Inspirational role models
BANGKOK POST WOMEN OF THE YEAR 2023
published : 22 Mar 2023 at 04:00
newspaper section: News
writer: Pitsinee Jitpleecheep
To mark this year's International Women's Day, a number of extraordinary women from a wide range of fields who have inspired change in their communities through the pursuit of excellence have been named the Bangkok Post's Women of the Year.
A series of in-depth profiles of these women, which began on March 8, will conclude today. The profiles can also be viewed on a specially-designed microsite, which provides further background on their achievements and insights into their rise.
This week, we honour Nattamon Pisankitvanich, managing director of BNN Restaurant Group; Danupha "Milli" Kanateerakul, a rapper; Srikanya Yathip, Secretary-General of the Government Pension Fund; Watanya Amatanon, Chief Product Officer of Forth Vending Co; and Patchara Pirapak, a chef.
RISING STAR ENTREPRENEUR
A true suki success story
Nattamon Pisankitvanich has hit the ground running and expansion is already on the menu
Nattamon "Fern" Pisankitvanich, man aging director of BNN Restaurant Group, the operator of Suki Teenoi, built the brand through her keen insight into the domestic suki business, despite her lack of a personal passion for food.
Nattamon Pisankitvanich, managing director of BNN Restaurant Group
She knew there would be fierce competition operating a sukiyaki business in Thailand, but was undaunted when she opened the first Suki Teenoi at Ban Bang Khen on Phahon Yothin Road in 2019.
At that time, she had never even thought about making a profit. She just wanted to give customers quality food and service with a restaurant ambience.
"Once customers feel that we give the best to them, they will return to us, and they will talk about us to their friends and family members. Word of mouth is an important tool that has helped us grow to this point. Another success factor is we always adopt a customer-centric approach, giving them the best we can without any expectations. We believe that things will come at the right time," said Ms Nattamon.
Apart from the price point of 199 baht, another strong point of Suki Teenoi are the service hours of 12pm to 5am, helping it get a wider range of target customers.
Suki Teenoi's business has been growing since the first year of its operation.
Even during the pandemic, BNN Restaurant opened as many as 20 new branches because of its staunch faith that one day the Covid-19 situation would return to normal.
"The faster you run, the faster you grow as well," said Ms Nattamon.
Now, most Suki Teenoi branches have long customer queues.
Ms Nattamon attributed the success to always keeping company standards high, making sure the food is delicious, service is impeccable, and the restaurant is always clean.
"Once customers feel that we give the best to them, they will return to us and they will talk about us to their friends and family members." — Nattamon 'Fern' Pisankitvanich, Managing Director of BNN Restaurant Group
At present, there are 45 Suki Teenoi restaurants in Bangkok and its vicinities, and the company plans to open ten more restaurants across the country this year, including in Saraburi and Chon Buri.
BNN Restaurant Group recently decided to sell a 30% stake to SET-listed Jay Mart, a holding firm engaged in IT retail, finance and technology.
Through the partnership, Jay Mart aims to support technologies to enhance Suki Teenoi's operational efficiency as the restaurant chain plans to add branches this year, Adisak Sukumvitaya, chief executive of Jay Mart, said earlier.
The collaboration is part of Jay Mart's synergy strategy, with Suki Teenoi supported with innovative technologies to enhance its supply chain, logistics and consumer engagement.
Ms Nattamon said Jay Mart would help BNN expand its branches at a faster pace than in the past, both via the Suki Teenoi brand and new food brands.
In addition, Jay Mart operates Jas community malls, which house some branches of Suki Teenoi. Jay Mart has continued to open its Jas community malls in several provinces this year.
Jay Mart has also developed the JFIN coin as a digital token, and Ms Nattamon said she may learn from this financial technology, artificial intelligence cameras and customer relationship management system development.
Apart from expanding its branches, BNN is also scheduled to file its initial public offering (IPO) plan to the Securities and Exchange Commission this year.
With Jay Mart as the company's partner, Ms Nattamon said she believes her company can go faster because Jay Mart has formulated IPO plans several times for both Jay Mart itself and its subsidiaries.
Despite her accomplishments with Suki Teenoi, Ms Nattamon said she remains ambitious about expanding BNN with other brands on its own and through mergers and acquisitions. It will also expand Suki Teenoi to overseas markets.
