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Greening policy is key for Mao Sheng

Landscaping firm sees Singapore's national strategy as helping its expansion further, even as traditional challenges remain.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016 - 05:50

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"The importance of acquiring new knowledge as you go is essential for growth in this business. The company expanded by starting out with smaller projects before taking on bigger projects and scopes," says Mr Choo (seen here with the firm's Peacock Horticultural Display at Changi Airport's Terminal 2).

IN the span of 30 years, Mao Sheng Quanji Construction Pte Ltd has transformed itself from a one-man operation to an exemplary small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) of 500 people which includes a team of award-winning landscaping specialists.

Jeverss Choo, the project director and son of Mao Sheng's founder, managing director Choo Kim Chuan, sees winning the Enterprise 50 (E50) Award as "an opportunity for us to inform others that the landscaping industry is both interesting and increasingly promising".

"This is an industry that plays an important role in Singapore as it adds value to people's lives," he tells The Business Times.

Within the landscaping industry, firms operate mainly in four areas: designing, implementation, maintenance and supply.

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"Our company specialises on the long tail side of the industry; we are specialists in maintenance," Mr Choo explains. This represents the vast majority of Mao Sheng's business.

As a specialist in the maintenance facet of landscaping, Mao Sheng has had success at the Landscape Industry Association of Singapore (Lias) Awards of Excellence 2015 with "gold" award accolades for the maintenance of non-residential properties like Changi Airport Terminal 2 and the Parkroyal on Pickering.

MAXIMISING CAPABILITIES

With an emphasis on developing and maintaining Singapore as a garden city, Mr Choo cites Singapore's national policy on greening as key to the growth of Mao Sheng since its founding.

It is unsurprising then that a good 80 per cent of Mao Sheng's clients come from government agencies and ministries like the Singapore Land Authority, the National Parks Board (NParks), the Housing and Development Board and the Changi Airport Group (CAG).

"As an industry, greening is always on the three basic levels, which is the turfing, horticulture and planting; as a nation, we have been very successful at these three levels. Singapore has maximised its capabilities in these aspects of greening," he notes.

Acknowledging that government policies have aided in the expansion of Mao Sheng's business in the past, Mr Choo adds: "The importance of acquiring new knowledge as you go is essential for growth in this business. The company expanded by starting out with smaller projects before taking on bigger projects and scopes."

With the push for more blue and green spaces, the Singapore Sustainability Blueprint of 2015 has also contributed to the increased profile of landscaping and the expertise of those in the industry.

Mr Choo welcomes this challenge as an opportunity for growth for Mao Sheng.

In line with the Blueprint, Mr Choo foresees the continued blurring of the line between physical and urban spaces seen by the increasing number of urban projects due to Singapore's push towards being a green city.

Landscaping remains a laborious profession but with the converging of physical and urban spaces, the science of landscaping has become more technical and sophisticated, with a different set of considerations to be made in constructing green walls, green roofs, and the greening of waterways. These changes have not surprised Mr Choo as he had an inkling earlier of how the industry might evolve.

While traditional difficulties such as labour constraints and the changing nature of the industry remain, Mr Choo prefers to focus on overcoming less-traditional challenges to business such as engagement with his clients on the range of services that Mao Sheng offers. "This will help us in our industry and work in the future as we are able to add value to our clients," he says.

He has seen benefits to his clients through his insights and expertise. "What matters may not be measurable and we do have to involve our clients on the value and quality of the job we do and have."

RELEVANT AND NEW SKILLS

Mao Sheng also places an importance on equipping workers with the relevant skills.

As a testament to the company's drive towards initiatives to benefit its workforce, it received the NTUC May Day Partnership Award in 2015 under the SME category with its partners CAG and NParks's Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology.

Mr Choo says: "The challenge from the industry side of things will be our ability to accept a new way of doing things, and whether our workforce is able to pick up new skills."

He cites this as the most demanding of the challenges he faces.

Mr Choo is bullish on the prospects for growth in the industry.

"In short, I think green is the new and emerging economy. In this economy, topics like liveable and sustainability issues through the creation of green and blue spaces will be focused upon, coupled with the increasing use of technology behind it."

This focus will boost Mao Sheng's business, he feels. "When you have more green spaces, there'll be an increase in the need for the maintenance of these spaces. So taking up new technology and new methods of working have to be done."

As economies mature, there is greater importance placed on quality-of-life indicators and issues.

Mr Choo is proud of the benefits of a green economy. "The value we create for people relates to how liveable we make it for people," he concludes.

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