Prestige Online December 2013

The Bold and the Beautiful

We are in the lobby of the The Mulia Resort, the latest addition to Bali’s hospitality scene. Cheery holiday revellers are scattered throughout the space. Most are armed with cameras and dressed casually in shorts, floral dresses and sun hats. But not Rany Moran. Even on holiday, she is impeccable. In a chili red dress, vertiginous Louboutin heels and well-coiffed hair, she cuts a rather power woman figure.

“Do you even own a pair of jeans, Rany?” we jest, when we sit down for lunch at The Café, the resort’s buffet-style restaurant that offers at least six cuisines at any one time.

The entrepreneur breaks into laughter before explaining: “I’m only like this on official business. If you see me at home or out at the movies, you’ll be in for a shock.”

It’s rather hard to believe but the Indonesian shares that as a young business figure who deals with older associates, dressing appropriately helps her to be taken seriously. But this, she stresses, is about making the right first impression and anything after is entirely what she makes of it.

Growing up with parents who are accomplished business figures, it is only natural that the belief in making the best of opportunities that come her way resonates strongly with her.

Take her successful business venture, Amazonia. The 34-year-old started the family entertainment centre in June 2011 after observing that there are limited entertainment and activity options for young children in Singapore. Together with her husband of seven years, Colin, a logistics director at an oil and gas firm, the mother of two boys delved into intensive research and conceptualised Amazonia from scratch.

Sprawled over 9,500sq ft, the indoor playground boasts different sections to engage children from three-months to 12-years of age. There is the jungle gym with a giant 8-m blue slide, the 3D glow golf where kids can have a go at the nine-hole indoor putting course, the Spaceball room where aliens get taken out via electronic cannons and a toddler play area with a ball pit and a floor piano (think Tom Hanks in the movie Big).

“It was my first project with Colin and it turned out quite well. The secret to working together is to communicate,” she says. “Arguments and debates included.”

Two years on, Amazonia has seen over 100,000 guests walk through its doors and hosted over 2,000 birthday parties. Its membership has registered a steady growth over the past two years and counts high-society mums as its biggest fans.

The success of this venture is not limited to Singapore. So well-received is Amazonia that Moran opened Wowzonia, its sister branch in September this year at Lippo Mall in Jakarta. The savvy entrepreneur will be opening two more outlets in Kuala Lumpur and India in early 2014.

She attributes the steady growth of her business to the unique concept of the centre. Even when acquaintances expressed their scepticism at opening in a high rental environment, she chose to stick to her gut. “I believed strongly in what we had put together, the quality of our services and our prime location at Great World City. I told myself: ‘This will work, Rany.’ And pushed on.”

This optimism is something that she inherited from her folks. “They’ve always encouraged me to dream big and that nothing is impossible. The hunger to achieve something is important. One thing my dad always tells me is to never take no for an answer.”

Moran has learnt this first hand by working for the property (hotels and office buildings) and media (a television station in Indonesia) arm of the family business, run by the patriarch. She first joined him after graduating from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Masters in Communications in 2005. While she recalls the journey being fraught with steep learning curves, Moran says that it has been nothing short of an invaluable learning experience.

Armed with this business experience, the entrepreneur deemed it timely to venture out with a business that she could call her own. Amazonia, she assures us, will not be the last. “We’re always looking forward to new enterprises, may it be something built from scratch, a partnership or an investment,” she shares. Moran’s enthusiasm for entrepreneurship is admirable. “Pursuing new goals is what keeps life interesting, isn’t it? I grew up among business people and always believe that you have to start somewhere,” she says, with a winsome smile.

She cites Robert Croak, the multimillionaire behind Silly Bandz, a wildly popular silicone rubber band that can be bent into various shapes, as an inspiration. “It was a simple idea that just went crazy. It reminds you just how big the opportunities are out there.”

Despite these positive vibes, does Rany Moran ever fear failure? “If you mean fear from trying, absolutely not,” she says firmly. “But when you have no fear, you become complacent. I think about it only because it forces me to plan well, keeps me focused and be hands-on in any business.”

Being hands on is also something her mum, who runs an apparel manufacturing business, has always stressed to Moran. This she taught her daughter by getting her to work at the factory during the college holidays. Then only 17, Moran naively thought she would be barking orders at the employees. Instead, she found herself on the factory floor.

“I was made to count buttons!” she guffaws.

After the initial disbelief, Moran accepted her mother’s order and progressed into more ground work in other departments, such as the fabric layout and cutting. It was then she realised how close a watch her mum kept on the ground operations.

“She knows and understands every step of the clothes manufacturing process and maintains a good relationship with her staff across all levels. My mother speaks in a way that touches people’s hearts. That is something I admire and hope to emulate one day.”

