EDGE SINGAPORE - The Place Holdings: Shaping the Digital Future in Asia
In 2007, the launch of Beijing’s iconic landmark, The Place and The Place Sky Screen, was the talk of the town. Since then, it has become a catalyst for enterprises of all sizes to expand their branding and business presence in China.
For China-born entrepreneur Ji Zenghe, this project is another showcase of his customer-centric and innovative approach, which has been his calling card since he began his entrepreneurial journey three decades ago, as China’s economy took off from the 1980s.
“To achieve growth and success, we must continue to be innovative in modifying business models to create customer-centric products and services,” the executive chairman of Singapore Exchange-listed The Place Holdings points out.
“With my current established business network, I can retire comfortably, and sometimes, I ask myself why I push myself so hard, because money is not a motivation now. But the entrepreneurial spirit has been ingrained deep in me, and I want to continue to make a positive impact on the people and communities that we serve.”
Ji, who holds a Bachelor of Political Economics degree from Beijing’s Capital Normal School and an EMBA from the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, also believes leaders must remain adaptive.
“Being an effective leader requires me to pivot, renew and reinvent myself as well as my team, so that our organisation can continue to adapt, innovate and remain relevant,” he adds.
Listed on SGX Mainboard, The Place Holdings is backed by the key management team of The Place Investment Group, a multi-billion-dollar Chinese conglomerate that has an extensive business portfolio in tourism, media, property management, biomedical technology investments and international trade.
The group has refreshed its long-term growth strategy in Singapore by integrating traditional businesses with omnichannel strategies and digital solutions to create new value propositions. It is also exploring growth avenues in the digital economy that is spurred by new consumer trends.
“While we remain optimistic of the longterm potential of our property development business, the significant capital investment and long gestation period for each property project may create more volatility for our financial performance as market conditions evolve,” Ji notes.
“Over the past two years as the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded, we realised that we needed to reshape and sharpen our business model to enhance our financial performance, and build a more sustainable future. As a result, we have focused our growth plans on opportunities emerging from the digital economy and new consumer trends.”
Pushing digital boundaries
In March 2022, The Place Holdings unveiled its plan to purchase 51% of the intellectual property (IP) rights associated with The Place and The Place Sky Screen for approximately $47 million.
After completing the proposed acquisitions, The Place Holdings is expected to receive recurring royalties income from the licensing of the IP rights for use in the operation and management of the real estate properties associated with The Place. A mixed-use development built in 2006, The Place comprises two top-tier office buildings and a high-end shopping retail mall located at No 9 Guanghua Road, Chaoyang District, the heart of Beijing’s CBD.
In addition, The Place Holdings will also generate operating revenue from the operation of The Place Sky Screen — one of the largest sky screens in Asia with 7,500 sq m of LED lights across 250m-long and 30m-wide space. This offers a spectacular light show experience with high-resolution imagery and state-of-the-art, immersive sound systems, as well as technological features that enable interactivity.
Pioneering new experiential marketing experiences, The Place Sky Screen has established a strong brand, and continues to be a popular venue and platform for various events, advertisements and media.
“The Place and The Place Sky Screen have become economic catalysts in Beijing, creating new business vibrancy and opportunities. This is a unique opportunity for us to acquire income-generative businesses that have an established track record and a proven business model,” Ji says. “More importantly, the acquisitions give us scale and expertise to amplify our capabilities to push the boundaries of digital media.”
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In June 2022, the group entered into a collaboration agreement with Stellar Lifestyle, a business arm of Singapore’s SMRT Corp, to jointly shape the future of digital media and tap opportunities in the digital economy with the development of the L.I.F.E omnichannel ecosystem.
As part of the L.I.F.E omni-channel ecosystem, The Place Holdings will spearhead Singapore’s first Sky Screen attraction, a suspended video screen that is an enhanced version of The Place Sky Screen, and which will cost approximately $200 million.
Aligned with Singapore’s vision for a Smart Nation, both companies aim to develop a digital platform with technology infrastructure — comprising artificial intelligence, Big Data, Internet of Things applications — integrated within the L.I.F.E omnichannel ecosystem.
“Together with Stellar Lifestyle, we share the same vision of utilising new technology advancements and infrastructure to improve the quality of our lives, as well as enabling SMEs to integrate new digitalisation capabilities into modern business models,” Ji says.
“With the L.I.F.E omnichannel ecosystem, we aim to complement Singapore’s Smart Nation initiatives by continuously improving our platform offerings and experience, creating endless possibilities and new value propositions for the communities we serve.”
Relevance and resilience
Apart from a laser-focus on day-to-day operational targets, Ji also remains relentless in pursuing the long-term growth goals of the organisation. Not surprisingly, his main worry is the risk of the business becoming irrelevant.
"Those who are able to adapt quickly, as we saw during the pandemic, are often likely to come off better in times of difficulty, with the ability to solve customer needs in the most efficient way,” he points out.
“We need to constantly, continuously innovate and compete against, not only the companies that have been in business for a long time, but also the new ones that are up and coming,” he adds.
“We must stay relevant, and ensure that the choices we make today, as well as the technology that we’re adopting, are going to be the technologies that people need and want. That will enable us to stay ahead of the competition.”
Similarly, Ji derives the greatest satisfaction from helping others succeed along the way. With a university major in Philosophy that has a direct influence on his holistic approach in life, he treats his staff like family members as they spent a significant amount of time at work.
As a result, he strives to create a work environment that offers comfort, guidance and strength, so his staff can start and end their day on a happy note.
“I believe that leadership is about helping others become the best they can be, and removing obstacles to their advancement. This inspires me, especially when I know that I’ve had a hand in the success of another, whether it be an employee, business partner or customer,” adds Ji, who is also an avid athlete.
And his advice to his team? Be resilient and resourceful. “Resiliency gives us the strength to continue on despite the challenges. Being resourceful requires us to make the full use of what we have in order to reach our objectives,” he adds.
“Because we will never have all the resources available to us, we must always think outside the box to make the best of what we have.”
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