Miracle worker

Shell's new Thailand chief has a reputation as a humble, caring boss who brings the best out of people

Suriya Jeamsakul, bitumen specialties operations manager for Thailand and Hong Kong of Royal Dutch Shell, once thought of quitting his job. That was before what he calls a miracle happened.

Every job is a challenge to overcome, says Mr Asada. SOMCHAI POOMLARD

In 2007, the bitumen factory in Thailand failed to meet Shell's global standard, falling below the average in 65 requirements including safety. Mr Suriya decided to resign from his post as he thought it was beyond his capability to turn the situation around.

But in just one year, the Thai facility not only passed the examination but also moved to a good level.

The achievement was attributed to the support and motivation given by Asada Harinsuit, Shell's Singapore-based vice-president of specialties.

"I would say that was the miracle Mr Asada brought about. Instead of firing me, he gave me support and asked about the reasons why the factory didn't pass the exam," Mr Suriya recalled.

"Nowadays, I have become crazy about work and am keen to innovate things beyond the company's requirements _ thanks to the motivation and inspiration Mr Asada gave me."

For Mr Asada, who was recently appointed chairman of The Shell Company of Thailand, every crisis can be turned into an opportunity.

"We have to create a feeling that every job is a challenge. Every time we overcome the challenge, confidence will be strengthened," said Mr Asada, who will take the helm at Shell's Thai operation next month.

Mr Asada will retain his position as vice-chairman of Shell's headquarters in Britain as the first and only Thai to have achieved this post.

At Shell Thailand, he will succeed Pissawan Achanapornkul, who was promoted in October to the post of global leader for crude supply trading at the British parent company

"I have noticed that people in the Western world prefer challenging jobs that others don't want to take," said Mr Asada, 52.

"Most of us normally choose to walk away from problems or a crisis. Actually, those situations give immunity that makes us stronger, more experienced and able to learn more."

He said attitude is the most important attribute to be successful at work.

"We have to change the attitude that a problem is an obstacle and view it as a challenge. Most of the time, we defend ourselves and blame others for mistakes. In fact, it's no use blaming each other. We should look at what we missed and find ways to prevent such things happening again," he said.

Mr Asada's career path has allowed him to learn about various fields and products including information technology, sales and marketing.

After joining Shell in 1985, he was promoted to take care of lubricants marketing in England in 1997 before returning to Thailand a year later due to a request from the Thai unit. He was back to England again in 2003 before moving to Singapore in 2007.

He believes that taking various positions has given him a chance to learn more and have new experiences.

Mr Asada says the restructuring Shell undertook over nearly a decade is starting to generate results. The British group divested several refineries to focus on petroleum exploration and production so that it can cope with challenges facing the sector.

"We are using our capability to strengthen energy security for the entire world including Thailand. To meet that goal, we have sought every form of energy from every continent," he said.

But seeking new supplies will never be enough. Energy efficiency and lowering unnecessary use are required, said Mr Asada, citing the reason why products such as Shell FuelSave were launched.

Ms Pissawan, the outgoing chairwoman, says Mr Asada is humble, always reachable and supportive.

"Mr Asada is the only Thai sitting on Shell's senior executive group. He is a very capable person that we in Thailand are proud of. He is down to earth and honours colleagues from every level," she said.

About the author

Writer: Yuthana Praiwan
Position: Business Reporter