Romani is one of a kind

It's rare in Thailand to see a 26-year-old at the helm of a multi-billion-baht business

One look at Romani Boondicharern is enough to dismiss the stereotype image one might conjure up about the petite 26-year-old heiress, because she is anything and everything that isn't what most of us would expect.

She is the director and deputy managing director of Grand Canal Land Plc and, as such, oversees the financial and commercial aspects of a 50 billion baht real estate project in the heart of the Rama IX intersection off Ratchadipisek Road that has the potential to transform the locality into a central business district on par with Silom or Ploenchit.

Her other attribute is that she is a civil engineer by training, which she read at Thammasat University before going on to earn a master's degree in finance from Chulalongkorn University _ as opposed to others her age who given the choice would have chosen Europe to study fashion or hotel management in Switzerland.

Starting young has its advantages but at times it can be a challenge too, particularly when it comes to gaining the approval of peers, business clients and subordinates. Asked to comment on the issue, she said: "Actually, the problem still persists. Some foreign clients and investors find it difficult to accept the fact that I am so young.

"Perhaps it is my imagination running wild when I say they might not be happy [dealing with me], but looking at the big picture, it isn't too much of an obstacle."

How many 26-year-olds _ with a face fit for the glossy society pages of fashion magazines _ do you know who is capable of negotiating a 2.4 billion baht financing package from a bank?

"I oversee finance at G Land and deal with banks. It's been getting better after three years in the job. At first whoever I dealt with, be it banks or financial advisers, tended to ignore me at meetings and talked to my team instead. But this opportunity was presented to me by my father [Yothin Boondicharern] and the board of G Land Plc.

"As time passed, I gradually learned the ropes and the responsibilities that came with it," said Romani, who attended Kasetsart Demonstration School in Bangkok until grade eight before crossing the ocean to complete high school at the prestigious Cushing Academy in Massachusetts, US.

In a nutshell, Romani signs cheques, does the accounts, manages cashflow, borrows loads of money, closes the annual budget, comes up with financial projections, sells projects to bankers, and signs and reviews contracts, never missing the daily grind of meetings. Still think Romani is your typical heiress?

"I recently added commercial sales of office units to my responsibilities at G Land. The fact that I am my father's daughter is of little help. I must perform. It is a huge challenge with enormous pressure, but I am determined to deliver the results expected of me," she said.

In layman's terms, Romani explained: "We are developing a 70 rai plot in the Ratchadapisek and Rama IX area. There will be 2,000 units of residential condominiums spread over eight condo stacks covering 200,000m2, eight office buildings and other unique landmarks such as the G Land Tower, the Ninth Tower and the Unilever office in addition to the already completed Central Rama IX complex.

"Everything began when my father and a feng-shui expert stood on the plot of land we purchased 10 years ago across from CP Tower [which G Land built] when it was suggested the location of G Land Tower was the shape of a dragon's head _ a mark of prosperity and leadership. That is why G Land Tower will be designed to look like a dragon's head.

"After G Land's listing on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at the end of 2009, management decided the highlighted feature of this project will be the 36-storey G Land Tower [134,000m2 of space] built on five rai and optimally located on the dragon's head," explained Romani.

Another key feature of this project will be the Corridor retail plaza, with its prime targets the office workers in the vicinity.

"It will be like an air-conditioned market, with retail shops and connecting walkways underneath the buildings linking the MRT subway system,"she said.

The G Land project will do wonders to the land prices in the Ratchadapisek area, which according to analysts, may have risen to about 400,000 baht per square wah.

"This will become the next CBD like Silom where major banks, world-class hotels, luxury condominiums, and an airport nearby will allow the residents the luxury of not having to go anywhere else in the city.

"G Land will cater to their every discerning need and taste."

The real estate sector, she commented, was dependent on location.

"Competition is intensifying as we speak. Condos are rising like mushrooms while people in the business talk about a possible bubble.

'I am confident G Land Plc will remain resilient if such a scenario came to pass.

"All I can emphasise about G Land's real estate business is location, location, location.

"Thailand will become part of the Asean Economic Community in 2015 and we have enough supply of office space to meet demand created by this important regional integration," said Romani.

It's been three years since Romani stepped into the fray.

Before that she remembers waking up every morning wanting to be an angel, an artist, a fund manager and pretty much all the other things young girls dream about.

"My father always instilled in me values and principles he stood by since he was a child, and after he graduated in civil engineering from Hong Kong. Obviously I am a chip of the old block," Romani said.

"I have an older brother who is an architect and a younger brother who is in management.

" I suppose my father has put a lot of hope in his only daughter. Perhaps it's because I am not stubborn."

10 QUESTIONS

- Favourite human being?

My father (Yothin Boondicharern).

- Favourite electronic gadget?

iPhone for the time being.

- Favourite destination in Thailand?

Hua Hin.

- Favourite restaurant?

Zuma at St Regis Hotel. Great Japanese fusion cuisine.

- What are you reading now?

The Essays by Warren Buffet. I like to use his teachings as a model for my business.

- Favourite movie?

Batman _ The Dark Knight Rises.

- Favourite teacher?

Mrs Margaret Lee at Cushing Academy. A wonderful teacher who would stay with students till 8-9pm.

- Favourite pastime?

Reading travel guidebooks and books on making desserts.

- Greatest achievement?

It has to be the 2.4 billion baht financing I secured from a bank.

- Favourite bag?

Right now it is the Prada _ the one with two zips. It's just a phase.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Alfred Tha Hla
Position: Motoring Reporter