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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rebranding for IJM

Every company knows the importance of brand image and the vital role it plays in defining awareness and distinguishing it from its competitors and the rest of the industry.

In the case of the IJM brand, its association with the construction sector is so well known that not many realise that it has also been involved in property projects for quite a while, IJM Land managing director Datuk Soam Heng Choon says.

Soam ... We want to communicate to customers that we are also developers

“Most people know IJM group as a construction company (IJM Corp), which is our core business.

“But under the IJM stable there are also three other listed companies, namely IJM Land Bhd, IJM Plantations Bhd and Industrial Concrete Products Bhd (a product manufacturer),” he tells StarBizWeek.

IJM Properties Sdn Bhd, the property arm of IJM Corp, has been selling properties for many years, especially within the Klang Valley, Penang and Johor. In 2007, it acquired RB Land Holdings Bhd to fortify its position as a property player.

Then, in September last year, the group initiated a rebranding exercise to create awareness that it was more than just a construction player.

“We embarked on the (rebranding) exercise to streamline our property business into one entity – IJM Land Bhd.

“We wanted to communicate to customers that we were also developers. Customers are more likely to purchase property from a reputable developer rather than a reputable contractor,” Soam says.

One of the first big changes to be made under its rebranding exercise was the incorporation of a new logo that says “IJM Land.”

“Within the KLCC area, you can see the IJM logo on some of the tower cranes because we are the contractors for a few of the projects there.

“But within the area we also have a project that we are developing ourselves. If we retained our former logo which just said ‘IJM,’ people would think that we are just the contractors,” Soam says.

The company’s rebranding initiative continues into 2009 and the next step is to address the mindset of its employees, says Soam.

“We need our people to start thinking more like a developer rather than a contractor. We also need to communicate our change to our stakeholders, suppliers, consultants and contractors on what we expect of them now.”

He admits that it would take time for everyone to accept the company’s new image and objectives, especially its own employees.

“We have people who have been with the construction side for quite a long time and the expectation of being just a developer is different from being just a contractor.

“As a contractor, you just build and that’s it. But as a developer, you have to consider various issues such as the design, quality of the product, customer service, complaints and the maintenance,” Soam says.

He adds that the company incorporates a lot of forward thinking elements into its designs when working on a particular project.

“When we put in a design, we actually think what people want in a home, office or factory that we are building.”

Asked how much IJM Land would invest in the exercise, Soam says: “We spend what is necessary, especially with the current economic climate.”

On the question of timing, he says: “I don’t think there is a right or wrong time to do a rebranding exercise. For us, it’s a good opportunity to do it.”

IJM Land has a landbank of nearly 10,000 acres spread all over Malaysia. It has projects in Penang, Negri Sembilan, Johor, the Klang Valley, and Sabah. About 60,000 acres are undeveloped.

“We have about 40 ongoing projects in Malaysia,” Soam says.

The company currently has about 300 employees. It is also one of the largest property developers in Malaysia in terms of asset size.

On the outlook of the local property market, Soam says: “I think it’s a foregone conclusion. The market is getting softer.

“But the central bank has cut down interest rates and that is a good thing. The situation is unlike the Asian financial crisis in 1997 when we were hammered by high interest rates.”

By The Star (by Eugene Mahalingam)

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