Sivareth Sukhanetr (H.89)
A Thai Gentleman

Bangkok. Siraveth welcomed us in the the consulate of Monaco in Thailand. Apart from his being honorary vice consul of Monaco in Thailand, Sivareth owns and operates several businesses, speaks a perfect french, is a seasoned pilot and a HEC lover. Wanna know more about this multi-faceted Thaï gentleman? Check it out!

Read full transcript…

HU: Hello Sivareth, as usual, we are going to start with a Chinese portrait. So if you were… a color?

SS: Today I wear orange… I like orange anyway!

HU: An animal?

SS: Water Buffalo. They are nice, graceful, they smile and they are tough.

HU: A meal?

SS: I would like to be a good piece of steak. Rare.

HU: A song?

SS: What a wonderful world, Louis Armstrong.

HU: A movie?

SS: I like Indiana Jones.

HU: A sin?

SS: A rich, creamy, French desert.

HU: An object?

SS: Don’t think dirty, but I would like to be a toilet. I have to say why… Because people come in when they are not happy, and they always leave happy.

HU: (Laughing out loud) Thank you very much, this is the best answer we have ever received out of 30 portraits we have made! If you were a sport or a game?

SS: Scuba diving.

HU: A book?      

SS: I would love to be a Tom Clancy book.

HU: A hero or a superhero?

SS: Can I be 007 ?

HU: End of the “Chinese” portrait. Now, could you sum up your professional background in just 30 seconds?

SS: After HEC, 27 years ago, I started with a French manufacturing firm, we exported pewter to France and Switzerland. Then I created a company in technology and aviation, we worked with Avion Robin, Ofema, Sofema, Microturbo and many other companies. After that I wanted to have some new assets so I worked in real estate development, we are currently working on a project east of Bangkok called Dulapa Hills. It is a “club med” for retired people near the sea.

HU: Did you have to cope with a difficult choice in your professional life?

SS: The most difficult choice was when I quit my job as head manager in a factory with 400 people, having a salary, to create something by myself. It is not 12 hours a day anymore but 24 hours a day. But you have to do it if you want to do things by yourself.

HU: What did you learn from this experience?

SS: You learn not to depend on the others. In fact that is why I decided to slow down my aviation activities : didn’t want to depend on other companies anymore. I don’t have to renew the representative contract every year or every two years like I had to when I distributed aviation technology. In real estate, once you rented your asset you can use the return, which can last a lifetime, to develop new projects in the meantime.

HU: Back to your current business occupations. Could you tell us more about your current project, a “club med” for retired people right?

SS: In France you have many retirement homes, but I am not sure whether any of them are doing what we are doing. Guests would lease on a long term basis, 20 or 30 years, apartments between 55 to 100 square meters. With the apartment, thanks to their member fees, people can have access everyday to free and paying activities such as meditation, yoga, golfing, cycling, going to the beach, visit islands etc. Moreover, many retired people would like to have a positive contribution to the society so you could go and teach French or English on a volunteer basis on local schools in the area.

Dulapa Hills 2 Dulapa hills 1

HU: How did you get the idea about this project? How did it start?

SS: The population who is going to be able to retire when they are 60 or 65 is increasing. For Thai people, the Bangkok city life is difficult. They think that when they get old, since they have children, they will be able to take care of their grandchildren. But it is not what happens most of the time in real life. The children go to work and come back late, the grand children go to school, do their homework and then go to sleep. So when you are retired you end up quite lonely during the day time. In Dulapa hills they can keep on living a full life, making new friends, doing the activities they like. And the families living in Bangkok can easily visit during the week ends. Regarding the foreign people, they would be attracted by the quality of life Thailand can offer. We are reputed for the food, good weather and the quality of service.

“When the prince Albert came to visit Thailand we helped organizing his trip, having royal audience, meeting the government. That’s how we got to meet each other and now I am representing Monaco in Thailand”

HU: What would make your retirement homes different from others? What are the specificities of your project?

SS: I don’t call it retirement home, I call it club med for the retired professionals. They would live happily and have fun physically, mentally, morally and at the same time they would have maintain their self esteem thanks to the community work they can do on a voluntary basis. So there life remains valuable, no matter old they are.

HU: What makes you happy to go to work every morning?

SS: I like to see the world evolving, changing everyday, slowly.

HU: What is your typical working day?

SS: I would wake up around 6:30, having some nice slow coffee and check on my emails and the news at home. I would leave home at 8:30 to come to work. I would spend some entire days at the office and some others outside. In Bangkok, with the traffic and social functions it is very unpredictable. Each day is different and each day is exciting.

HU: You also have some diplomatic functions. Coud you tell us about it?

2000px-Flag_of_Monaco.svg

Monaco’s flag

SS: Monaco named me vice honorary consul for Thailand five years ago. I have had relations with Monaco for more than twenty years. When the prince Albert came to visit Thailand we helped organizing his trip, having royal audience, meeting the government. That’s how we got to meet each other and now I am representing Monaco in Thailand, taking care of its people if they happen to pass by.

