Proving her mettle

/ EdgeProp
November 24, 2018 8:00 AM SGT
Her father, Macly Group founder and managing director Herman Chang, is well known as one of the pioneers of residential developments with shoebox units. Now, Joan Chang, having successfully rejuvenated Lloyd’s Inn in Singapore and launched a new brand in Bali catering to young travellers, is making her mark on the hotel industry.
Built in the 1990s, Lloyd’s Inn, off Oxley Road, was a 36-room boutique hotel that catered to budget tourists who wanted to be near the Orchard Road shopping belt. The property’s façade and appeal had become outdated, says Joan Chang, the sole marketing manager for Singapore-based property development company Macly Group, which owns and manages the hotel. Five years ago, when she was 23 years old, she asked her father, Herman Chang, the company’s founder and managing director, to let her have a shot at turning around the hotel.
Chang: If I had started out at Macly Group without the knowledge and skills from my time in sales and marketing at Huttons, it would have been harder for me to pick up the business skills I need today. (Picture: Samuel Issac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
Fast forward to today. Lloyd’s Inn is a trendy, upmarket hotel that attracts foreign guests and local staycationers. Most of the time, the hotel is either fully booked or enjoys 90% occupancy. Its average room rate is $140 per night, double that previously.
Today, Chang oversees the management of the company’s two hospitality brands as well as marketing campaigns for the company’s residential projects. Apart from Lloyd’s Inn, the other hotel brand is Cara Cara.
Macly Group is an established property developer in Singapore. The company has been developing residential projects since 1987. Herman is one of the pioneers of shoebox apartment developments here. In 2004, his company launched the 35-unit Mackenzie 138 off Bukit Timah Road comprising studio units of 409 to 624 sq ft and two-bedders of 764 to 883 sq ft.
The revamped Lloyd’s Inn Singapore is regularly fully booked and popular among foreigners (Picture: Macly Group)
So far, the company has built boutique residential developments, cluster housing projects and commercial high-rise developments in Singapore. One of its most recent projects is the 15-unit apartment development FiveNine at Lorong K Telok Kurau, which was launched in February this year and is fully sold.
In 2015, Macly Group teamed up with another boutique developer, Singapore-listed Roxy-Pacific Holdings, to develop a mixeduse development, The Colony by Infinitum in Kuala Lumpur. For Lloyd’s Inn, Chang first embarked on its rejuvenation in 2013. She left her job as a business analyst at Huttons Real Estate Group 2½ years ago when her responsibilities in managing Lloyd’s Inn became heavier. At the same time, her father had asked her to come on board full-time, to handle the marketing of projects. “If I had started out at Macly Group without the knowledge and skills from my time in sales and marketing at Huttons, it would have been harder for me to pick up the business skills I need today,” she notes.
Herman Chang is one of the pioneers of shoebox apartment developments in Singapore (Picture: Samuel Issac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
Since joining the family business, Chang has added the Cara Cara brand to the company’s hotel portfolio. She also helped set up a second Lloyd’s Inn, in Bali, which opened on Nov 5.
Reopening of Lloyd’s Inn
At Lloyd’s Inn in Singapore, about 80% of the guests are foreigners the percentage has doubled from when the hotel reopened its doors in 2014. Chang chose to steer the company’s marketing away from the local market, as she felt that, with new hotels opening in Singapore, the number of staycationers at Lloyd’s Inn would decline. The focus on the international market also encourages guests to return regularly, she adds.
Guests at Lloyd’s Inn tend to be young — between 22 and 35 years old — and they appreciate the hotel’s new design concept. Lloyd’s Inn’s minimalist design features neutral colour palettes, clean lines and off-form concrete elements, which Chang favours. “I generally have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t, and so far, the outcome has been successful,” she says.
A room in Lloyd’s Inn Bali, which is furnished in a simple and elegant manner, like its Singapore flagship hotel (Pictures: Macly Group)
Chang’s business travels during her time with Huttons exposed her to how different property markets operate. This has helped her in managing the projects in Bali, as well as a new hotel project in Malaysia. These expansion plans were driven by her father. “He saw that the returns from the company’s recurring sources of income in its property portfolio had been stable for the past few years. And there was a need to diversify our investments outside of Singapore,” she says.
Securing new hotel sites in Bali was an unexpected opportunity for her, and she felt hesitant at first. “When I conducted an initial feasibility study of the area, I was concerned that it was oversaturated with hotels,” she says. An Indonesian property developer teamed up with the Changs to source out two separate sites in Bali three years ago. Despite intending to develop and manage only one hotel there, “we felt that if we didn’t grab the opportunity, it might not come again”, Chang says.
The pool outside a suite at the newly opened Lloyd’s Inn in Bali
But that also gave Macly Group an opportunity to introduce the Cara Cara brand, which Chang helped to bring into operation last year. While Lloyd’s Inn appeals to guests with a higher budget, Cara Cara is positioned as a more affordable boutique brand that is hip and fun, Chang explains. Located 450m from Kuta Beach in Bali, the hotel’s target group is experiential and fun-loving young travellers. A room at Cara Cara costs about $30 per night, which is cheaper than those at the hotels nearby. Currently, the hotel has an occupancy rate of 80%.
The Lloyd’s Inn in Bali started accepting bookings in October. The 101-room hotel features seven room types that range from 226 to 721 sq ft. It has a café and bar that serves Indonesian fusion food, floral-themed drinks and custom cocktails. Rooms cost $70 to $200 per night.
Adding value
Joining the family business was not the result of any pressure from her parents, Chang says. “I wanted to use the competitive advantage I had been blessed with — my family’s resources and expertise in real estate — and do something I enjoy. My interest and strength are in branding, aesthetics and marketing. This is how I can add value to the team and to the family business.”
Cara Cara Bali, which Chang opened last year, is a hip hotel for younger tourists
Chang is actively involved in the decision- making process at Macly Group alongside her father. She is also working on marketing projects that Macly Group intends to launch by the end of March next year. One will be a redevelopment of Riviera Point, at 2 Kim Yam Road, which Macly Group bought in a collective sale for $72 million ($1,461 psf) in February this year. Other projects include a boutique residential development on Guillemard Road and another residential project at Telok Kurau, and The Luxe, a new 723-unit tower at The Colony by Infinitum in Kuala Lumpur.
Chang believes that a leader needs the ability to harness the skills of different people and to get them to work together. While she may head the rebranding, marketing and reconceptualisation of Lloyd’s Inn in Singapore, she also credits the hotel management staff and design studio FARM for their contribution to the success of the rejuvenated hotel.
Lloyd's Inn in Singapore
She feels that while the industry may be challenging, it has been a fulfilling experience to see her ideas and projects come to fruition. Throughout her career, Chang has stuck to this formula: “Never let the opinions of others drown out your inner voice. Don’t let conventions define you and trust yourself to do what is best.”