BENJAMIN TEO JONG HIAN
Benjamin Teo, 30, is Chief Executive Officer at Paramount Property Development Sdn Bhd. Among other projects, Teo helms Paramount Coworking and their open-planned spaces Co-labs, which aims to be at the fore in evolving the way Malaysians work.
Tell us more about Paramount Coworking and Co-labs and how it fits into Paramount Property’s portfolio.
The idea of Co-labs Coworking started late 2016. We were looking at expanding our Property portfolio at Paramount Property. Being an award-winning developer with more than 35 years of proven track record in building enduring adresses, we can transpose all the skills of developing spaces to createbeautiful, conducive coworking spaces.
Co-labs Coworking seeks to create the workspace of tomorrow based on a future of innovation, disruption and creativity. As such, Co-labs Coworking creates spaces that inspire, uplift and help members innovate the products of the future. We build communities of like-minded people and bring them together so that they can achieve their goals and much more. Co-labs Coworking spaces are aesthetically and thoughtful designed workspaces with lush greenery coupled with accents of 200-year-old upcycled Chengal wood furnishing.
Our first Co-labs Coworking is in Marketplace Utropolis in Glenmarie, Paramount Corp’s first retail mall. Subsequently we launched our flagship space in the Starling in July 2018.
You were Director of Innovation in Paramount Property when Co-labs Coworking was conceptualised. Was breaking into the coworking market and subsequently leading Paramount Coworking something that came as a natural progression in that role?
When I was Director of Innovation, my mandate was to look at technologies and businesses complimentary to our core businesses – property and education. Coworking fell into my lap because we have the expertise and experience in creating spaces, so it made sense to better understand the changing nature of work, and how it affects the way we design and develop our properties.
How do you balance holding multiple positions in Paramount, and what are some of the challenges you faced?
Finding the time and space to address both functions adequately has been the biggest challenge. Furthermore, both companies are in vastly different stages in their growth cycles—Paramount Property is a stalwart in a mature property industry, whereas Co-labs Coworking is an upstart in a fledgling industry. As such, the needs for each company are at polar opposites a lot of the time, and managing this has been a great
Co-working spaces have revolutionised the industry, not just for SMEs but also for corporations looking to cultivate a more flexible and social working culture for an increasingly younger working force. What are your thoughts on this, especially in the context of Malaysia and the rapidly growing market here?
A lot has been said about the decline in fixed offices, and many have attributed this to the burgeoning of the coworking industry. I believe that both types of workspace can and will coexist harmoniously. Not all businesses can thrive in the traditional office, and vice versa in a coworking environment. It’s about finding the right solution for you.
I believe that coworking is here to stay. Over the past 2 years we’ve seen many coworking spaces pop up, and thankfully demand for these solutions have kept up with supply. At Co-labs Coworking, we understand that the world is changing, and as such, the office space has to adapt. We aim to build and curate diverse communities to challenge the status quo and shape future generations of leaders and thinkers.
Our ecosystem, built upon brand partners, industrial tie-ups and community driven initiatives, is designed to uplift the business community, especially SMEs and startups. Our tenants finds tremendous value in a shared community such as ours. There’s a lot to learn from other companies based here, some from other sectors and industries. The potential for collaborations are endless and it is much easier to scale up when you develop the necessary connections.
How do you see young people, like yourself, transforming Malaysia’s working culture, and the way businesses will be run in the future?
Being on the forefront of the coworking industry allows us to set an example of how we believe work should be conducted in the future. The experiences that we push hopefully will set the benchmark from which others can aspire to moving forward.
What plans do you have for Paramount Coworking, and where do you see it heading in the future?
There are plans for expansion and we are looking at four more locations this year. We already have two locations secured, Naza Tower, next to KLCC and Shah Alam as well as looking into Penang and Johor.
TEXT NEDA AL-ASEDI & SWAROOPINI UDHAYA NAIR
PHOTOGRAPHY ROBIN LIEW
ART DIRECTION AUDREY LIM