HU: To you, what is Thailand’s main challenge nowadays?

SS: We seems to be evolving but to get there, sometimes you have to go back and forth again and again. And it is fine, it took France so many years to be what it is today! People are learning democracy, people are learning politics but the biggest problem we have is that politics is still too polarized. It is very much like religion, people in the same family wouldn’t speak to each other because of their political opinions. Thaïs have to realize it is fine to have a different opinion but that it is important that everybody walk in the same direction.

“Bangkok looks like a busy city but you can make friends anywhere.”

HU: What are the two sides that are confronting?

SS: You have one side supporting the ex-prime minister who was a very competent businessman. On the other side you have the one who disapprove his politics. But I am not going to go into politics any further…

HU: Okay, and according to you, what is the biggest challenge for Bangkok as a city?

SS: I think it is traffic. People spend too much time commuting. If I have a lunch and a dinner scheduled at different places I would hardly have time to do anything else… We have 4 or 5 mass transit lines, the skytrain, underground and we are building more. Hopefully in 10 to 15 years we are going to have a fully functional mass transit system that will reduce the number of cars in Bangkok.

HU: What do you when all your businesses are fine, let’s say on Sunday and you have some time for yourself in Bangkok?

SS: Sunday afternoon you do not have free time, it is the ladies happy hours! You have to bring the ladies shopping, or to the Sunday market, sometimes you have dinner with your in-laws… It is family time. Anyway, otherwise I would leave Bangkok to Khao Yai, it is about two hours driving from Bangkok, 500m higher so you have 5° less in temperature. It is nature. Before I used to go and fly. I own a small airplane – avion Robin – and an American four seater called Commander. So I used to go flying, but that was 15 years ago…An Avion RobinAn Avion Robin

A waterfall in Khao Yai

A waterfall in Khao Yai

HU: Imagine you have only 24 hours left in Bangkok, what would you do?

SS: It is almost lunchtime, so I would go eat my favorite food on the street. Beef noodles or spicy basil leaves over rice with fried eggs. Then I would probably go along the Chao Phraya river in a long tail boat and go to the small canals to visit the villages. It is so nice… It is Bangkok but you feel like somewhere else. You should do it too! Then I would take a  2 hour Thai massage. Then I would go to a rooftop restaurant in Bangkok to watch the sunset, have a tea or a cocktail or whatever. And then I would go to Chinatown, it is very fun at nighttime and you have a lot of food. I would catch a few hours sleep and wake up very early, so tomorrow morning, and give food to the monks. We mostly do it on important days such as birthdays, but since I am believing that is what I would do. And that’s it!Bangkok from Chao Phraya riverBangkok from Chao Phraya river

Bangkok from above

Bangkok from above

HU: What do you like about people in Bangkok?

SS: Bangkok looks like a busy city but you can make friends anywhere. You must have noticed but when you go around people try to help you. And actually it is not just about Bangkok but the Thai people in general. They like to smile, they are happy and are willing to help. And this is the asset of Thailand, its people.

HU: Now let’s go back in time. What was your favorite place on the HEC campus?

SS: Yes, really back in time (laughs), 1999. I remember the woods. At that time when we wanted to go to Paris we had to hitch hike or to walk down the forest trail to go to Jouy-en-Josas train station. I loved that part, I liked to ride the bicycle in these woods, I think the nature is very nice and the smell of trees is beautiful.

HU: I am sure it is a very different smell from the smell of forests in Thaïland… What would be your best memory from HEC?

SS: Probably the “campagne BDE”. Everybody was very active and it was really fun. At that time we even had an helicopter landing on campus and taking students for the ride.

HU: I guess it is just another collateral of 2008’s crisis… I am just wondering, were there many Thai in HEC when you were there? Why did you come to HEC?

SS: Why not? After spending 10 years from the U.S I had my bachelor degree from Berkeley in civil engineering and I was wondering: what’s next? I didn’t want to become American, I wanted to become multicultural. And as France had great technologies that was not much exported I saw an opportunity there. And I said to myself why not try HEC? At that time it was the best business school in France and it is still the best business school in France so I guess I made the right choice.

HU: As the HEC Alumni chapter president in Thaïland, do you have some message for HEC Alumni in Paris?

SS: Currently we have ten HEC alumni in Thaïland, I try to get them together and we have some evening events. But people are quite busy but we usually manage to see each other for a drink and those who can have dinner together. The problem is that as of today I have no feedback on HEC recruitment in Thaïland. Sometimes I interview people for admission to HEC but I never know whether they were admitted or not…

HU: For which reason would you like to be contacted by an HEC alumnus?

SS: Whether they want to know information about Thailand, want to come and work in Thailand or spend their retirement here, for whichever reason I would be more than happy to be contacted.

HU: HEC’s motto is “the more you know, the more you dare”, what would be your own motto?

SS: Life is a challenge, so live it.

… or pick a category…
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