Despite his youthful appearance, it is important not to underestimate the capabilities of Moh Wei Ken, or simply Ken, the General Manager of The Granite Luxury Hotel in Penang. His professional competence and leadership abilities are well-established and highly respected for the industry.
Ken, along with his two brothers, Wei Ren and Wei Khye, carries forward the legacy established by their father Dato’ Albert Moh See Eng, who founded the property development company M Summit Group in 2000.
Apart from building both luxury and affordable homes and factory parks, the Penang-based developer is also responsible for building and managing the hotel.
While studying property management at Nottingham Trent University in England, Ken utilised his semester breaks to gain hands-on experience in construction by working within the family company.
Upon completing his studies, Ken initially embarked on his professional journey as a construction manager, overseeing the building of the hotel and housing projects. However, in 2019, he felt a strong calling from the hospitality sector within the company and decided to embrace a new challenge by assuming the role of General Manager at The Granite Luxury Hotel.
Being a second-generation leader in a family business, what unique perspectives and values do you bring to your role as the General Manager of The Granite Luxury Hotel?
Of course, stepping into a hotel GM’s shoes was quite challenging in the beginning as my university degree and prior work exposure were related to construction. But there was one similarity – dealing with people with different behaviours and backgrounds. I need to understand the people working side by side with me; focus on their strengths and help them improve on their weakness.
My philosophy is only things and problems need to be managed; people, however, need to be inspired and cultivated. They will learn to manage things and problems on their own, with proper guidance and support.
How do you cope with internal conflicts, especially among the three siblings?
When we look into cases of how businesses involving siblings often turn sour, we learn one thing – the siblings put their doubt inwards and trust outward. We truly understand the importance of unity between siblings, which can lead to greater growth. If my father could singlehandedly build this company, imagine what three of him could do.
It is vital to determine the future direction of the company. Although my brothers and I are all handling different portfolios but if there is any major decision, we will discuss and come to a mutual agreement for the betterment of the company.
Often, we have our own internal discussions to align the company’s strategies to move forward. Of course, life is a non-stop learning process. This holds true for the business world too. If we stop learning, we stop growing, the company will go downhill and our talents will leave.
We have to constantly keep abreast with the latest updates and trends. Three of us have also gone together for self-uplifting classes and learning trips abroad to expose ourselves to new things.
Looking back on the hotel’s trials during the Movement Control Order (MCO), what were the challenges you faced, and what valuable lessons did you learn from that experience?
During the MCO period, we encountered numerous challenges that tested our resilience and adaptability. One significant challenge was the sudden decline in occupancy and revenue, as travel restrictions and lockdown measures severely impacted the hospitality industry. This forced us to re-evaluate our strategies, make difficult operational decisions, and find innovative ways to generate revenue within the limitations.
I also saw how crucial a hotel’s branding and value-added services are. Many hotels were engaging in a price war but the more prominent ones still managed to attract staycationers without slashing their rates much. Thus, during hard times, branding is still at the top tier of holidaymakers’ consideration when it comes to paying for a little pampering and me time.
This was one of the factors that led to our decision to rebrand M Summit 191 Executive Hotel Suites to The Granite Luxury Hotel in August, 2022. We decided to focus more on quality service, materials and ambience.
Furthermore, the MCO period reinforced the importance of effective communication and strong teamwork. We rallied our team members from different departments. Together, we explored new opportunities, refined our guest engagement strategies and implemented stringent health and safety protocols to instil confidence in our guests.
One of the off-springs from our brainstorming of crazy ideas was the M Summit Coworking Space where we transformed a whole floor of business suites into this facility.
And we are also proud to say that none of our staff faced any salary cut or were laid off.
These past two years have been a golden age of sorts for The Granite. Can you elaborate on this?
Certainly. After the Movement Control Order (MCO) and our rebranding, we came back bigger and better. We built a new wing which included the Presidential, family, party and honeymoon suites as well as a swimming pool.
In July, we are proud to bagged two entries in the Malaysia Book of Records for having the Highest Cantilevered Acrylic Bottom Swimming Pool and the Tallest Automated Hotel Car Park. Guests who swim in the pool’s acrylic bottom section can challenge their fear of heights when they look down through the acrylic panel. Many say they feel like they are floating in the sky.
