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Monday, March 3, 2008

Right timing and location pay off

When they first started out in the Italian restaurant business in 1996, Piccolo Group managing director Suzianna Wong-Svrcula and her husband, Dr Kurt-Svrcula, took the plunge by trusting their instinct that “the timing and location would be good.”

“To be honest, when we first started in the food business, we had no idea where it would take us. Trusting our instinct was the right thing to do and had been proven right as the business is still prospering today,” Suzianna said.

Suzianna Wong-Svrcula and her husband Dr Kurt Svrcula have plans to expand their business.

“The rest was hard work, good practices like providing good food and services. I believe most businesses started from that one seed. If it grows well, it would give you the confidence to grow more.”

Having built up a chain of three Piccolo Mondo eateries and one fine dining restaurant (the Ristorante L’Opera) in Kuala Lumpur, the couple are now focusing on the hospitality business.

Their maiden hotel project, Piccolo Hotel along Kuala Lumpur's Bintang Walk, will be opening for business at the end of this month.

“This time around, we have a clear vision of what we want to do. When we boldly took over the lease of the 13-storey Wisma Peladang building five years ago, our vision was to turn it into a hotel-cum-retail space complex, in line with the company’s goal to build our Piccolo brand for further growth,” she said.

The building had since been renovated at a cost of RM42mil and renamed the Piccolo.

On the lower three floors are Piccolo Galleria lifestyle activity centre, while the rest of the building will be occupied by Piccolo Hotel, a 239-room boutique hotel.

Suzianna said the new hotel venture would benefit the group’s restaurant business as Piccolo Mondo would be providing breakfast and room service to Piccolo Hotel. It will also operate a lounge bar on the ground floor of the building.

“Going forward, these new ventures are expected to raise Piccolo Mondo’s group sales by 30%.”

Not one to rest on their laurels, the Svrculas are already having a couple of other business ventures in the eco and sports tourism sector, currently at the nurturing stage.

“These projects will be in Malaysia, as we believe in building on what is probably one of the most pristine and bio-diverse eco systems in this part of the world,” Suzianna said.

A fellow of the Chartered Institute of Accountants, she has came a long way since her “corporate executive” days with several multinational companies in Britain, where she spent 13 years.

Upon her return to Malaysia in 1984, she worked with several manufacturing outfits before joining the Berjaya group in 1988.

Soon she rose to become one of the 10 senior general managers and the only woman to hold a top position in the group then.

For all her achievements, she was named “Woman Manager of the Year 1996” by the Women at Work magazine.

It was not all rosy for the feisty mother of two - Nikolai and Mikhail Svrcula, who are 22 and 21 years old, respectively.

In 2003, things almost came to a standstill when she was diagnosed with brain tumour and had to undergo a five-hour long operation, which was a success.

The tumour, the size of a 20 sen coin, was removed and she has since recovered from the dizzy and fainting spells.

Today, Suzianna is trying to take things a little bit easy and, wherever possible, follow her husband, who is an avid diver and renowned underwater photographer and writer, on his live-on-board expeditions.

On the things she cherished most in the journey of managing her own business, Wong said: “There is a sense of pride to have built an organisation with committed staff and well reputed and highly regarded products and services.

“As a business owner, I think the most important achievements are having built a successful and widely recognised brand of Italian restaurants and now, an exciting new boutique hotel.”

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

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