"There are a lot of challenges in being an entrepreneur. Being a leader and the boss of over 3,000 staff is not easy. More importantly, as a young business leader, we admit that sometimes people may underestimate our ability, but we never let that stop us from doing anything because we know what we are doing," Ms Nattamon said.
- Nattamon ‘Fern’ Pisankitvanich
- 2018-present: Managing Director, BNN Restaurant Group
- 2017: Trade Consultant, Orissa International
- 2016-2017: Merchandising Executive, Club 21 Pte Ltd
- 2015-2016: Merchandiser (Luxury Group), Central Marketing Group Thailand
- 2014-2015: Master of Science (MSc) Luxury Management and Marketing, Emlyon Business School
- 2010-2012: Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com.) Economics and Finance, University of Melbourne
THAI FOOD PRESERVATION
Redefining Thai culinary heritage
Chef Patchara 'Pom' Pirapak revives the spirit of Baan Phraya at Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
It is not often you find chefs leaving independent restaurant kitchens to get lost in the crowded field of hotel kitchens. Yet that's exactly what Chef Patchara "Pom" Pirapak did.
Patchara Pirapak, a chef
Born in Yasothon in the northeast of Thailand, where she grew up in a large family, Chef Pom has fond memories of cooking with her grandmother and is the person to whom Pom attributes her decision to become a chef. A classic tale of a woman inspiring a woman!
Though a rising star among young Thai chefs, Chef Pom left the Michelin-starred Saneh Jaan in 2019 for the culinary team of Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok. There, she joined as chef de cuisine at Terrace Rim Naam and Sala Rim Naam, the hotel's celebrated Thai restaurants. It was in these kitchens where she added personal twists to create Thai dishes of distinction.
Like many restaurants during Covid, however, both were shut (they'll reopen later this year). Yet that didn't stop Chef Pom.
Built in the early 20th century, Baan Phraya is a historic Thai house on the Chao Phraya River, next to The Oriental Spa and across from the main buildings of Mandarin Oriental.
After almost five decades, the house reopened its doors for a Thai fine-dining experience orchestrated by Chef Pom. At this venue, she found an ideal setting to showcase her cooking skills as well as vision and passion for Thai food culture.
Indeed, nearly forgotten recipes have been adjusted for present-day palates while maintaining fidelity to Thai culinary heritage.
Inspired by that heritage, the chef has created a dining experience at Baan Phraya featuring her interpretations of dinner parties and feasts of the past as part of an elegant eight-course seasonal dinner menu, with Chef Pom re-introducing diners to time-honoured Thai dishes and cooking techniques.
"The menu at Baan Phraya is closely linked to the philosophy of the house. Khunying Loearn Mahai Savanya, the wife of Phraya Mahai Savanya, was skilled in the kitchen and often treated guests to her treats," says Chef Pom. Working from the same philosophy, the young chef has brought back traditional dishes, including some no longer popular.
"I prefer to be in a kitchen and let my cooking speak for me and itself." — Chef Patchara 'Pom' Pirapak, Chef De Cuisine at Terrace Rim Naam and Sala Rim Naam
At Baan Phraya, even an amuse-bouche links to traditions of the house. Ma hor (galloping horses) -- bite-sized pineapple topped with minced pork, shrimp, shallots, turnips and peanuts -- was served a century ago as a welcome snack to help guests cool down from the heat outside. Chef Pom has reimagined it for 2023, and it is still served as the first bite at Baan Phraya.
Traces of the house's history likewise emerge in the menu through dishes as simple as soup. Gaeng ron, a favourite of yesteryear, is back on the menu, though with twists. The original recipe used glass noodles in a light coconut broth made with dried shrimp and squid. Chef Pom swaps the noodles for thin slivers of squid and adds smoked squid roe to the intense coconut broth, which further acquires its aroma from a variety of peppers and prickly ash leaves.
When Sala Rim Nam opens later this year, Chef Pom will be at the helm of the kitchen.
"In the future, I would like to impart knowledge of traditional dishes and ancient recipes to the younger generation," she says, though her focus will remain on the revival of provincial dishes that are not well known.