As for the automated car park, it is snatch theft-proof, hassle-free and space-savvy, especially in land-constraint George Town.
Last year, we also won the Best Leisure Development and Best New Hotel Design & Architecture Awards at the Asia Pacific Property Awards in London. A few months later, we clinched two Luxury Lifestyle Awards for Best Luxury Real Estate Developer and Best Luxury Commercial Development Awards in New York.
This year, the hotel was recently honoured with the Best Hotel Design Award at the International Travel Awards in Dubai. These awards are truly motivating us to reach for the stars and give our all to our guests.
During your tenure as the general manager, what was the most amusing incident that happened in the hotel?
In 2020, it was the Year of the Golden Mouse in the Chinese Zodiac calendar. So, we had a life-sized mouse figurine made for our display in front of our hotel premises. Just days before Chinese New Year, the 7kg mouse disappeared. When we checked our CCTV footage, a man was spotted carting off the figurine before getting into a getaway car after midnight.
We appealed to the police and the press for help. The news even reached Singapore and Australia and we had friends from abroad asking about it. Some people even said they spotted the mouse making an appearance at the Thaipusam celebration.
I guess due to its high profile, the cute décor was returned after going “missing” for 16 days. A masked man was caught on CCTV putting the polystyrene figurine back at 3.14am.
My staff joked that the mascot probably went collecting ang pow everywhere and even prayed to the Jade Emperor before it returned. Ha!
What sets The Granite Luxury Hotel apart from other luxury hotels in terms of its amenities, services and overall guest experience?
I believe it is our unwavering commitment to exceptional service and attention to detail. One of the hotel’s mission statements is: “We are dedicated to treating all our guests like cherished friends and family, ensuring their stay at The Granite Luxury Hotel is filled with warmth, care and personal attention.” In this age of technology, there is still nothing like the human connection.
From personalised concierge services to bespoke recreational experiences, we strive to create lasting memories for each guest. Our commitment to quality extends to our luxurious amenities, meticulous housekeeping, and seamless check-in and check-out processes, ensuring a consistently outstanding guest experience that exceeds expectations.
With your background in property management and construction, how do you integrate sustainable practices and environmentally-friendly initiatives into the hotel’s operations and services?
Sustainability is a key focus for us, and we strive to integrate environmentally-friendly practices throughout the hotel. We have implemented energy-efficient lighting systems, water-saving measures and waste management programmes.
Among our initiatives are using reusable glass bottles instead of plastic bottles for drinking water in all our guest rooms. There is also a water station on every floor. The two blocks are also specially designed and built to maximise the natural airflow in our corridors and public areas. In the near future, we plan to fully utilise solar power.
How do you foster a positive and collaborative work culture within the hotel?
Fostering a positive work culture is of utmost importance to me. We prioritise family values such as open communication, transparency and mutual respect among team members.
I believe in empowering our employees by providing opportunities for growth, ongoing training programs, and recognition for their contributions. Regular team meetings and feedback sessions allow everyone to share their ideas and concerns, fostering a sense of belonging and ownership.
We prefer a learning culture rather than a blaming one. For example, I know that a person has made a mistake; condemning him will not make the matter right. More importantly is that he knows what went wrong and prevents it from happening again. He should strive to be a better version of himself and not just to show it to the company.
Can you share with us the unique features and offerings of The Granite that make it an exceptional destination for both business and leisure travellers?
For business travellers, we offer fully equipped meeting rooms, cutting-edge technology and dedicated business services to facilitate seamless and productive events. On the other hand, we also prioritise creating an atmosphere of relaxation and rejuvenation for our leisure guests.
Lastly, what are the future plans for the company and hotel?
In line with the increasing demand for Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives, our company is embracing diversification and expansion plans. We have ventured into the realm of solar farming beyond Penang, recognising the significance of renewable energy in sustainable development.
Apart from this, we have also set our sights on constructing new hotels in Perak and Selangor. These developments mark our commitment to providing exceptional hospitality experiences in key locations. Looking ahead, our aspirations extend beyond national borders, as we envision exploring opportunities for expansion into international markets by 2035.
For more details, please visit www.thegranitehotel.com.