Dato’ Murly Manokharan is the Founder, major Shareholder and Group Chief Executive Officer of Aspen Group, one of the pioneering champions of affordable housing in Penang, Malaysia.
His journey as an entrepreneur began with a simple belief and an inspiration. A belief in efforts and integrity and an inspired vision to pursue what he knew best. When he founded Aspen Group, Dato’ Murly was determined to do better than other industry players. He believed he could deliver more to the market. Today, Aspen Group is widely recognised as one of the fastest growing companies around taking on various high-impact projects and is making major waves in the industry.
A man of sharp business acumen, he noticed that hardly any organisation in the property sector was keen to serve the middle income group. He saw the huge demand and opportunity and moved in swiftly to plan and implement a strategy.
The way up for Dato’ Murly however, despite its pace, was hardly smooth. There were many ups and downs but he remained composed and committed about his vision. Barely three months into the business, he experienced a huge setback on his first venture. His brainchild and the first project that Aspen Group tendered was not awarded to the company despite Aspen Group being the highest bidder and the fact that the entire concept and master-planning of the project was proposed by Dato’ Murly himself before the tender was called.
Following the setback, which would have been considered fatal in most companies, even his partner and company chairman asked him whether the Aspen Group vision was still viable. Dato ‘ Murly immediate reply was: “We can only grow stronger from this point onwards. Yes, of course, Aspen Group will rise.”
That day was the turning point that spurred Dato’ Murly to begin building a strategic land bank based on his business model. From that very foundation he laid out, he charted an excruciatingly detailed and comprehensive strategy for Aspen Group even with very limited capital.
Understanding that people is the key and most fundamental asset for any organisation, Dato’ Murly made Aspen Group an attractive place to work and grow for talented minds. He knew it was not only important, but crucial to have a sound business strategy and model and to also be able to solidify this model by charting the future prospect of the company and the direction it is heading. Only through this approach he believed one can attract, lead and keep a team of talented people in a way that challenges and excites them professionally.
Dato’ Murly has more than 10 years of experience in the property development and construction industries, ranging from town and urban master planning, industrial, commercial and residential projects. A man of diverse industry experience, Dato’ Murly has extensive exposure in designing and construction management of many major industrial projects locally and internationally for renowned multinational corporations.
His early career years can be traced back to Ivory Properties Group Berhad (IPGB). Dato’ Murly first joined IPGB at the tender age of 19 as a technical assistant. There, he rose quickly through the ranks and became the Executive Director and Group Chief Operating Officer of IPGB. At 25, he was the youngest Executive Director and COO in Malaysia’s public-listed companies’ history. He was instrumental in shaping the success of IPGB as a premier property developer in Penang and is a key driver in IPGB’s listing exercise in the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia when the group successfully completed its initial public offering (IPO) in 2010. Under his leadership the Group designed, planned and completed mixed developments valued at more than RM2 billion, plus ongoing developments in the pipeline worth more than RM12 billion.
Dato’ Murly also served as a Key Director in Tropicana Ivory Sdn Bhd (TISB), a subsidiary company of Tropicana Corporation Berhad from 2011 to 2014. TISB undertakes one of the biggest waterfront developments in Penang (Penang World City) with an estimated GDV of more than RM10 billion.
Despite his relatively younger age, Dato’ Murly is known among his peers as a highly driven, dynamic and visionary entrepreneur with a repertoire of revolutionary ideas and plans not only for growing Aspen Group as an organisation but also to elevate the lives of people and communities where he lives and work. Individuals who work closely with Dato’ Murly describe him as an inspiring leader and entrepreneur who shows an infectious passion in his work, which in turn motivates his team members to strive for higher excellence in their every endeavour.
To the staff members at Aspen Group, Dato’ Murly is more than just an employer. He is a highly effective leader who provides not only care and guidance, but also fosters a strong sense of team spirit, commitment and active communication. While Dato’ Murly is known to go to great lengths to ensure that Aspen Group is a conducive place to work and grow professionally, he also encourages feedback from all levels within the organisation.
One of the most potent formulas for both personal and professional success, according to Dato’ Murly, is doing what one knows best and doing it better than others. To achieve this, he makes it a point to reflect on both successes and failures in every strategic windows available in order to effectively move forward and improve both as a person and an organisation.
Aspen Group’s Tri-Pinnacle, the first private-initiated affordable housing project in Penang, inspired a wave of affordable developments across the state, significantly transforming the local property development landscape. Under the guidance of Dato’ Murly, Aspen Group also successfully brought furniture giant IKEA to Penang as part of its comprehensive integrated township development in Aspen Vision City, Batu Kawan.
Joining hands with Ikano Retail Asia, the owner of the Southeast Asian IKEA franchise, Aspen Group acquired a sprawling 245- acre prime freehold land in the heart of Batu Kawan. Together, Aspen Group and Ikano outlined a large-scale mixed development master plan consisting of first IKEA store in Northern Malaysia, a regional shopping centre designed to serve as a one-stop destination offering the finest in dining, shopping and entertainment, condominiums, shop offices, serviced suites, hotels, office tower, financial hub, medical centre, international school as well as a diverse array of top notch facilities and amenities for the rapidly developing southeastern region of Penang. Aspen Vision City marks Ikano’s very first venture into property development in Southeast Asia, a fact that serves as another testimonial of Aspen Group’s capabilities and solid business model.
In the longer term, Dato’ Murly aims to expand his vision beyond Penang. He foresees Aspen Group building affordable homes in even more strategic locations all across Malaysia, which makes it possible for more aspiring home owners to benefit from his business model.
Continuing its blistering pace, Aspen Group recently acquired a piece of prime land in Subang, Selangor. As Aspen Group’s first venture out of Penang, Dato’ Murly is determined to spearhead this venture into another pioneering success. Aspen Group is also setting its sights on becoming a public-listed company by end of 2015 or first quarter of 2016. The total unbilled sales for Aspen Group currently stands at RM1.056 billion.
Towards the future, Dato’ Murly envisions Aspen Group to flourish not only as a real estate developer, but as a holistic brand synonymous with sustainability, customer-oriented practices, value-added services and a platform-based real estate service provider. Dato’ Murly considers making a positive difference in people’s lives the most rewarding aspect of his work.