Leny Suparman Lotus X Dalvey Haus D1A
Leny Suparman Lotus X Dalvey Haus

The interview: Leny Suparman, co-founder and CEO of KOP Group, on the evolving luxury property market

Leny Suparman, co-founder and CEO of KOP Group, the developer behind The Ritz-Carlton Residences and Hamilton Scotts, talks through the changing demands of the luxury property market – and changing a project, midway through construction, to keep up with it.

Boulevard: How would you say KOP’s residences are differentiated from other luxury products?

Leny Suparman: Well, we’re a very niche developer, and we don’t do too many projects, but every one is quite iconic, I would say. We started with The Ritz-Carlton Residences – it was the first one outside North America – and to this day, we’re still holding one of the best prices in the luxury market. And then we developed Hamilton Scotts, another iconic, first in the world project, with garages in the sky.

For Dalvey Haus, we felt that the location is really nice, it’s set amidst GCBs, but so convenient. And it’s something different: a bit more understated and elegant.

Blvd: Each of the properties you mentioned has a unique location, with extraordinary positioning – they’re very much irreplaceable.

Suparman: That’s right. It’s like a legacy, you know, and we feel that our properties can be passed down for generations – but also, if you want to sell it, you will see a good capital gain. And that’s something we’re proud of.

Blvd: By comparison with The Ritz- Carlton Residences and Hamilton Scotts, which are very glamorous, with more of an old-world luxury, Dalvey Haus has a more minimalist approach to luxury. How has that transition come about?

Suparman: I think the idea of luxury has evolved over the last few years. But also, it’s because of the location. Dalvey Road is more of an old, ‘stealth wealth’ kind of address, right? So we wanted something that was understated, yet stands out, with a certain stature. The facade was very important to us — we wanted something that was a bit imposing, like a museum.

Blvd: So how would you say the luxury market, and particularly the luxury consumer in Southeast Asia, have evolved over the time between the launch of your previous projects and now?

Suparman: It has changed quite a bit. There’s a wider variety of buyers looking at high-end properties. It’s not just the traditional buyers from China or Indonesia – which were the biggest markets for the luxury market in the past. Recently, our buyers are coming from many countries. And that’s what we wanted when we developed this property, to cater to more varied nationalities.

New launch condo Dalvey Haus by KOP Limited
Dalvey Haus Condo exterior view

Blvd: And presumably this newer type of buyer, and their interests, actually changed during the period of construction, because you originally conceived of Dalvey Haus as having 27 units. And it’s ended up with only 17.

Suparman: It’s always the developer’s challenge, you know, to cater to the demands of buyers. So when we first started, we had some smaller units, the two bedrooms. But along the way, we felt that the demand grew for larger units. So that’s what we did. And the penthouse that we have here is 9,006 square feet – one of the largest in Singapore. It’s almost like living in a house, in a GCB. Which we thought is appropriate, because we are in the midst of all these GCBs. So you get the best of both worlds.

Blvd: What do you feel are the real highlights of this space?

Suparman: Personally, I love the aesthetics, the facade. It’s timeless, and quite unique. And of course, I love the address; it’s very close to the Botanic Gardens. And also the layout. There’s no balcony, no bay window. So it’s very spacious and the layout is square. Many people want to maximise the internal space, and for me, this is an ideal layout.

Blvd: Do you design from the inside out?

Suparman: Oh yes, we always do that. Especially for a residence, the proportions have to be right. For our first two projects, we separated the living and dining rooms to create individual spaces – very few developers would do that. We felt that for a high-end luxury home, it should be that way.

Blvd: Having done both top-of-market branded residences as well as non-branded residences, how would you say the two approaches compare? What are the buyers’ expectations?

Suparman: Well, when we first launched The Ritz-Carlton Residences, we thought that the brand would help us a lot in terms of pricing and the sales. Surprisingly, I would say that it was okay, but that wasn’t the reason why people bought it. For us, it’s not just the Ritz-Carlton brand – it’s also managed by Ritz-Carlton. And the whole team is trained and hired, and it’s the entire Ritz-Carlton system. So that really makes a difference.

