Modern Treasure Maps, for Urban Treasure Hunters

“Aside from drones and computers, we are recently exploring technologies like AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) to project more information on the maps.”

Maps usually bring the image of navigation (your sat-nav or GPS), a quest for something (or someone – like Star Wars: The Force Awakens), or treasure hunting (your staple pirate fiction). Those in the property business know that there are treasure maps being made to this very day – one where it highlights property hotspots and areas of potential, something tremendously useful to developers, agents, and even investors.

For these particular “treasure maps”, there is one name that stands above the rest; a prominent producer that has been in the business for 30 years. And today, as industry buzzwords are interspersed with big data, autonomous and AI, a local mapping powerhouse is raising their game with AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality). This is the brainchild of Ishmael Ho, CEO of three-decade old firm and household name in the Malaysia’s property industry Ho Chin Soon Research.
“That was perhaps two years ago – when I was given the title proper; but even when I joined the company, you had to take the initiative and tackle these roles and responsibilities.”
Named after its founder, Ho Chin Soon, Ishmael is Chin Soon’s son, the very obvious heir apparent from the Ho lineage. Ishmael, who just happens to hit the big 3 this year has taken charge at the cockpit while the elder Ho has taken a backseat from active duty, serving as the firm’s Chairman.

A Converging Path
Read Ishmael’s profile, and you’ll notice that he’s taken a different path – an education in law – but eventually reached the same destination – a career in the property field, more specifically, following his father’s footsteps in mapping. The obvious question is, why?
“This has to do with my upbringing. Whether you consider it a curse or blessing – I’ll let you decide – both my parents are property valuers… The property mapping that Ho Chin Soon Research does is one-of-a-kind in Malaysia – no other company is doing what we do. In terms of succession planning, it turned out that I fit nicely.”
Being CEO, Ishmael is well-versed with Ho Chin Soon Research, as well as the evolution of property mapping, and by extension, the business. Suffice to say, the younger builds on the solid foundation set by the older.

Photo Credit: Ishmael Ho

Forging Ahead
Under the tech-savvy lshmael, the firm has started to use better imaging technology, as well as emerging ones (like the aforementioned AR and VR) in its mapping process, and to set its products apart from the competition. Using drones and aerial photography help cut down on mapping time, but, as Ishmael insists, drones are a tool to help, not a crutch.
“We started using drones about 4 years ago. However, strictly speaking, the drones are an additional tool that helps us out. We can still do our mapping work effectively without the drones. When we started using drones, we went to the industry and encouraged agents, developers and valuers that they should get their own drones.”
Ishmael’s leadership has also seen the business expand. Its manpower doubled (literally) and they have recently opened an office in Johor to meet the needs of clients based there. Despite its reputation and influence, Ishmael still emphasises that Ho Chin Soon Research is a small business.

Eyes on the Prize
Being a small firm with limited manpower incidentally means that the research house has to choose wisely in terms of mapping locations. By focusing on a few key products, this research outfit is able to deliver quality maps to those who purchase and use them.

Photo Credit: Ishmael Ho

“Currently at Ho Chin Soon Research, we are selective in our mapping. We only map a few key areas – Greater KL, Klang Valley, Iskandar Malaysia, and the state of Penang. Recently, we added Seremban and Port Dickson, and even some areas like Kedah and Perak, which we customise for our clients. We have extended our product list, which the property developers and agents are very happy about. We aren’t just a research house; we see a potential product, we develop it, we market it, and we service it.”
That said, Ishmael’s looking at bigger fish to fry as well.
“Over the course of our business, we’ve had enquiries and requests to do mapping beyond local and regional shores. One of my plans is to expand Ho Chin Soon Research globally.
“For 2018, our focus is on strengthening our presence in Johor. For what’s next, if it’s not Penang, then another country perhaps!”

Big Ideas, Big Opinions
Aside from maps, Ho Chin Soon Research is also known for its books – a collection of thoughts and opinions from the founder himself.
“We have produced 13 books – the first one was seven years ago. The books were a means of providing easy access in sharing our ideas to the masses. Our chairman loves sharing ideas; over the years, we have had many ideas, and using books is our best medium. We are now looking to print our next book. Our previous book was on this big idea of a high speed rail connecting Kunming, Iskandar and Jakarta.”

Now, this next bit might interest those looking for future property prospects.
“Our next book – which we are targeting to publish before March – is on Kuala Lumpur’s hotspots in the past, in the present, and in the future. We have a lot of aerial shots of Kuala Lumpur in our archives, when areas like Bangsar South and KL Sentral were still non-existent. Speaking on hotspots of the future, if KLCC is currently the city centre, then it’s safe to assume that TRX (the Tun Razak Exchange) will be the CBD (central business district); an icon. It’s exciting to see KL’s transformation.”
Be on the lookout for this upcoming release.
Also, stay tuned for Part 2, where we have a father-and-son session with the leading men of Ho Chin Research!

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