Name : Dawn Marshall
Position : Head of Leasing at Yoma Strategic Holding
When did you first visit Myanmar and what was your impression back then?
My first visit to Myanmar was in 1994. My husband and I were living in Thailand then. My first impression of the country was the tranquil beauty; the grit and beauty of the country was none in comparison to anywhere I’ve been to. There were so many beautiful untouched places to explore, and we met with many gracious Myanmar people and I was touched by their sincerity, generosity and earnestness. I felt like I was stepping back in time. It was love at first sight.[paypal]
What do you think of Myanmar now?
We found an opportunity to return to Myanmar in 2013. We saw the possibility for change with a series of noteworthy actions by the government to -wards political and economic reforms. It was very exciting. By this time I knew the country was easier to live in and the time was right for me personally to come to Myanmar. My feelings for the country is still the same as when I first visited in 1994; it is still a very charming country with a lot of opportunities to travel and explores areas untouched by the modernization and development that’s taking place.
How did you end up at current position?
I had known SPA Myanmar & Yoma Strategic Holdings for many years and I knew there was an incredible potential for the Group to grow stronger in Myanmar. I was given the opportunity to work for them and be part of this exciting journey of growth; of the company as well as of the country.
What are your primary responsibilities?
My role as head of leasing in the company’s real estate division is to oversee the management of the entire rental portfolio of properties both owned by the company and those privately owned and under our management, at both Pun Hlaing Estate and Star City. We have under management the largest portfolio of residential properties in Yangon. Please explain to our readers about Star City and other leasing business of YSH. Located along the banks of the Bago River, Star City is a 135 acre residential development located between the city center of Yangon and the Thilawa Special Economic Zone. It is truly a lush green oasis with fresh air and currently, great views to the Shwedagon Pagoda. Today Star City is a vibrant community of over 2,000 condominium units as well as commercial, restaurants, stores, school, golf course and services, and we offer internationally designed apartments that are unfurnished, furnished, semi-serviced and fully serviced.
The Star Residence is a 150 unit building owned and managed by our company. Residents of the Star Residence have access to the swimming pool, a private gym and reduced rates at the business center. The balance of the apartments are owned privately but professionally managed through the Star City Leasing team. Our Star City Leasing team manages over 400 apartments in addition to the 150 Star Residence apartments. We have the largest selection of apartment inventory for tenants to select from in Star City. Our other rental properties are at Pun Hlaing Estate where Yoma Strategic has beautiful serviced apartments over- looking the estate. Set in a 652 acre mastered planned community with rivers on two sides Pun Hlaing Estate is a spectacularly beautiful one of a kind development in Myanmar. The Pun Hlaing Leasing team also manages a range of unfurnished and furnished houses and apartments from three bed-room homes of 3,500 sq.ft. To large Estate homes with swimming pools backing onto the golf course. In add-ition, Pun Hlaing hosts an 18 holes golf course, Dulwich College International School and the flagship Pun Hlaing Siloam Hospital.
How do you find the progress of market for apartments and residences in Myanmar in recent years?
Over the past four years, I’ve seen an increased number of repatriates and expatriates moving to Myanmar as business and investment opportunities grow. So on the demand side, it’s increasing more housing suited to families. More restaurants, shopping, schooling options and general amenities needed to live. The market is getting competitive given the healthier and more vibrant business environment. The overall supply side has also increased. There are more options to choose from with new projects, large and small, coming into the market. There is a wider selection of high quality accommodation available.
Do you feel the market is going downhill at present?
