I grew up in Bangkok, in the ‘60s. We’d drive two hours to get to Sriracha, Chonburi. To me, it was a completely different world there. There were three telephone lines, no electricity and no running water. We had to literally stuff our entire kitchen in the car with us, including our maids.
I was unaware, at the time, that I was being brought up in a wealthy family. And there were times when I had to fend for myself. Just like other kids, I took a part-time job cleaning pans at a restaurant , during high school break in the USA, I’d come back to my dormitory and my roommate would greet me with, “Dude! You smell like french-fries.”
My next job was lab technician at the faculty, assisting the seniors. I learned five times more there than relying on textbooks. And my roommate finally dropped the frenchfries business.
There was a design competition at a tech company in the United States when I was working as a design engineer. You had to draw a modem’s circuit board. The one who makes the fewest mistakes wins—you’re always going to make mistakes. But I only made one mistake and it wasn’t on the difficult part.
I loved scuba-diving. I nearly drowned in the Komodo archipelago, in Indonesia. The site was breathtaking. I was following a friend who’s a diving instructor, assuming he would know his way around. Instead he led us right into a dangerous underwater current that nearly got us killed.
Taking the role of president of Thai Airways International or any other world-class company is pretty risky, too. It’s uncharted territory. There are a handful of predecessors at Thai who I can learn from. But none of them have even been in the kind of situation I am facing these days.
There are obvious problems at Thai Airways. Almost every aspect of it needs to be fixed. But 55 years is a long journey. What remains is our outstanding service. We are the ones who set the standard.
Airlines these days promote things that can be bought, like Wi-Fi, instead of providing genuine service. It’s very different from the past when the reputation of an airline was made solely by its crew. We’re not going to follow them, though. Customer behaviors and needs have changed; but we have to evolve in the right direction.
When running a business it depends on how fast you want it to grow. I drive the companies I’m the head of in fifth gear. I have to go fast because I set my goals high. I have always been this way, whether at Siam Commercial Bank or at the SET. Thai is no exception.
I make mistakes every day. That’s how I learn. For me, the things learned in the past twelve months are what matter. They’re much more reliable than what you learned 20-40 years ago. Don’t read a business book written 20 years ago to learn how to run a business.
We used to remember people’s phone numbers. Now if you’re scrolling through your phone and can’t find your contact, you’re screwed. Adaptability is crucial. Today’s work day is different from the past.
You still need a strong foundation of knowledge and experience. If you lose sight of that, you’ll take unnecessary risks and end up trapped.
Be patient. Young entrepreneurs, they seem to follow Nike’s “Just Do It” philosophy. They just want to take risks. It’s understandable because they’re young and there will still be time and room for them to experiment. But keep in mind that you have to settle your business down at one point.
I am proud to say I have no unfulfilled ambition. If forced to think about it I would come up with many things, so instead I tend to tune out these thoughts. I have come a long way and nothing is more satisfying than the thought that I am content. I have enough. It’s a never ending game—chasing after ambition.
As a part of this job, I travel a lot. Sometimes I have to be overseas for a long time. I usually order curry, an in-flight meal that never fails to remind me that I am home.