Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse vision might take years to realise. Nevertheless, individuals like Kelvin Lim, executive chairperson and group managing director of real estate company LHN Group, are already thinking about how this alternate reality might affect the world we live in.
“In the future, people may cut down on travel as they can enter cyberspace and mingle there. But this also means people will need spaces where they can house their computers and wear their virtual reality goggles,” says Lim, who took over the business from his father.
“This will probably reduce the demand for office space and increase the number of mixed developments where you can live, work, and play all in the same place.”
Take note as this real estate veteran has proven rather prescient with his other ventures. He has been keeping a close eye on the next generation’s needs since joining LHN Group in 2001 and has developed creative solutions that cater to them. With his astute leadership, LHN has evolved from a traditional warehouse and industrial space leasing company into a diversified real estate management group.
His new concepts aim to disrupt the industry sustainably by finding old or underused buildings and repurposing them to make them usable again.
“As a company that optimises space, we are very concerned about sustainability. Unlike developers who demolish old buildings to build new ones, we recycle old buildings into useful space concepts. By restoring a building to its original condition, we are reducing our carbon footprint,” he says.
One of the company’s most successful concepts is Work + Store, which provides small business owners with storage and fulfilment hubs, so they can process orders. This concept was launched in 2015, and there are currently eight locations.
He says, “Self storage was already a mature concept in Singapore. In contrast, we saw a niche in catering to e-commerce businesses, since they require small pockets of affordable space to operate. So we transformed the business to not only provide storage space but also create an environment where they can fulfil orders like packing and other logistics.”
With the rise of livestreaming, the company has also been installing facilities like soundproof rooms and light effects so business owners can use the space for their live streams. “The circuit breaker closed retail malls, but our spaces were buzzing with orders and retailers were busy packing their goods for delivery,” he observes.
This kind of hybrid coworking meets storage spaces will continue to rise, he believes. “We live in a world where customers can easily access retail platforms using their cell phones. So retailers need a nice website and digital marketing capabilities, not a shop front.”
LHN Group, currently listed on the Singapore and Hong Kong exchanges, also has complementary businesses in facilities and logistics management that tenants can tap into.
Coliwoo, yet another company concept, is a co- living space that operates in hotels, service apartments and residential spaces, and offers flexible leases that can be as brief as one night.
Currently, there are five Coliwoo properties here and he expects to double this number to 10 by next year after experiencing strong growth over the past two years. The reason for this is that more people are working from home and this has led to the need for temporary housing.
Co-living arrangements are likely to become even more popular as the pandemic eases. “With travel becoming easier, we are also seeing a demand among people who are returning to Singapore and looking to lease a space.”