Orajit Ekphaiboon's life is far from ordinary, well travelled and educated, she is a woman who has achieved more in her early years than most would in a lifetime.
On first impression Khun Orajit (Namfon) Ekphaiboon, emanates a sparkle and girlish charm that completely belies her position as an affluent business woman and landowner in Phuket.
Becoming Managing Director of Tiansin Motor the distributor for Mitsubishi in Phuket, in her early twenties, Namfon has borne much responsibility for such young shoulders. Namfon could easily be a case study for future female entrepreneurs. Although, most humbling, feeling worthy of media attention appears to be slightly strange to her. At the start of the interview, she says she's not very good at this — talking about her herself.
After graduating from Bangkok's esteemed Ruamrudee International School, Namfon, always encouraged and supported by her most important role models – her mother and father, embarked on her career in hotel management by firstly attending the notable Centre International De Glion, in Montreux Switzerland. This alpine jaunt was cut short when her father (upon advice from a trusted friend) pulled her out and sent her over to the U.S where he was certain she would excel with greater ferocity in both her professional and personal development.
Namfon enjoyed four years studying at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, where she was groomed for personal and professional success in the hospitality industry. Experiencing an education that combined academia, hands-on training and work experience that resulted in leadership opportunities and career development. This training helped shape her into a remarkable business woman. When asked about her time away she says “I missed the ease of living in Thailand, overseas you literally have to do everything yourself, society is set up here to connect people and services, in Thailand people are warm and friendly. I missed that.”
Surrey in the United Kingdom was next on her world voyage of knowledge and London also became home. British culture indeed rubbed off on her as Namfon has a love of tea and has an impressive array of delicious, elegant flavoured teas all from Harrods.
Regrettably, her time in England's pastures green was suddenly curtailed by sad circumstances which led her to take on her family business at such a young age, Namfon states with ease that on hearing that her father had suffered a stroke that had paralysed him, she was needed to come back to Thailand and help with the family business, returning was a given. There was no question where her destiny was now placed consequently uprooting her priviliged education and western lifestyle immediately.
Namfon also has an older brother, Boonsin, who was attending the same U.S university simultaneously. Asking her why she was chosen to return and take the reins of the family business she replies “ My mother believed that I would be ready at the time – and I assured her that I was mature enough to take on the challenge, my brother continued with his education and I resumed mine a little later.”
Of course, life used to be easier “When I think of my time overseas, its not exactly the places I miss just the juncture in my life when I was a student, no hassles, no worries apart from studying to gain a grade and achieving that grade. Now, of course, adult life is full of constant demands, achievements, making profits, managing people – responsibilities. The freedom of being young and carefree is something I think we all miss, if we are honest”.
Returning to a substantial family business debt in the midst of the 1997 Asian stock market crash no less and the onus of her new found role of Managing Director, Namfon found solace and wisdom from her father's best friend who became her mentor and guide throughout her transition into the business world. Her gratitude extends out to him as he placed trust and belief in her capabilities in a male dominated industry that is the motor trade. Indeed, her level headedness and business acumen served her well throughout two additional significant economic downturns; the Asian tsunami and the recent global economic crisis.
Both Namfon and her brother have maximised their educational opportunties, Boonsin is a major real estate player in Phuket and the family has large interests in the luxury development 'Malaiwana', a private residential estate in Naithon, a quieter section of the north western coastline of Phuket. The dynamic Ekphaiboons are also working on another boutique resort project in Naithon which will comprise at least 140 rooms. Namfon tells us “It will of course feel luxurious but not come at a silly price. Still in its development phase, we are currently speaking with several large brands to manage the property, which is very exciting”. She adds “We believe that sustainable development is paramount in retaining Phuket's beauty and have taken considerable measures to achieve this objectives.”
Despite her level of accountability Namfon remains grounded and strikingly well balanced, indeed she states that one of her personal goals in life is balance. Her life is full of the things that she has wished for, good friends, family, successful business, travel, and of course, a bustling social life. On a night out, Namfon enjoys Phuket Town's traditional Italian eatery 'La Gaetana' and sipping cocktails at sunset at 'Joe's Downstairs' as a prelude to a night of dancing at Patong's 'Seduction' club.
Namfon succinctly sums up her philosophy on success in business by simply stating “Be prepared, be well informed, know as much as you can about your business and environment and do your best”.
MOST RECENT HOLIDAY? Skiing in Switzerland
Written by Natasha Eldred