How many of us possess the courage to completely transform our careers, especially after dedicating nearly a decade to a particular field? Many individuals find themselves feeling trapped, yearning for a different life and profession, but often, fear or existing commitments prevent them from taking that leap of faith to initiate change.
Kai Setiawan, however, stands out as an exception. He transitioned from his role as a graphic designer to becoming the Co-Founder of Foreward Realty, demonstrating remarkable audacity in charting a new course for his life.
During his ten-year tenure as a graphic designer at an advertising firm, Kai enjoyed a relatively comfortable livelihood. Nevertheless, as time passed, he began to question whether this was truly fulfilling enough for him.
We had the privilege of conducting an email interview with Kai to delve deeper into his transformative journey.
PH: Can you share some of the specific challenges you encountered when transitioning to a career in the property sector?
KS: When I made the transition from being a graphic designer to a real estate agent, I encountered several unique challenges. One of the primary hurdles was building my knowledge base from the ground up. Real estate is a complex industry with its own terminology, regulations, and market dynamics, and I had to invest a significant amount of time in self-education and training to become proficient.
Another challenge was establishing credibility in a field where I didn't have a long history. Clients (developers and buyers) often want to work only with experienced agents, so I had to leverage my design background to showcase my ability to market properties effectively and creatively to gain trust.
Another significant challenge was transitioning from a stable monthly income to a commission-based one, which initially proved difficult to adapt to. However, as I gained experience, I became more comfortable with this income structure, and it's no longer a concern for me.
PH: What do you see as the primary advantages and disadvantages of your career change within the property industry, both personally and professionally?
KS: One of the key advantages of my career change is the opportunity for personal and professional growth. Real estate allows me to combine my design skills with my passion for helping people find their dream homes. It's incredibly rewarding to see the impact of my work on clients' lives.
On the downside, the real estate industry can be highly competitive, and it requires a lot of time and dedication. Balancing my responsibilities as a real estate agent and Co-Founder can be challenging, but it's also an advantage because I can bring a unique perspective to both roles.
PH: Could you describe the thought process and emotions that led to your decision to pursue a career in real estate?
KS: The decision to enter the real estate field was influenced by several factors. While my income as a graphic designer allowed me to lead a comfortable life on a personal level, I had bigger dreams. I wanted to ensure a comfortable life for my family, especially my parents. It became clear that my salary alone wouldn't suffice for this goal.
I've always been attracted to the idea that working harder equals earning more, which isn't always the case in salaried jobs. The notion of working in sales and earning commissions, where the more you sell, the more you make, appealed to me. Before settling in real estate, I tried my hand at selling various products. But real estate was relatively easier to sell compared to other products because there's a consistent and lasting demand for it that has remained strong over the years.
Emotionally, I was a little worried, but at the same time excited about the opportunity for personal and professional growth. I wanted a career that would challenge me and allow me to continuously learn and adapt, a career that would allow me to showcase my full potential. Real estate offered that opportunity, and it felt like the right path for me.
PH: What have been your key experiences during this mid-career transition within the property industry, and how have you managed them?
KS: One of the key experiences during this transition was building a solid client base. It required patience, persistence, and a commitment to providing excellent service. Leveraging my design skills, I focused on creating visually appealing marketing materials that set me apart from other agents.
Managing my time effectively has also been crucial. Juggling my roles as a real estate agent and Co-Founder meant setting clear priorities and creating a well-defined schedule. I've learned to delegate tasks when necessary and surround myself with a supportive team.
PH: What upcoming property projects, goals, and strategies do you have in place to ensure sustained growth in your new career?
KS: I'm constantly looking for opportunities to innovate and grow in the real estate industry. My current goal is to expand our digital marketing efforts, leveraging emerging technologies like virtual reality tours and AI-driven property recommendations to enhance the client experience.
Foreward Realty recognizes the importance of diversifying our portfolio. We have ambitious plans to explore new markets and opportunities. Over the past four years, we have successfully established offices in key locations including KL, Melaka, Johor Bahru, and Kota Kinabalu. Our vision for the future includes further expansion, both domestically and internationally, with plans to enter markets in Singapore and Indonesia. We are committed to strategic growth and reaching new horizons in our industry.
PH: What specific role do you currently hold in the property sector, and how does it align with your overall vision for the industry?
KS: As the Co-Founder of Foreward Realty, my role is to ensure that our brand reflects innovation, trust, and excellence. We take great pride in fostering a culture of utmost professionalism. I oversee all aspects of our marketing and branding strategies, ensuring they align with our mission to transform the property sector through creativity and client-centric approaches. This role allows me to bridge my design background with my passion for real estate.
PH: Foreward Realty appears to take an innovative approach to transforming the property sector. Can you elaborate on what makes your company unique and how it's shaping the future of real estate?
KS: Foreward Realty sets itself apart through a combination of innovative practices and a client-centric approach that's poised to redefine the real estate landscape. Here are some key aspects that make us unique:
- Technology Integration: We are at the forefront of leveraging cutting-edge technology, from virtual reality property tours to AI-driven market analysis. This technology not only enhances the buying and selling experience but also allows us to provide data-driven insights to our clients, helping them make informed decisions.
- Tailored Marketing: Our marketing strategies go beyond the conventional. We tailor each marketing plan to suit the unique characteristics of each project we represent. This ensures that our listings stand out in the market, attracting the right buyers.
- Client & Team Empowerment: Education is paramount. We equip both our clients and our team with knowledge through seminars, workshops, and informative resources. This empowers our clients to make well-informed property decisions, while also enabling our team to provide credible and trustworthy information.
- Ethical Standards: Upholding ethical standards is non-negotiable. We are committed to the highest levels of transparency and professionalism in all our dealings.
PH: From a property-centric perspective, how does Foreward Realty distinguish itself and make a significant impact on the future of the real estate industry?
KS: Foreward Realty distinguishes itself by not just focusing on transactions but also on building lasting relationships. We view properties as more than just investments; they are homes and communities.
In Malaysia, the real estate industry has faced challenges in terms of reputation. There is a common perception that real estate agents can come across as pushy salespeople or even as untrustworthy individuals. While it is true that there have been cases of irresponsible behavior that have tarnished our collective image, it is important to emphasize that not all real estate professionals conform to this stereotype. Many of us are highly educated and dedicated professionals committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.
By emphasizing personalized service, transparency, and innovation, we aim to reshape Malaysia's real estate agents and the industry's perception, making it more trustworthy, more respected, more prestigious, more client-centered, and technology-driven.
Envisioning the Future
Kai's vision for the future of the property industry is one where technology and personalization coexist seamlessly. This vision revolves around granting clients access to cutting-edge tools and data-driven insights while ensuring they continue to receive the dedicated guidance and expertise provided by experienced real estate agents. Additionally, it foresees a future where clients can leverage AI to oversee the design and construction of their own homes.
For those who closely follow Foreward Realty's Facebook page, they will come across a dedicated "Foreward AI-powered" section. Here, a range of AI-real-estate-related content is shared, such as a post demonstrating AI's ability to design a high-rise condominium based on specific client requests and AI-generated visualizations depicting the future landscape of Kuala Lumpur a century from now. These initiatives serve as a means for Foreward Realty to familiarize both themselves and their followers with the potential of AI in the real estate sector.
"Foreward Realty is also investing in technology, upgrading our internal system, enhancing our data analytics, and doing regular training for our team. Ultimately, we aim to be at the forefront of shaping a more dynamic, client-centric, professional, and tech-savvy real estate industry", said Kai.