

He is still my role model till today and I credit him for supportive of my career. Coming from a traditional Chinese family did not put a damper on my ambition or my progress in life.

In addition, throughout my travels, I came across a very inspiring book called The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. The author shares the art of manifestation – where you ask, believe and receive what you want in life. This book is extremely helpful and comforting as it teaches you how to understand what your desires are truly.

This has enabled me to charter my life journey.

What’s your advice for anyone who wishes to be as successful as you?

The only advice that I would actually impart is to stay positive and to be creative. It is very easy to succumb to stress and worry when you are in the middle of a project or a business deal. But I believe in mind over matter – our minds can help us decide what is important and what should be our priority.

We must keep our minds under control. It may be difficult at first to listen to criticism and negativity, but we must always be aware of the negative ripple effect. As a leader, it is important to stay grounded and balanced as well as focus on solutions. It is also important to always stay alert.

By doing this, only then can you achieve bigger things in life, especially in business. – Dec 29, 2020


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