"I prefer to be in a kitchen and let my cooking speak for me and itself," says this quietly confident chef.
- Age: 32
- Phatchara ‘Pom’ Pirapak
- 2022: Chef de Cuisine and menu concept designer for Baan Phraya, Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok
- 2019: Chef de Cuisine at Terrace Rim Naam, Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok
- 2018: Achieved 1 Michelin star for Saneh Jaan
- 2015: Sous Chef at Saneh Jaan
- 2013: Started her career as Commis at Siam Wisdom
SOFT POWER ADVOCATE
A rising star
Rap sensation Milli won hearts at Coachella, but she has bigger aspirations
Danupha "Milli" Kanateerakul, a Thai rap sensation, is best known for being the first Thai artist to perform at the world-famous Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in the US last year. During her six-minute performance, Danupha wowed the crowd with her fast rapping and smooth dance moves. The young rapper added some new lyrics to her performance, saying she did not ride elephants while also criticising the poor performance of the Thai government. She concluded the show by eating mango sticky rice onstage, adding impact to her performance.
"If you want to do something, I would say just do it." — Danupha 'Milli' Kanateerakul, a rapper
The performance went viral and caused a surge in mango sticky rice sales back in Thailand which made the dessert rare and difficult to find for a while. Due to the phenomenon, Danupha was praised for promoting Thailand's soft power and this makes her one of the 2023 Bangkok Post Women of the Year in the soft power advocate category.
Despite the mango sticky rice craze, the young rapper stated that at that time, she was not consciously thinking about promoting Thai culture through her performance. For her, everything she did onstage was for fun and entertainment.
"I ate mango sticky rice onstage because I meant to tease the audience. My team and I had never thought about the concept of soft power and I just wanted to eat mango sticky rice. Everything happened purely because of my intent to have fun and entertain," she said.
In addition to being well-known for her electrifying performances, Danupha is widely known for her outspoken criticism of political and social issues. Expressing her opinions and criticism caused Danupha some trouble including being fined 2,000 baht and having to post a public apology on her social media after the hashtag #BanMilli went viral. However, the rapper still continually expresses her opinions on social platforms.
"Actually, I do feel stressed. Some of my goals have not been successful because I called out some issues. I admit that this caused some negative impact. However, some things may be worth losing, if in the long term, we eventually have democracy. I addressed some issues because I still live in this country and have the power of voice. When I call out the issues, it helps people to see the light. I do not call out just for myself, but for my family, friends and everyone," said Danupha.
Danupha was discovered in 2019 when she participated in the TV competition The Rapper Season 2. Executives from the music label Yupp! Entertainment have a keen eye for talent and recognised the potential of 16-year-old Danupha and signed a contract with her. After launching her hits Pak Kon (Calm Down) and Sud Pang (Super Bang) in 2020, Danupha became the most-wanted rapper to collaborate with renowned artists such as New-Jiew-Waii, Tilly Birds, Youngohm and Twopee.
One of her collaborations which became an international breakthrough was Mirror Mirror which she sang with F.Hero, a renowned Thai rapper, and Changbin, a K-pop rapper of the group Stray Kids. Banchan praised Danupha's skills and said she was his new favourite female rapper. Also, competitors in the Korean TV dancing competition Street Dance Girls Fighter used Mirror Mirror in their performance.
Last year, Danupha launched her 10-track album Babb Bum Bum (Extravagant) in Thailand. She also collaborated with Jackson Wang, a member of the K-pop sensation Got7, to release the emotional English song Mind Game. Due to her impressive performance at Coachella, Danupha got more opportunities to perform at the international music and art festival Head In The Clouds in LA, Jakarta and Manila.
"Performing at Head In The Clouds was a completely different experience from Coachella. At Coachella, nobody knew me, so I had the mindset that I was going to make them recognise me. However, audiences in Jakarta and Manila already knew who I was. It was overwhelming to know that they had been waiting to see me. Although they could not sing the Thai lyrics, they hummed along to the melody. When I performed in LA, I was onstage by myself, but in Jakarta and Manila I had a band with me. Members of the band were also my friends. We were so happy because we were doing what we loved."
Although Danupha broke the international music scene, which is the dream of many artists, she does not consider it to be a great success.
