Thursday 6 February 2014

About Tambun Indah's MD

It was by chance Teh became a property developer. He was a civil engineer who’d designed and built 100 factories across the country. One was Dell’s assembly plant in Penang (also another in China’s Xiamen). In 1994 Tsai Yung Chuan, a client and Taiwanese businessman who operates an industrial fastener factory in Penang, asked Teh to jointly purchase and develop 101 acres of land in Seberang Perai. Tambun was incorporated with them as equal shareholders. Teh says, “The bank would not have lent me the money [for the parcel] had Mr. Tsai not guaranteed the loan.” In the latest filings Tsai’s shareholding is down to 8.5%, while Teh holds 38.4%, worth $67 million.
Tambun’s first project was gated housing. Teh says, “People told me I was mad to build bungalows on the mainland when it was more popular to stay on the island. To succeed we had to offer something different, which was big bungalows and a guarded community. Nobody was building quality homes in this area.” Those homes more than doubled in price from 1995 to 2012, to $286,000, according to Henry Butcher. Today Tambun’s residential units, aimed at middle-class buyers, are mostly priced below $187,000.

       Tambun Indah's founder & MD: Teh Kiak Seng

Teh, however, cautions that there could soon be a slowdown in housing demand in Penang. “But I believe we can overcome this as most of our projects are priced within what the general public can afford,” he says. “We have overcome the Asian financial crisis, which was severe, the dot-com crisis and the global financial crisis.” The company keeps a net cash position. Teh says his conservatism stems from growing up in a poor family.
He is the third of 12 children. In the runup to the Communist revolution his father fled China in the 1940s and settled in Penang as a storekeeper for his brother, who had arrived years earlier. After completing secondary school Teh followed a family friend to work in a construction site in Bertam, a remote island in Indonesia. That was his first taste in construction.
After saving money he convinced his father he would have better prospects if he went to university. His older siblings had dropped out to support the family. Paying for his own flight and enrolling himself in Canada’s Saskatchewan University (because it was the cheapest option), Teh hit the engineering books. He rented a basement room to save money and worked part-time.
Teh subscribes to the Chinese maxim “Success is not by chance; failure is not a destiny.” He says, “One has to keep on trying as there is a solution to every problem.” He instills this in his two twentysomething sons, who may join Tambun eventually. “I am giving them a choice where they want to work,” he says, “but they should work for other people before joining me.”
Teh also believes he has been lucky because he is fair in his dealings. He listed Tambun in 2011 to reward longtime staffers aside from the equity. The company has since grown to a staff of 70. He says, “You have to create a place where people believe they can work for the long term. I came from a poor family, so I like to be fair to my employees and buyers. I don’t like to shortchange people.”


This article is extracted from Forbes dated 29th Jan 2014. Full article here.

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