Featuring Datuk Seri Stewart LaBrooy, Georg Chmiel, Datuk Eric Chong, Dato Seri Garry Chua, Chan Ai CHing, Hanson Lau, Colin Tan, Iris Tan, Shirley Tay.
Given the skyrocketing Covid-19 cases in Malaysia, there was no other solution in sight except for the watershed of announcing the next Full Movement Control Order (FMCO) that came into effect from June 1, 2021 nationwide.
Will the economy be able to bear the brunt of a lockdown similar to the inaugural MCO that came into effect in March 2020 and which is now being prolonged indefinitely. Industry veterans share their respective point-of-views.
By Yvonne Yoong
“MCO 3.0 has arrived, and this lockdown looks like it going to be as severe as the first back on 18th March 2020. We were doing so well in the beginning until we took some serious missteps which saw caseloads skyrocket.
The only way out of this mess is to ramp up the vaccination program and make it the main focus of government in the coming months. In addition we should be expanding the list of who qualify as front liners and provide them priority in getting the dose first. These should include Teachers, Delivery Personnel in the food delivery service and those in the logistics sector, staff and tenants in shopping malls, Hotel staff and any persons who come in daily contact with hundreds of people in their line of duty. More MCO’s won’t help – what we need is to provide our citizens immunity from this terrible disease.”
There is no doubt that the last 15 months of varying degrees of lockdown have been transformational for the retail industry in Malaysia. When assessing the impact, there are short term and long term effects to be differentiated.
While in short term prolonged full lockdowns while important to fight COVID have an adverse impact on some of the retail industry, such significant events certainly
transform the retail industry for the long term.
Since the first full lockdown in early 2020, demand has gone more online as Malaysian buyers have grown accustomed to acquiring goods and services via online channels across all industries. Largest change was in the logistical processes where apps like GRAB gained market share from traditional channels and allowed retail to continue to sell. Same happened in the real estate industry, where players like Juwai IQI have experienced exceptional growth (293% year on year) by shifting the whole property marketing and purchase or rental processes online.
Once the full lockdown is over, these changed processes (which are more effective than the previous processes) will become the new norm and result in long term sustainable growth.
Our research has shown that paradoxically, it is because of Covid that many people believe this is a good time to purchase homes, cars and other goods and services. Malaysians have been spending less due to the pandemic-related restrictions. As a result, they have built up more savings and want to put that money to good use by buying a stake in the property market. The key will be employment, short sharp lockdowns are less likely to have an adverse impact on the employment market, and employment results in demand for retail.
Observers expect that economic, employment and income growth should increase more rapidly in the post-pandemic rebound than the pre-Covid rate. The acceleration of vaccination program as announced by the government will also help in the recovery.
This full lockdown is absolutely necessary and much awaited, as our sit-u a t i o n spirals out of control and Malaysia tops the Covid world chart.
This is the time for all Malaysians to pull together in order to help our beloved country overcome this unprecedented national health crisis.
A full lockdown will be extremely painful and even unbearable for many businesses, big, medium and small. However, as we battle the catastrophe it leaves us with no option but to come to a standstill for, hopefully, as short a period of time as possible.
The government should and must do something to alleviate the financial stress of all those affected, especially small and medium businesses as well as vulnerable individuals.
The Corona virus is a containable disease if there is absolute discipline in SOP compliance and willingness to temporarily forgo some personal freedom from everybody.
However, the ONLY lasting solution is, of course, attaining herd immunity through mass vaccination. The real test for our country is how able we are to secure sufficient vaccines quickly and how efficiently we are able to deploy them. The sooner this is achieved, the sooner our economic recovery can take place.
I urge the government to ensure that while the country comes together to battle the crisis, the economic engine is as minimally affected as possible. Businesses which are genuinely affected and face existential threats should be given a helping hand at a time like this. The long term economic losses for our country are incalculable if these good companies are left to bleed and die on their own.
Meanwhile, we the business owners will have to do everything we can to fend for ourselves and try to hang in there for as long as we can.
I am hopeful that we will see light at the end of the dark tunnel soon.
The recent lockdown is timely though it is a bit late due to poor control especially in relation to the recent bazaar with many having travelled interstate quietly, etc. Easy, convenient and widespread large scale vaccination must be the top priority to reduce n control the pandemic like how China successfully did with its 1.5 billion population. Why can’t we learn from the countries that have successfully toned down Covid-19 since Malaysia has such good diplomatic ties especially with China, etc. The lockdown has been ongoing for too long and this will kill most Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs). We need to control and live with Covid-19 like how the Singapore government is managing the pandemic, with strict Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that all have to adhere to.
As a general rule, the biggest challenge for real estate agents with FMCO is the inability to conduct physical viewings and inspection or for that matter to facilitate tenants moving in or out of premises. This is especially so when it comes to secondary or sub-sale properties, viewing and inspection is expected as buyers/tenants will need to physically inspect the property to ascertain its condition & upkeep, feel the vibes of the property as some would say before making an offer to purchase or to rent.
Learning from MCO 1.0 in March 2020, real estate agents and real estate negotiators have up their skills in the area of 360 photographs and 360 videos to create an as-real-as being in the property. You can practically zoom in on every crack on the wall, if you like. These initiatives will allow viewings to continue even during FMCO and if the price is right, even close the deal. On the primary market, developers have long embraced systems and virtual walkthroughs and have supported real estate agencies with these in our continuous marketing efforts.
