Dtac founder and chairman Boonchai Bencharongkul, 58, is now more worried
about his legacy than making money. He just opened his Museum of Contemporary
Art (MOCA) and even has a project to support Thai farmers.
I always wanted to be an artist ever since I was a teenager. My parents were afraid that I would get into an art school so they tricked me into going to the US for a short trip and ended up leaving me with a host family in Illinois.
I was a little shocked at first but I had lots of fun there. I even hosted a party where all the teenagers in town came and destroyed everything in the house while my guardians were out of town. I ran away to New York in the morning before they came back home.
I finally came back to clean up the mess and took a cut from my allowance in order to fix the house. Anyways, I got this reputation for being the guy who threw the coolest party in town.
Being a patron for the arts is better than being an artist. I realized that when I studied business in university. I’ve been collecting art ever since.
It was really hard to take over my family’s empire, because we had huge debts from lawsuits. My dad was sued by his friend who was his business partner at Narai Hotel.
When close friends fight, it’s always hard to reconcile them. The partner demanded I bend down on my knees and ask for forgiveness for what my father had done. I did and later sold all stakes of the hotel to him.
You can make a decision easily when you have made a promise. My dad was dying from cancer of the gallbladder when he made me promise to take care of the family as well as he had. And I have always kept that promise.
It’s better to stumble alone than to drag others down with you. I paid off all the debts on my estate’s share so my siblings wouldn’t have any problems paying it off.
The biggest problem with business people is their egos. Many leading businessmen in Thailand have failed because they hold their ego above the survival of their business.
Let the boxers of the same weight fight each other. That’s why I sold Dtac to Telenor Group seven years ago. I learned that AIS would sell Shin Corp. to Singtel Group, the leading mobile company in Asia, and there was no way we could win over that regional player. But now I’ve bought some shares back.
Everything has a starting point. Nearly 30 years ago, I wanted to use a mobile phone in Thailand so I decided to import mobile phones and established the mobile network [TAC] to support it. Now we have more than 80 million mobile numbers in Thailand.
Art museums also need someone to start them. If the government isn’t ready for an art museum, then why can’t I just make one? If others want to open museums like me, that’s exactly What I want to do, widen the appeal of arts.
I don’t want people to remember me as the guy who founded Dtac or the guy who had a big fight with the government about mobile networks. It’s not a nice picture.
I want to be remembered as a delicate man who admires the beauty of art and gives back to society as a philanthropist.
Creating beauty is harder than destroying it. It takes years to create a beautiful art piece but it takes just a minute to destroy it. We need to support those who create beautiful things in the world.
My parents are my biggest inspiration. They are my business and life teachers. When I came back from the US, my dad sent me out to be an insurance salesman. It taught me so much about life and how to persuade people to believe in what you’re doing.
The king devoted the best 60 years of his life to the people and that has inspired me to give back, too.
I can’t imagine any other place on earth that I’d want to live in other than Thailand. I have friends, food and Chatujak Market. This is our home.
Don’t put personal benefit ahead of charity. I put a hundred million baht into creating the Rakbankerd Foundation 15 years ago to strengthen our agriculture industry. Our objective is to cut out the middle man.
I am like a snake antivenom for farmers, protecting them from the poison of this capitalistic world. Our farmers are losing out to everyone, and it’s weakening the system. I’m trying to make Rakbankerd successful as quickly as possible, as I know capitalism well. If it’s successful, it will be my biggest achievement.
Money can bring happiness only if you know how to spend it on what can bring you true, lasting happiness.
I’m not a playboy. People always depict me as having many wives but I’m still broken-hearted, waiting around for this one woman who left me.
Love is the biggest threat to artists like me. It can destroy your life.
Visit MOCA website at www.mocabangkok.com