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Monday, November 12, 2007

Bringing back the energy

The name QI Ltd may not ring a bell to most of us now, but this would not be the case for long.

It is a well-known company in Hong Kong with diversified interests in training and education, media, financial services, resorts and e-commerce, among others.

Director of investment management Kuna Senathiarajah, who is a Malaysian, said the move to relocate some of its operations back to home was a plan that had been thought about as far back as three years ago.

“Although the thought came about a few years ago, we have gradually moved our backroom operations back to Malaysia from Hong Kong just recently,” Senathiarajah told StarBiz in an interview.

He is also heading the local holding company, Wawasan QI Holdings Sdn Bhd. Wawasan QI is currently based in Petaling Jaya.

The energetic and confident Senathiarajah explained that the group obtained its name from the Chinese character Qi or Ch'i which literally means ‘vapour' or ‘spiritual energy'.

Kuna Senathirajah

“QI means the energy of life, the vital force believed to be inherent in all things. It represents prosperity and is the driving force behind the success of our company. We believe in the power of the individual, and we encourage talent to flourish,” he said.

The Hong Kong-based company, which has relocated to Malaysia, plans to make significant investments locally over the next few years. In line with the group's plans to expand its businesses, QI is working closely with the Pahang state government and the local authorities to develop eco-tourism in the state.

“We expect to invest RM200mil and RM250mil to develop a 170-acre beach resort in Kuala Rompin, Pahang. To date, we have spent about RM50mil. The earthworks have started and the project is due for completion by end-2008,” Senathiarajah said.

Apart from developing resorts, the group is also keen to develop both residential and commercial properties. It is currently looking for potential developments at the KLCC area.

He said the group was currently in advance negotiations to acquire a commercial building but declined to elaborate.

“Malaysia's real estate market is very attractive. It is an emerging market with good yields.

“We will be making Malaysia our next phase of growth but we will not take our eyes off India, the Middle East and Asia,” Senathiarajah said, adding that the company was also moving into new markets in Africa.

“We have a lot of plans in the country. We will develop a regional and global business in voice over Internet protocol and broadband though a joint venture with a state government. The project will be developed through our British-based telco subsidiary QiComm,” he said.

The group is also involved in bringing the world-famous Disney on Ice show to Malaysia. The show has been a sell-out for the past two years. It was also involved in bringing Disney Live! Mickey's Magic Show which took place over the weekend.

QI currently has about 200 personnel in Malaysia and the workforce is expected to increase in tandem with its growing business.

Senathiarajah did not rule out the possibility of establishing a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) in future. He added that the group was considering a listing option but nothing has been firmed up yet.

“I’ve always believed that a business person shouldn’t be stagnant but should always think of means to expand his or her business,” he said.

Despite being in the industry for just a decade, QI has established itself around the world. The group, which started as an e-commerce company has presence in more than 30 countries and has since expanded to other business sectors.

It has become one of the world's largest and most respected providers of limited-edition numismatics, fine gold and diamond jewellery, as well as distinctive timepieces and stylish writing instruments.

It has a customer base of three million in over 160 countries. Senathiarajah said he has lost count of the number of subsidiaries and countries that the company currently has a presence in.

Senathiarajah, who has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said he would probably be a diplomat today if he had not become an entrepreneur.

He is a businessman very much at the top of his game. He leads a hectic lifestyle, a job hazard that is part and parcel of running a successful business. He travels a lot and has been to Hong Kong more times than he has ever been to downtown Kuala Lumpur.

He confessed that it was not all rosy running a business.

“It is not as easy as many people think. I spend most of my time working. I do not really have much free time,” he said.

Senathiarajah said he was not a very hands-on person but was very goal orientated and would push his colleagues to perform.

He added that setting goals was relatively easy but “having a vision of what you want to achieve would be challenging.”

“A clear vision will serve as a roadmap of what you have achieved and how you are performing. Once you become successful, there will be new challenges confronting you,” he said. He normally starts his day late because of the difference in time zones as the company operates in a lot of different countries.

“If I start my day as early as 8am, I will be very miserable as I normally finish late at night and sometimes even after 12 midnight.”

Senathiarajah has always been passionate about what he does. His interest in running a successful business led him to constantly improve things– to look at a problem and tackle it in different and novel ways.

Although he is full of zeal, he finds joy in the simple things in life: spending time with family and friends, reading, and watching movies.

By The Star (By Leong Hung Yee)

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