Theseira, Simpson Marine’s Malaysia Country Manager, is organising the Simpson Marine display at the Penang RendezVous from October 11-13. Raised in Penang and now based in Port Dickson, he has extensive knowledge of power and sailing yachts, as well as the coastal cruising grounds of Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. He is fluent in English, Malay and Chinese.
Simon, what’s your first recollection of being on the water?
When I was a kid, many family outings included fishing for the week’s supply of fish. As I was so enthusiastic about fishing, my parents got me a 12ft fibreglass boat with a 6hp Suzuki outboard motor. This took me places you could never imagine. Ignorance does make you do crazy things and coupled with an old Toyota DX and my 12ft car topper, I travelled to many parts of Malaysia in search of the ‘big catch’. I was 17 then.
How did you get into the leisure boating business?
At the age of 20, I was among a group of college friends who opened a cafe in the Georgetown CBD in Penang. This was quite an exciting time and I got to meet a lot of people.
I also frequented a boat yard in Penang named Aquanauts. They had a fleet of boats in their yard and being around boats always excited me. I took on the first chance to work in the yard, cleaning and fuelling boats. This allowed me to meet many owners who needed crew to come along for fishing trips. This was pure happiness, being paid for a hobby. I was quickly put into sales and the rest is history.
How did your career evolve from there?
Aquanauts was also the agent for Simpson Marine, which was the distributor for Sea Ray and Fountain. To many people’s amazement, I sold a few Sea Rays and Fountain powerboats in Penang. I then started making some big sales for Simpson Marine and there was no turning back after that.
In fact, I sold many boats, but this wasn’t that important to me as money was not my focus. Fishing and outings were my number one priority. I was 22 at that time.
What was the yachting landscape like in 1998 when you joined Simpson Marine?
It was a tough time for many businesses here in Malaysia and numerous multinational companies had to close down due to the Asian Financial Crisis. I was thrown in at the deep end and many staff in Simpson Marine Malaysia left.
With a little luck, I found an edge and my mentor Robin Wyatt showed me a few ropes. I was introduced to brokerage sales, which had a very healthy inventory in Malaysia.
My first sale was a Grand Banks 46 and again luck was on my side. I had met Terry Mills who also became my mentor and showed me a few more skill sets. He purchased many yachts from me and I was then selling brokerage yachts all over Asia, including Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. I was then 24 and, wow, what a great time that was.
Can you talk about your success selling Lagoons and why you think this brand and catamarans in general have proved so popular in Malaysia and across Asia?
For many years, I was selling 40-50ft motor yachts. However, many of the buyers were from Kuala Lumpur and they would have to cruise 330nm to get to Langkawi, which is quite a distance and proving quite expensive. So, I started to look at Lagoon sailing catamarans, which offered plenty of space and cost-efficient cruising. The buyers loved the concept as they liked the idea of a floating villa anywhere in Asia. Plenty of Lagoon 620s were sold because of this concept.
For new sales, what brands are you now focusing on?
Simpson Marine carries a good selection of yachts, which allows a client to decide on the right yacht. Being multi-brand in an emerging yacht market is important, as customers get a chance to explore various types of yachts. However, I have a soft spot for Lagoon and Aquila catamarans as I believe these are the right types of yachts for Asia.
Why does Aquila fit well into the portfolio of brands you’re selling?
Aquila is a well-built boat and being an American brand, proper study is done to ensure safety and comfort. I see a great future, with this brand being the top-selling power catamaran in the region (note: the boats are built in China). The huge deck space and shallow draft, perfect for Asia’s shallow coastal waters, allow you to explore many parts of the region with cost-effective fuel efficiency.
Over the past two decades, how have the brokerage and charter businesses changed?
Brokerage has always been an important source of income for the company. Usually, when we have a slowdown in new yacht sales, brokerage will be a good substitute. It’s always good to sell to clients who want to be safe and not spend too much on their first boat.
However, charter is a new and growing market in Asia, with tremendous potential. Charter seems to be focused in established yachting hubs like Phuket, but emerging markets are growing fast. Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia have huge, unexplored potential and charter will only get more popular in those countries. The Internet makes it easy to book, while beautiful images of cruising in these tropical holiday destinations also help.
How do you see the yacht industry in Malaysia changing in the coming years?
Malaysia is still a growing market. Yachting is still only for the affluent or so it seems. It can only get better with more facilities. The opening of more waterfront properties will also allow Malaysians to enjoy yachting at their doorstep.
What are your most memorable experiences in the industry?
Every day is an experience … I have met people some would only imagine!
The original article appears in Yacht Style Issue 49. Email [email protected] for print subscription enquiries or subscribe to the Magzter version at: www.magzter.com/SG/Lux-Inc-Media/Yacht-Style/Fashion/