KPN remains a family affair

The death of Khunying Phornthip Narongdej, one of the country's most successful businesswomen, is unlikely to affect her family's business empire, since she had stepped down from routine business management in 1997, according to a source close to the family.

Khunying Phornthip Narongdej’s three sons — from left, Mr Kris, Mr Nop and Mr Korn — will continue to guide the family business KPNafter her passing.

"She has not engaged in the family's business for years, leaving the group's business under the guidance of her three sons _ Kris, Nop and Korn _ for over a decade," the source said.

Khunying Phornthip began her career at the age of 17 as a secretarial assistant at Siam Motors, the first company in Thailand to import Japanese automobiles and heavy machinery, founded by her late father Thaworn Phornprapha.

She developed a firm grasp of the automotive assembly business, introducing innovations in the company's public relations and human resources department.

During her time as chief executive officer, Siam Motors Group reached a turnover of more than 80 billion baht.

Khunying Phornthip formed KPN Group with her husband Kasem Narongdej in 1992.

The formation of KPN coincided with Japanese auto firms using Thailand as a manufacturing base for the first time. It started off as the sole manufacturer and distributor of Yamaha motorcycles, later including all major Japanese brands except Kawasaki.

The Group expanded rapidly into stamping, casting and forging metal parts, as well as producing electric, electronic and plastic components for various marques.

As manufacturing bases in various industries began to shift to countries with lower costs, KPN re-aligned its investments to better retain a competitive advantage. The group reduced its role in manufacturing businesses. At the same time, the group also began to diversify into new industries, and to invest in existing businesses with brighter growth prospects.

During this transition period, KPN Music Academy rose to prominence. Inspired by Khunying Phornthip's personal interest, she has developed quality music education in Thailand by founding both Siam Yamaha and Siam Kolkarn Music Schools when she worked for her family, and KPN Music Academy in 1966. Today, the group has three primary businesses: investments, music and education, and property.

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