Hong Kong’s Kwong Man Kee Group has carved out an impressive reputation in the car park and industrial flooring industry. We spoke to CEO Jason Yip Kong Lok to get the low-down on creating and maintaining momentum in this fascinating niche.
Founded in 2003, the Kwong Man Kee Group has built an impressive list of clients from both the private and public sectors. Now recognised as a go-to name for anybody seeking car park flooring and ancillary works, the company was listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2016, following thirteen years of sustained growth. Current Executive Director and CEO Jason Yip Kong Lok has been with the company since its inception and has played a significant role in its success so far.
Initially, Jason began the firm as a partner, focusing on sales and marketing, but as the company grew, so did the scale of his role. In August 2015, he took on a broader, managerial role, becoming executive director in 2018 and CEO in 2020.
“In early 2000, I graduated from the University of British Columbia,” Jason explains. “Although I am originally from Hong Kong, my family had moved to Vancouver when I was ten. After obtaining my degree in civil engineering, I returned to Hong Kong and began working in sales and marketing in the construction sector. This meant I built up a lot of contacts with local contractors, suppliers, and customers. I first met Mr. Kwong, who is now my business partner, through this. Initially, he was a client of mine.”
Over the course of multiple meetings and conversations, the relationship grew into a joint venture. The pair decided to focus on an area of specialisation within the construction sector. They looked for a niche they felt was growing and also not too stacked with competitors, eventually settling on flooring, particularly that used in car parks and industrial settings. It was an industry in its infancy in Hong Kong at the time, and it was felt the new venture would have an excellent chance of establishing itself quickly.
“Back then, car parks and industrial areas in Hong Kong only tended to have plain concrete floors,”
From that starting point in 2003 with a small office containing three desks, growth quickly followed. The customer base expanded at speed, primarily through word of mouth. The Internet era was still relatively new, and social media had not yet become the powerful tool it is today, meaning more traditional methods of marketing were utilised.
Through a combination of excellent timing and hard work, the business quickly found its feet. As the company grew, more referrals and recommendations were gathered, and the two partners found themselves in a position to tender for bigger and bigger contracts. What began with jobs for compact industrial spaces soon became a focus on large warehouses, manufacturing sites, and car parks.
“For the past fifteen years now, we have been lucky,” Jason says with humility. “We have taken the company public, and that has given us so many benefits. Being listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange was such a proud moment. We were the first engineering sub-contractor company to get listed in Hong Kong.”
Of course, though, when you achieve something like that after starting out so small, you ask yourself, now what?
With the company they began having grown beyond all expectations, it was necessary to re-evaluate. Standing still, of course, was not an option. Shareholders and investors expected continued growth, and that needed to be delivered. The obvious move was to begin to expand the company geographically. Proximity to the huge market of China offered truly exciting potential.
“We decided to concentrate on some of the Chinese cities, to begin with,” Jason explains. “The bay area of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau contains nine cities and around eighty million people. Especially Macau, where there are a lot of hotels and casinos, we saw a great deal of opportunity there.”
Alongside geographical growth, the company also diversified its product offering. While ninety-five percent of company revenue still comes from floorings and resins, the Kwong Man Kee Group now offers spray paint coatings with textured effects and basement waterproofing additives. The latter is proving a strong seller at home in Hong Kong, where land is at a premium and all building work tends to involve multiple floors and subterranean levels. The addition of the company’s additive to concrete used for floors and walls below ground ensures waterproofing in a quick and cost-effective way for any new build project.
While the company managed to establish itself in a field with few competitors at its inception, over time, competition has naturally arisen. However, Kwong Man Kee Group’s position as a public limited company has helped it to differentiate itself from others operating in the same sector. In particular, this shows itself in personnel.
“In addition to other benefits, our public listed status means we can hire selectively and recruit some of the best Hong Kong talents,” Jason explains. “This has been especially important as we have grown. At the very beginning, the company was just the two of us, but now we employ around forty people, so it’s vital to make sure they are the best you can get. We really trust our employees, and our staff turnover rate is very low, which demonstrates how much value we place in our people.”
As with any company involved in engineering, construction, and similar fields, supply chain competence has also played an enormous part in Kwong Man Kee Group’s success. Some of their supply chain partners have worked with them since the company’s beginnings in 2003 and remain as trusted collaborators today.
“This is very important,” Jason says. “The suppliers we have working with us are very supportive regarding payment terms and also all the documentation we need to satisfy industry standards.”
The longstanding relationships cultivated by the company ensure that exacting specifications are met and customers can trade with Kwong Man Kee Group in complete confidence. Their public listed status means three suppliers must be found for each product. In this way, comparisons can be made for cost, efficiency, and quality, ensuring the highest standards possible.
Any potential supplier is then monitored for up to five months prior to reciprocal arrangements being made in order to establish their credentials. As such, the company has built up an impressive portfolio of suppliers from all over the world, eager to break into the Hong Kong market and use Kwong Man Kee Group as a distributor. Over time, many of these suppliers have grown to become established and co-dependent partners.
“That’s what it’s all about for us,” Jason says. “We work hard, do our best for our customers, and put great value in people. At Kwong Man Kee Group, it’s a family ethos. Whether you work with us as an employee, a supplier, or a customer, we always have this approach.”