"I don't think it was that big of an achievement, but it is a successful step. There will be more steps that I have to take. This is not the final destination and not the time to stop," said the rapper.
Danupha's success is not a fluke. She has never stopped singing and writing lyrics even though she also has to study at the Faculty of Music, Assumption University. The rapper has always listened to criticism and keeps improving herself. She advises other young people to do the same.
"If you want to do something, I would say just do it. Don't think or keep waiting for the right moment. Don't think you are not ready. This may sabotage your opportunity. Go ahead and try. Making mistakes is not a big deal. We can learn from them."
- Danupha ‘Milli’ Kanateerakul
- Age: 21
- TOTY MUSIC AWARDS 2022: Album of the Year and Artist of the Year
- KAZZ Awards 2020: Rising star
- RAP IS NOW AWARDS 2020: Hip-Hop Song of The Year and New Face of The Year
- JOOX x Siam Paragon Present Thailand Top 100 2020
- 2020 Mnet ASIAN MUSIC AWARDS (2020 MAMA)
- ABAC School of Music
- Satrinonthaburi School
Tao Bin eyes Asean market in longer term
For more than two decades, Thais have purchased beverages from vending machines. Smart devices allow these machines to attract new customers because of their product variety, ranging from face masks to lingerie and condoms.
Watanya Amatanon, Chief Product Officer of Forth Vending Co
Vending machines became more popular when Watanya Amatanon, chief product officer at Forth Vending Co, the marketer of Tao Bin machines and an affiliate of Forth Smart Service Plc, the country's largest top-up machine provider under the Boonterm brand, introduced smart beverage vending machines in 2021.
These machines offer customers quality Americano coffees at affordable prices, she said.
"We spent two years developing these smart vending machines before the market launch," said Ms Watanya.
"There are more than 7,000 mechanical pieces inside our vending machines and up to 30 registered patents."
The Tao Bin machine, which is one square metre in size and equipped with cutting-edge technology, can offer up to 170 beverages, including hot and iced coffee, hot and iced milk, fruit drinks, sodas, protein shakes and smoothies.
Developed and operated by Forth Vending, Tao Bin is set to revolutionise the vending machine business in Thailand by offering noodles, a simple meal that is a part of the daily diet regularly found in shophouses, street and retail stores, around the clock, within the next couple of years.
"We are not 100% certain whether we're going to succeed, but we're putting all efforts to make this happen in the next two to three years to make this offering viable through smart vending machines that customers have never seen before. We want to increase customer experience and satisfaction as much as possible."
As of December last year, there were 4,600 Tao Bin vending machines at various locations, including hospitals, office buildings, BTS stations and in front of leading shopping malls. Of the total, 60% were in upcountry areas and the remainder in Bangkok.
The company aims to have between 8,000 and 10,000 machines in operation by the end of this year.
"Although there are many vending machines already available in Thailand, we believe that the smart vending machine market is still largely untapped. We foresee continuous business because we provide customers with more convenience, good taste and affordable prices," said Ms Watanya.
The company is also committed to expanding Tao Bin machines beyond Thailand, with a particular focus on the Asean market this year, starting with Malaysia and Singapore, Ms Watanya said.
Forth Vending is preparing to sign an agreement with potential partners in Malaysia to expand its business overseas.
"We are working on developing our technology to offer noodles through vending machines, which is a never-before-seen offering." — Watanya Amatanon, Chief Product Officer of Forth Vending Co
The expansion plan to Malaysia will be formed under a joint venture in which the company will not be a major stakeholder.
In Malaysia, the Tao Bin vending machines will initially provide 50 items to customers. Products to be made available will be similar to those offered in Thailand, with local items to be added in the future.
The company will also incorporate local products for each country they expand into.
"In the longer term, we aim for Tao Bin to become an Asean brand within the next two years," said Ms Watanya.
- Watanya Amatanon
- 2020-present: Chief Product Officer, Forth Vending Co
- 2019-2020: Head of Design and User Experience, Hyperproof
- 2015-2019: User Experience Designer, Microsoft
- 2014: Master of Science (MS), Management, University College London
- 2013: Bachelor of Engineering (BEng), Electronics and Information Engineering, Imperial College London
ESG INVESTING CHANGE-MAKER
Positioning GPF as esg leader
Srikanya Yathip is at the forefront of responsible investing in Thailand for a better future
Srikanya Yathip has been instrumental in elevating investments by the Government Pension Fund (GPF) to meet sustainability objectives. Her efforts have enabled the fund to position itself as a leader in environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives.
