- MBA, University of Hartford, U.S.A.
- B.A. in Business Management, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), U.S.A.
Career and key positions
- 2018 - Present : Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Central Pattana Plc.
- 2017 - Present : Director, CPN REIT Management Co., Ltd.
- 2011 - 2018 : Senior Executive Vice President, Business Development and Project Construction, Central Pattana Plc.
- 2005 - 2011 : Executive Vice President, Business Development and Project Construction, Central Pattana Plc.
- 1998 - 2004 : Executive Vice President, Central Retail Corporation Co., Ltd.
Weathering the storm
Wallaya Chirathivat, deputy chief executive officer of Central Pattana (CPN) Plc, a SET-listed retail and property developer under the Central Group of companies, has endured different crises during her 36 years in Thailand’s retail and property market.
Ms Wallaya, 58, has been instrumental in leading Central Pattana's efforts to survive the toughest one yet to hit the domestic retail business — the Covid-19 pandemic.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Asean retailers from countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines have asked for protective measures from CPN so that they can apply them in their shopping centres.
Ms Wallaya, a scion of the Chirathivat family joined the family business empire at age 23 after graduating with a master's degree from the University of Hartford in the United States.
She was assigned to take care of the Central supermarket, which was described as an “unorganised” unit at the time.
“My first intention was to work in the department store side of things, but I was assigned to handle Central supermarket instead. I agreed, but couldn't help crying once about it at home," Ms Wallaya recalled.
Nonetheless, the appointment may have its positive side, as the family’s seniors may see her great potential.
At the Central Supermarket, Ms Wallaya put in a big effort to overhaul the Central supermarket operation with various initiatives from the use of barcodes on products to inventory management.
The turning point came when Ms Wallaya decided to usher the group to form a joint venture with Dutch supermarket group Royal Ahold in 1995 and renamed its supermarket to the “Tops" brand.
Ms Wallaya in her thirties also took a co-CEO position with a 50-year old professional from the Netherlands.
“I had a good opportunity to show my full leadership and learned many things from our partner. I like a challenging job and believe that we can keep learning endlessly,’’ Ms Wallaya said.
Her subsequent challenge was to look after Robinson in 2001 which had been undergoing restructuring, and supervise the construction and business development of Central Phuket (Central Festival Phuket).
With half of her life in retail, she later decided to pursue a new challenge in property development by joining Central Pattana Plc in 2005.
The move was a perfect combination of her role in retail and property development. In her first task at CPN, Ms Wallaya had a chance to re-develop the World Trade Center to CentralWorld with a new look. Her effort led to CentralWorld receiving the “Shop of the Year 2010", equivalent to an Oscar for the retail sector. The award gave importance not only to design but also to successful sales.
“You can do whatever you want but the most important thing is you have to truly understand consumers," she told.
Asked why women have played a key role in Thailand’s retail business, Ms Wallaya said both genders can do well if they have good intentions. Both have equal opportunity.
“We cannot afford to stop learning and cannot afford to be afraid of technology. If we are afraid of technology, it will disrupt us,’’ Ms Wallaya said.
She said the Covid-19 outbreak has accelerated the use of technology so the company has to use it to understand itself and customers to serve consumers’ changing lifestyles related to technology.
The world of retail is moving from offline to online, resulting in a diminished role for physical stores. CPN is now aiming to give customers a seamless shopping experience.
According to Ms Wallaya, 2020 has taught her many valuable lessons.
Although the economy is yet to enter a full recovery, she said the group is committed to moving ahead with big investment plans for sustainable growth, particularly in mixed-use property development. However, the shopping complex remains the main business for CPN.
CPN plans to open two shopping malls in Sri Racha, Chon Buri and Ayutthaya this year. Developments in the pipeline are Dusit Central on the intersection of Silom and Rama IV Roads, a G Land mixed-use project on Rama IX and another mixed-use project in Sri Racha.
“We want CPN to recover in 2021 to the healthy growth levels we enjoyed in 2019," she said.