Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah, the founder and chairman of Sunway Group, hopes to develop three or four more sustainable townships under his leadership.
The group’s flagship project is Sunway City Kuala Lumpur, which is also the country’s first sustainable township development. Sunway is currently developing Sunway City Ipoh in Perak and Sunway Iskandar in Johor.
While Kota Baru is the next plan for Sunway, Cheah has hinted to CNBC’s Managing Asia programme host Christine Tan at the possibility of tapping Sabah and Sarawak, but he did not elaborate on his plan.
He said he had also been offered to develop sustainable townships outside of Malaysia.
“Like in China, they offered me. They came to us. I didn’t go to them. I was surprised when they (the Zhuhai government) called for lunch. The Zhuhai government ... wanted to build a township. They said that they quietly observed with the Chinese Ambassador what we have done and are doing. So, when they had lunch with me, they said, ‘What you built, a lot of people can do, but I like your management and style of leadership. You make it work’. That was why they wanted us to go there.”
Cheah said Sunway City Kuala Lumpur had succeeded in managing and operating an entire ecosystem, using the build-own-and-operate model.
“We use this model quite frequently. It’s not easy to train people to give their best, to manage the centre like Sunway Lagoon. I had no experience. So, the whole thing is to get the right people who have the passion to give back, to give their best to me. When I interviewed people who wanted to work in a theme park, I said, ‘Do you have a passion to make families happy, to see fun and give smiles? But it’s hard work because, at theme parks, you have to go under the sun. These are the things that you must tell yourself that you have to go through, and you will enjoy it. You need a passion to make people happy. You are selling fun’.”
He said all the components that have been put in place to build, own and operate from scratch, they are profitable and growing organically.
“When people talk about sustainable development, they always think that it is just climate change. It is more than that. You have to look at the 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) developed by the United Nations. We are talking about real good values for the future generation, for humanity, like no poverty, quality education, quality healthcare and well-being. All these are part and parcel of sustainable development.
“This (Sunway City Kuala Lumpur) is a good integrated township. It is a green township now. We start with being a good example and hopefully, other people will follow,” he said.