I wouldn’t say it’s going downhill, but perhaps more of reality checks in terms of pricing. Current prices are reflecting the current level of supply and demand. Supply has gone up, demand has also gone up, and expectations for quality housing have also gone up. Can you describe the unique service as well as facilities that Star City offers? Star City is an oasis away from the fast pace of city. A fresh green environment where people can walk, run or ride a bicycle. Star City’s “community within a community” concept is the first of its kind in Myanmar, where residents can have convenient access to a wide range of services and amenities available on the estate including shops, a variety of restaurants, a supermarket, a spa, a dental clinic, banking facilities, dry cleaner,round-the-clock security, cleaning services, 24/7 central electricity, a water treatment plant and shuttle bus services to downtown Yangon. Sports and recreation facilities are available on the estate including a 9-hole golf course and driving range, swimming pool, kids’ indoor play facilities and a state-of-the-art, fully-equipped gym. We have Dulwich College International with a new campus offering a British Curriculum, as well as Pun Hlaing Siloam Hospital opened a medical clinic to serve the community.
Who are the main customers for apartments and Star City Residences?
We have a very good mix of nationalities living in Star City. There are 28 nationalities ranging from singles, professional couples to families. Due to the close proximity to the Thilawa Special Economic Zone, Star City is a popular place for those working at Thilawa including many Japanese families as well. What are the major assets of Yoma Strategic Holdings currently up for leasing? We have Star Residence at Star City which consists of 150 units ranging from one bedroom to four bedrooms apartment and THE RESIDENCE Pun Hlaing at Pun Hlaing Estate 16 three bedroom apartments and penthouse units with all season terraces.
What are the occupancy or take up rates like for each of these assets?
Star City has good occupancy rate especially because of those working at Thilawa special economic zone. We are also providing more short-term stay for people who are coming to Yangon for a few weeks or months versus a year. THE RESIDENCE Pun Hlaing has both long term and short term occupants. Families often settle in the service apartments while their shipment arrives.
In which ways working in Myanmar different from working in any other countries?
The young talent here needs to be trained and encouraged. There is a real desire to improve and learn. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many fresh graduates without any work experience but have incredible positive attitudes. In our business we work with many different nationalities with varying backgrounds. We need to understand how to work with all these people and recognize that English is not the first language for many.
What are your current projects beside Star City?
Pun Hlaing Estate is a key project. The new and very exciting project is Yoma Central and the Pennisula Yangon. Situated on a 10-acre downtown site at the heart of the central business district with about 2.44 million square feet of gross floor area, Yoma Central and The Peninsula Yangon have been approved by Myanmar Investment Commission. Designed by prominent architect, Cecil Balmond, Yoma Central is an integrated development featuring Peninsula branded luxury residences, two Grade A office towers, a business hotel and serviced apartments, all of which will be connected seamlessly by a retail podium. Anchoring the site is the former headquarters of the Burma Railway Company which will be restored into The Peninsula Yangon, a luxury hotel that will bring a new level of distinction to the Myanmar hospitality scene. Yoma Central and The Peninsula Yan-gon are expected to be completed in 2021.
What are the things you look forward to accomplishing in 2018?
Our focus has always been to create stronger and more livable communities for Yangon for people to live in and we believe both our Star City and Pun Hlaing Estate properties are already achieving that. We strive to be the best place in all of Yangon for singles, couples and families to live. With the opening of the new Dulwich College International campuses at both Star City and Pun Hlaing Estate, we see our estates becoming a very desirable living environment for families coming to Yangon.
We also recognize the challenges of achieving a work-life balanced environment in Yangon, we therefore have provided the opportunity for companies to rent office spaces at Star City so that they can live and work within the same community.
Our mission is continuously find ways to provide more activities for the residents, to understand well what will make our estates better and last but not least, to upgrade the quality of our customer service.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to invest in properties in Myanmar?
I would suggest buying from property developers with a proven track record for success and delivery. Investing in new properties comes with a huge element of trust – trust in the developer to deliver the unit as well as provide quality, and to make sure that they have the backing of a competent Leasing and Property management depart-ment to support your purchase in the leasing process. A company you can trust to provide effective management of your property and recognize opportunities to maximize your rate of return. A company that has a pipeline of quality tenants.
If you could make one major change to any government policy, what would it be?
I believe the government is already working hard to implement positive changes and reforms to the overall economy. It is a process that will take time but it’s on the right track, and I urge them to be steadfast in this process.[/paypal]