Achievement
Ms Suthumpun previously served as chief executive of Thaicom Plc., a once-struggling satellite company, which she transformed into one of the best in Asia.
Hospitality
Suphajee Suthumpun
Group Chief Executive Officer - Dusit International

Education

  • 1988 : MBA in International Finance and Accounting from Northrop University in California, USA
  • 1984 : Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology and Anthropology from Thammasat University, Thailand

Career and Key Positions

  • 2016 – present : Group Chief Executive Officer - Dusit International
  • 2011 – 2015 : Executive Committee Chairperson / Chief Executive Officer, Thaicom Plc.
  • 1989 – 2011 : Ms Suthumpun spent 23 years with multinational technology and consulting corporation IBM. During her tenure, she held multiple headquarter and regional roles – her last being General Manager and Vice President, Global Technology Services, IBM ASEAN.
“The unemployment rate surged in the past year. We saw many hotel staff, pilots and air crew laid off. Our business model can help them stand up in new areas which have lots of opportunities.”

Suphajee Suthumpun

Tourism sector was the industry hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic crisis in the past year. But instead of staying still to escape the turbulence, Dusit International ventured out to find the opportunities as the group expand to food business.

That new chapter for 70 year-old company could not be done without Suphajee Suthumpun, group chief executive, who joined the company five years ago, after reigning in the leading IT and telecommunication firms for years.

With the aim to introduce “gracious hospitality” to the world via hotel expansion, Dusit International which now have 340 properties globally will use the similar approach when diversifying to new business.

“Food and hospitality are akin. It can support each other while giving us more financial stability,” she said.

The first food-related company that Dusit invested in 2018 was NR Instant Produce (NRF), the Bangkok-based producer and exporter of ready-to-cook food products and ingredients.

Despite pandemic, that company managed to be listed in the Thailand’s stock market in October last year.

“We set the vision to bring Asia to the world through Thai and Asian food products, while our hotel and resorts also can use our own products. In the future, NRF will expand while label products to penetrate the retail market,” she said.

Besides food production, in 2019, it also acquired a 51% equity stake in Epicure Catering, a market leader in the education catering business which serve over 70 international schools in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia with the focus on high quality service like other business under Dusit brand.

The 423 million-baht deal was seen as a secure step for Dusit International in food business as the market Epicure dominating has a high entry barrier.

Dusit also committed to a joint venture with South Africa’s Real Foods Group to bring healthy fast-casual restaurant to Thailand and Southeast Asia where it introduced the first store at Virgin Active Fitness Club 101 in Bangkok and now have four stores in Bangkok.

All of those expansions market themselves differently from existing competitors which convince more rooms to grow the revenue.

The next big Thing she plans with Dusit International is to create new opportunities for those who lost their jobs during the tough time.

Within the third quarter, Dusit will open a new food school at a start-up community in Samyan which will offer both incubator spaces and mentors who are experts in food business to those who want to find a more stable jobs.

The school will not only offer cooking class, but will educate them on business model and setting up a cloud kitchen for students that want to enter online food delivery market but don’t have a clue how to start properly.

The company will also partner with a food delivery app Robinhood which waive the gross profit (GP) fee to help deliver products from cloud kitchen to consumers.

“Unemployment rate surged in the past year. We saw many hotel staffs, pilots and air crews were laid off. Our business model can help them standing up in the new area which having high opportunity,” she said.

She said the crises has pivoted the company to seek non-room revenue following the lack of international guests.

At present, hotel revenue contributes around 70-80% of the total, but when all food businesses successfully roll out strongly. The portion of non-hotel revenue should increase to 50%, or the same level as hotels.

“That doesn’t mean income from hotel business will contract, but the growth in food business will be faster,” she said.

In 2020, while revenue from hotels dramatically slid down, but food revenue still hit the target and it shares 13.7% of the total revenue.

During the pandemic, Dusit adjusted its three pillars – financial model, business model, organization model.

To preserve liquidity, it held new investment by lowering CAPEX by 60%, but continue with the prominent ongoing projects led by Dusit Central Park, a joint mixed-use development with Central Pattana Plc, and development of ASAI projects, the new hotel brand under Dusit group.

In terms of business, although the first lockdown in April last year has forced hotels to closed, but since resuming in June, Dusit never closes any of its hotels again while trying to preserve employments by fetching domestic revenue instead.

It offered “Dusit Care” programme responding to health safety standards and introducing unique local experience to add value to guest’s stays instead of jumping into price wars.

Meanwhile, since May last year, she initiated improvements on back office and front-end operational technology, including CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and data platform to relish benefits from advanced tech.

However, she said that amid the pandemic, any company should not survive by itself but should seek collaboration with other firms to expand the market, finding new opportunities together.

For instance, Dusit joined partners such as Board of Trade of Thailand to enroll the model of meeting and events organizing in provinces that care for environmental factors.

She also encouraged merely 10,000 staffs in Thailand and in other countries to change their mindset, bracing for any changes and preparing to do unprecedented roles they might not imagine before.

“We create the project called ‘Human Resources Bank’ to let employees share the revenue idea and integrating their jobs. Everybody could be sale representative and received commission fee. They also helped setting up special team to sell food on mobile trucks when hotel rooms are mostly empty,” she said.

Mrs Suphajee added that she’s grateful that people sees her as role model, but she humbly considers herself an ordinary woman who want to use her experiences in international tech companies to bridge local prides to the global level with innovation.