"ESG adoption in business practices is no longer an option, but rather a must." — Dr Srikanya Yathip, Secretary-General of the Government Pension Fund, is at the forefront of responsible investing in Thailand
Prior to joining GPF, Dr Srikanya spent more than ten years studying and working in Japan and the United Kingdom. She joined GPF in 2010 and was appointed Secretary-General in 2020.
Dr Srikanya is at the forefront of responsible investing in Thailand. She introduced her vision that GPF should become the leader in ESG investing and initiatives in Thailand in 2019.
Her successes include integrating the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI)'s ESG integration framework and OECD's responsible business conduct into GPF's investment process.
She has also headed the development of ESG valuation framework, formula and methodology, receiving technical assistance from the World Bank.
Moving GPF ahead towards meeting the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), she initiated a revision of Strategic Asset Allocations by the GPF to include an investment paradigm shift and SDG compliance.
Her current project, through cooperation with UN Financial Initiatives, is developing the Human Rights heatmap and common Human Rights integration framework for the Thai capital market.
Dr Srikanya has a strong linguistic educational background in many languages, including English, French, Spanish, and Japanese. This helps her to access deep knowledge in various fields, including business and financial management.
With the intention to move GPF in line with SDGs, she has taken steps to revamp the fund's strategic asset allocation. This includes a change in investment methods as well as making sure that the GPF abides by SDG regulations.
Dr Srikanya has integrated ESG integration techniques under the UN Principles for Responsible Investment and OEDC's Responsible Business Conduct standards for GPF's investment procedure. She has also overseen the planning of an ESG measurement system.
She has raised ESG awareness and elevated capital market standards in the country by promoting ESG investing for the GPF, which has a portfolio of more than 1.1 trillion baht and about 1.2 million government employees and retirees under its wing.
Under her management, GPF is aware that its key role is not restricted only to pursuing the highest returns on investments for members and the government. It must also act as a responsible investor, which, through effective monitoring, contributes to the country's sustainable growth.
All of these reflect GPF's intention to become the leader in ESG investment and initiatives in Thailand. GPF allocates part of its fund to constitute an index fund which references an ESG index.
The fund called the ESG-Focused Portfolio, tracks the Thailand Sustainability Index (THSI) of the Stock Exchange of Thailand. Under this framework, the fund may invest in a business only if it is listed in the SET100 and THSI and also passes the GPF-ESG Standard Criteria.
This is to ensure the businesses in which GFP invests are regarded as Responsible Business Owners (RBOs) whose operations satisfy its ESG-focused criteria.
According to Dr Srikanya, ESG adoption in business practices is no longer an option but rather a must. She has noticed a paradigm change in Thailand regarding corporate thinking about ESG.
She said investors and companies now agree ESG is not merely a trend or PR exercise but an essential practice that contributes to society and the planet.
According to her experience, more companies and investors are working together to put ESG concepts into practice.
In the past, when companies wanted to adopt common ESG standards, they would develop them alone. Now there are many frameworks from global organisations which companies can integrate into their own strategies, she said.
She said the ESG concept is not static but rather a moving target that keeps evolving. All organisations are aware of this and are working together to achieve the ESG goals, said Dr Srikanya.
One of the main challenges in ESG adoption is how companies can put ESG concepts into practice.
For example, if a company wants to focus on climate change, it might not know where to start or what to do. All stakeholders working together are more likely to find a solution, she said.
- Srikanya Yathip
- Secretary-General, Government Pension Fund
- Managing Director, Chuo Senko (Thailand) Plc
- Thai-Japan Coordinator Fujikura Ltd, Tokyo, Japan
- Thai TV Programme Coordinator TV Asahi, Tokyo, Japan
- PhD in Business Administration, Ramkhamhaeng University
- Master of Arts in Mass Communication, Leicester University, UK
- Master of Business Administration, Chulalongkorn University
- Bachelor of Arts (English), Chulalongkorn University