Market Confidence is key for the real estate industry to thrive and presently it would seem to be in reverse of the COVID19 cases.
When undesirable changes come, and in referencing the Kübler-Ross model, people will go through the “Five Stages of of Grief”. Starting with Denial, then Anger, Bargain, Depression and finally, Acceptance.
As the Final Movement Control Order (FMCO) makes for the third lockdown in Malaysia, this is something no longer new to the people. But unfortunately, business owners of various industries are still stuck at the “Bargain” stage, hoping for things to “return” back to pre-pandemic days.
As pivoting was yesteryear’s topic, how many people are even doing anything about it? Or even better, leveraging the trend to serve a new market need?
Running a Human Resource and Business Consultancy business myself, I have met over 400 business owners to talk to them about the current market changes. Many have still yet to accept “The New Normal” that Covid-19 won’t be going off anytime soon and will be here to stay.
Malaysia, in comparison to Western countries, are more careful of changes as it is not something the local culture is used to.
For instance, many business owners still expect employees to exchange hours at office as work value. In fact, the “nine-to-five work hour” was something introduced as far back as 1886!
How much longer would it take for the conservative job market to see that this is no longer relevant or applicable.
The point I hope to highlight is: “Change, or Be Changed.” The results (in your bank account) will tell the truth.
It is human nature to experience pain before deciding to try something different. Therefore, I just hope it will not be too late to embrace the exciting new definition of Value between an employee and employer. Only when both parties realise that there is no point going back to work in a physics sense, then only, through working together, there would be a chance to change the game of the new market ahead.
As we are struggling with this unprecedented time with yet another full MCO, we have to stand united with other leaders ofallbusiness communities to keep our heads up, working hand-in-hand with our government so as to help our members who are facing confusion and frustration arising from the disruption of their business operations. We hope they will preserve to come out stronger when the dust settles. Swift vaccinations to keep everyone safe is of utmost importance at this juncture. We need to battle this pandemic quickly! Lives and livelihoods both matter.
At any point in time, we must determine real estate investment and development based on a number of important factors. Population growth, lifestyle, and business trends. This is even more crucial when you are looking at things from the perspective of the “new normal”, as propagated by world leaders.
Even before the new normal, I’ve shared how online shopping, food delivery, AI and robotics, and real household income will determine real estate investment trends. Therefore understanding the general direction of global business viability, I would encourage people to look at properties that will be supported by these sunrise industries. Example: demand for warehousing will increase while demand for retail stores will drop significantly. I actually forecasted this a good 5 years or more ago.
The other thing I mentioned is affordability and demand. As we know, and it will become more and more apparent, there will be a much bigger gulf between the rich and poor. Luxury residential properties may still command long term value retention but much of the middle or upper middle income properties could see significant decline in value as people’s income drop because of social distancing, SME’s closure, and business failures in general, and as more people’s job are replaced by AI and Robotics. However, the future trend will see more people moving out of the city to live in more open areas as regular lockdowns occur. Hence demand foe properties with large land, terraces, balconies, should stay healthy. Also when people start to experience increase in food prices, affected by supply chain disruption, having more space allows them to grow and breed their own food.
We must admit that this present and current Covid-19 pandemic is totally unexpected. It is not only a challenge to all individuals but also leaders, businesses and the whole world’ s economy. It is a total crisis. Mastering this crisis management requires firstly, a fast action and driven – leadership style. The ability to make quick business decisions. Secondly, decisions involving people-internal and external stakeholders. And thirdly, the ability to communicate the company s situation across the Board and the country’s real situation across the nation.
The Orbix Education Group is pretty new to the education market place. We started in 2018 and now owns three international schools, an Ai & robotics academy, a corporate training company and a new facility -built ACCT-approved adventure team-building camp. We don t know how long this new “reality” is going to last. But what we know for sure is that we are not sitting on our laurels especially since we are one of the “new kid on the block”. We are actually trying our best to turn this crisis into an opportunity and doing our best to prepare our organization and business for a more transformed world – a more digitally and virtually connected world where we do not need to meet to work together and where we keep looking at ways and ideas, creatively, out-of- the box, nearly every day, to actually see how we can innovate, change and transform for the better.
As part of the management team, we also definitely see the urgent need to constantly communicate and be in touch with our staff and all stake-holders especially since we have had to work-from-home in- between this whole MCO 1 2 3 episodes. Getting our managers and staff into discussions, sharing information and putting into action on how we can move forward under such trying times will not only help boost, motivate and generate confidence in them but it also gives management a chance to hear relevant information and intelligence. At this point of time, many individuals are feeling the trying test of time and pressure. Many are so unsure, stressed up and anxious if they have jobs to keep and if so, for how long. Hence a two-way communication is so important and crucial in a work environment.
Sadly as Covid-19 continues to purge and terrorise the world, it is imperative that a company and its management and the government must offer some hope, a vision for the future and guidance to its staff and the people. I must say that the critical challenge in this present environment would certainly be on how management in companies and the nation’s political leaders can engage virtually in key decision-making processes with all and sundry and in ways that creates trust, transparency and teamwork.