The property is more than 10 years old, but it’s still very well maintained, and that maintains the pricing. You’ve got both the hardware and the software. Of course, we really went all-out in terms of the finishes. We put in the best, and so that’s the hardware. And Ritz-Carlton provides the software. So I think that really made that product such a collectible.

Blvd: Despite the luxury positioning of the market here in Singapore, it’s actually relatively thin on the ground for branded residences. Do you think there will be more demand in that space going forward?

Suparman: I think one of the reasons is due to our land price being quite high. So having these branded or international management companies adds on to the cost. It’s a question of how much higher we can get in terms of pricing. In other markets, they have a huge margin to play with. But for our market, it’s a little bit challenging. When we did it, the timing was good because we had that margin.

Blvd: Where do you think the ultra-luxury market is heading in Singapore and beyond?

Suparman: Well, I think thanks to our government, it’s not going to go crazy in terms of pricing. So this is probably it for a while. But of course, Singapore being such a global city, and a safe haven, it is widely known as the place to park your money, for your children’s education, etc. Once the dust settles in terms of the increased ABSD and all these new measures, people will get used to it.

In terms of pricing, it will be more controlled. But I do see that the luxury trends will continue, but slower and at a more steady pace. There will always be demand for high-end residential developments. But we’re running out of land, especially for the high-end locations. For central locations, you have to wait for the collective sale market, and that’s going to take time.

Blvd: Within the wider KOP business, you also have the hospitality arm. Is there much interplay between those two different spaces?

Suparman: We’re actually focusing more on hospitality. We have ventured into UK and bought a country hotel in Somerset, which is two and a half hours drive from London. And then we bought a hotel in London, which is under renovation right now. It will open in summer this year.

It’s a major renovation of an old Victorian building. 105 keys. That’s going to open in July this year. It’s a very good location – South Kensington, near Earl’s Court – and we are always searching for prime locations.

Blvd: With hospitality in the business’s DNA, does that then inform how you look for and create residences as well?

Suparman: Yes, of course. I guess that’s the service quality – we’re not just about the hardware. That’s why we decided to have Ritz-Carlton manage one residence for us. Hamilton Scotts has its own concierge service, breakfast service.

Blvd: What’s the next step for you?

Suparman: Singapore is our home ground, right? We will always have an emotional attachment to Singapore. Despite the challenging market, I think if we see a good opportunity that speaks to us, like how this particular location and this particular site at Dalvey spoke to us even though at that time we were not really looking to develop another residential property, we just might do it. Or we could go into a joint venture, or even as an advisor or consultant, because we’re passionate about it.

In terms of wanting to do a nice residential project, yes, we’re always open for that. It’s just in our DNA. We’re very lifestyle driven. We imagine that if this is a place that we want to live in, we believe that a lot of people will also buy into that.

Ritz Carlton Residences Penthouse bedroom
Ritz-Carlton Penthouse bedroom

Blvd: We’ve seen a lot of top Singapore developers also branch out into neighbouring markets. Is that something that you’re considering?

Suparman: Well, we are not a very big company, so to go into every new market takes a lot of time and resources, and we are very careful on that. We are already in Indonesia, but in resorts, and the UK will be a market that we will focus on, because we have experience there. We’ve had a few hotels before, and then we sold them, so now we’re going back to the market. We like to focus on markets we are confident operating in.

Blvd: And what about yourself? What inspires you about working in the space of residences, working with hospitality?

Suparman: I think it’s the people that I work with. Meet the consultants, and getting excited with our team about working on new projects. For residential, it is always about how I imagine I would like to live, right? So it’s a nice form of self-expression, but at the same time studying the market, and what we feel that the market would accept and embrace.

For hospitality, it is quite different because you’re really looking at your guests’ satisfaction, and also how happy your staff is – which reflects on how happy your guests will be. For me personally, that’s the biggest satisfaction – to hear from the guests, or some of my friends who have visited the resort, who’ve had a wonderful time because of our staff.

Go further with KOP Properties:

— Latest listings —