Now that she has children of her own — Nicholas, six, and Christopher, three — Moran has become more appreciative of what her parents, especially her mum, has done for her and her siblings (a sister, six years her senior and a brother, 10 years her junior) in their growing up years.

“She’s a very busy woman and yet kept tabs on the three of us to make sure we’re on the right path. We had the occasional serious conversation, so I never felt like she was away too much,” Moran says.

One of the things that helped her feel that way was the daily mandatory dinners at home with the family. When it came to this, there was no room for negotiation, especially when her father, who often travelled for business, was home in Jakarta.

When asked for a funny anecdote growing up, Moran tells us that she modelled during her teenage years. Her first stint was for a cover shoot and spread in one of Indonesia’s most popular women’s magazines, Femina. The catch? She did it without the knowledge of her father. “I love fashion and was excited to be a part of it,” the headstrong Moran explains.

And as fate would have it, her father found out in a most amusing way. He was in the car on the way home when a newsboy waved the magazine at a traffic junction. He had a double take when he saw the girl on the cover and bought the magazine to show Moran.

“I got an earful from him. On hindsight, I was quite silly, wasn’t I? How can I be on the cover and not be found out?” Moran laughs heartily.

Of course, today all is forgiven. She shares a good relationship with her parents and they come visit her and her family in Singapore fortnightly. “I’m very appreciative of what they both have done for me; I am who I am, because of them.”

Moran has been living in Singapore for some seven years now, having made the move when Colin, who was then a director at a logistics company, was transferred here. It wasn’t a big change as she likens her hometown of Jakarta to our city-state.

The couple met when Moran was still studying in Melbourne, through a mutual Australian friend. At that point, Colin had already been working in Jakarta for a decade and was very much assimilated into Indonesian culture. “We hit it off immediately,” she reminisces. The couple got married in November 2006.

Her husband, a British national, supports Moran in all her endeavours including her parenting style. They both believe in not spoiling their children and emphasise the importance of inculcating good values in their sons: “The temptation to give them everything does arise, but I want them to be able to appreciate the good things that they’ve been blessed with.”

And like her mother, Moran taught this by experience. During the days leading up to Amazonia’s grand opening, Moran had her elder son Nicholas count all the balls for the centre’s ball pit to earn pocket money. The six-year-old did this dutifully and later used his “earnings” to purchase a Nintendo DS.

Despite her busy schedule, Moran sits on the parents’ committee at her children’s school. This helps her feel more involved in their lives and keep a close eye on them. During school vacations, the Morans pack their bags and go on a holiday (usually to a beach destination as the boys love swimming and fishing) to bond. “It’s very important for us to do this every couple of months; it keeps the family close,” she reveals.

A businesswoman, wife, mother, daughter, committee member — how does Moran have the time for everything? Her husband sheds some light: “Rany is very efficient and multitasks pretty well.”

“I’m also lucky that I have a capable team in all the businesses I’m involved in,” she reveals. “It helps me to have more time for my family.”

Moran also confesses to be a compulsive list-maker. She has a list of goals that she sticks to her dressing table mirror so she will never forget. “When you look at it every day, somehow it works psychologically for you to achieve them. It works, try it.”

Some of the things that are now ticked off her list include opening her family entertainment centre in Jakarta, spending more time with her parents and her family. Moran is currently working on her list for 2014 and those new items, she says bashfully, will remain secret till they’re realised.

When the gregarious Moran has some free time on her hands, she loves to indulge in fashion. Her wardrobe is an impressive treasure trove of some of the fashion world’s most well-made clothes including couture pieces. This, for Moran, is an escape.

“Looking at a dress, to me, is like looking at a piece of art. I think about how beautifully made it is and the hours that went into it. How is it constructed? What materials is it using? I derive pleasure from enjoying fashion.” She describes herself as a sensible buyer who goes for classic and versatile pieces that can be worn on different occasions. Due to her busy schedule, the five-time winner of the Prestige Most Stylish Award often studies the latest collections online.

When something catches her eye, Moran usually calls or emails her personal shoppers from major designer labels and department stores — be it in Paris, New York or Singapore — to acquire the particular piece. Having been a client of theirs for over five years, these shoppers are in tune with her fashion palette. Apart from her requests, they also email her photographs of pieces that she might find interesting.

“I don’t have to see the physical piece before making a decision. This makes it easy to work with the shoppers. Over the years I’ve also become adventurous when it comes to fashion. I love to try new colours, fabrics and silhouettes,” she muses.

The stylish mum counts labels such as Lanvin, Christian Dior, Valentino and Peter Pilotto as some of her favourites. They are her go-to labels for her daily staples and evening ensembles. And if you’re wondering, yes, she does own a pair of jeans.