24 students. 8 days. 2 cities. 8 company visits. 1 Muay Thai boxing match. Endless Pad Thai.

Our Chazen trip to Thailand was one for the books. Our group of 24 landed on a Friday and spent the next 8 days traveling the country, meeting with senior executives of some of the biggest Thai companies, and experiencing the culture and history of the country. For many of us, including myself, Thailand was the first Asian country we were visiting. The Buddhist history and influence, delicious local cuisine, and incredibly hospitable and welcoming Thai people made for a warm welcome to Asia. Our group was especially grateful to our three trip leads, the professor, and the Chazen Institute for planning an incredible trip.

Company Visit Reflections

Our 8 company visits were varied and insightful. We saw and heard from some of the largest and most dominant Thai companies. From a major hotel and resort chain to Thailand’s second largest real estate development company, our group learned firsthand about how retail, real estate, and hospitality drive the Thai economy.

1. Six Senses, Koh Samui

Given that much of the Thai economy is tourism and ecotourism, our group found this visit very relevant. Koh Samui is a major vacation destination, so it was insightful to see one of the premier resorts on the island and learn about how and why so many people want to vacation here.

2. Major Cineplex

This was our first company visit in Bangkok. Given how huge the mall culture is in Bangkok vs. the US., I think our group found this visit to be fascinating. The movie theater was unlike anything we had seen before. Our group probably had the most questions for the speaker (the Chief Marketing Officer) than any other visit.

3. Central Retail Corporation

The trip would not have been complete without a company visit to Central Retail Corporation. The company owns and operates luxury malls across Thailand, and we learned firsthand how these malls operate and maintain their profitability.

4. Central JD Commerce

Central JD Commerce is the leading e-commerce business in Thailand. It is relatively new foray into e-commerce for Central Group, Thailand’s biggest retailer, and JD.Com, China’s largest e-commerce firm. Given that this was a retail trek, I thought it was important to hear the Thai e-commerce perspective. We learned a lot about how e-commerce might evolve in Bangkok and the rest of the country, and how Central Group seems confident that e-commerce won’t cannibalize strong in-store sales.

5. Central Pattana

It was exciting to hear from another major shopping center company, especially since this company is Thailand’s number one shopping center and retail developer. The company manages 25 shopping malls, as well as several office buildings, residential buildings, hotels, water parks, and recreational parks.

6. Thai Beverage

Thai Beverage is a leading market player in the alcoholic beverages, non-alcoholic beverages, and food products industries in Thailand and internationally. Our group learned a lot about the consumption habits of Thai people during the visit – Thai people generally drink sweet spirits and are relatively heavy consumers. There were several presenters during our visit, all of whom focused on a specific segment of Thai Beverage. We learned about the marketing campaigns, the company’s interactions with the government/legal system, and how the company is evolving to offer healthier options for consumers.

7. Sansiri Public Company Limited

Sansiri is the second largest property developer in Thailand (over 300 to be exact). We visited Sansiri’s flagship property development project, a luxury apartment building located in central Bangkok. While at the luxury building, we had the chance to meet with the President of Sansiri, Srettha Thavisin. We met with the President of the company, who spoke in detail about the company’s expansion and how it weathered the real estate crisis in 2007. The company has expanded beyond property development, and now even owns large stakes in big development projects like The Standard Hotel (we were intrigued to hear this since many of us have been to the Beer Garden there for a CBS happy hour). I thought that the President’s explanation of the real estate crisis was very insightful.

8. Bumrungrad International Hospital

As a healthcare junkie, I was highly anticipating this final company visit. The hospital is Joint Commission International accredited and multi-specialty. Founded in 1980, it is one of the largest private hospitals in Southeast Asia. When we walked into the hospital it felt more like a hotel than a medical center – the lounges and lobby areas are lush, and the staff are extremely friendly and warm. Our group was especially impressed with the operations of the hospital – everything from checking in, gathering vitals, seeing a doctor, checking out, and paying the bill appeared streamlined and efficient.

I thought I’d end the Thailand blog posts by featuring some trip highlights – scroll down for some fun photos!

Final 1
Some of our group at our first company visit – Six Senses
Final 2
While in Koh Samui we took a Muay Thai boxing lesson with professional boxers.
Final 10
Our group at Chaiwatanaram Buddhist Temple in Bangkok.
Final 9
Some of our group at Chaiwatanaram Buddhist Temple.
Final 8
We enjoyed lunch on a river cruise in Ayutthaya outside of Bangkok.
Final 7
Lunch at Eathai, a giant food hall inspired by Eataly in NYC.
Final 6
We had a taste testing from the executive chef of Six Senses Samui.
Final 5
Another temple group pic 🙂
Final 3
Fire throwing at Coco Tam’s, a beautiful restaurant and bar on the water in Koh Samui.
Final 4
Departure day! Some of us at Bangkok airport headed home…

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Glimpse Into A Luxury Thai Apartment…and a Luxury Thai Hospital Suite

Our final few days in Bangkok were spent touring more temples, attending a muaythai boxing match, and visiting several companies. After a day trip to Ayutthaya, a historic city outside of Bangkok, we spent Thursday visiting Sansiri, a real estate development company. The Chazen Thailand trek was retail and real estate focused, so this company visit was of interest to many of my classmates and our real estate professor. As someone who was relatively unfamiliar with real estate development companies and how they operate, I, too, was excited about this visit.

Sansiri Public Company Limited, together with its subsidiaries, engages in the development of properties in Thailand (over 300 to be exact). This publicly traded company operates in property Development, Project Management, and Real Estate Brokerage. The Property Development segment develops land and housing projects, as well as residential condominium projects, and rents serviced apartments and office buildings. Our visit was focused on learning more about this segment – we visited Sansiri’s flagship property development project, a luxury apartment building located in central Bangkok. The apartment building is one of more than 300 projects nationwide managed by the company. Comprised of 77 units across 25 floors, this contemporary-classic style high luxury building is immaculate. According to the leasing office, there are 13 units left and they are all open to foreign buyers (there is a law in Thailand that 51% of residents must be Thai). The starting price per unit? Around $2M.

While at the luxury building, we had the chance to meet with the President of Sansiri, Srettha Thavisin. We met with the President of the company, who spoke in detail about the company’s expansion and how it weathered the real estate crisis in 2007. The company has expanded beyond property development, and now even owns large stakes in big development projects like The Standard Hotel (we were intrigued to hear this since many of us have been to the Beer Garden there for a CBS happy hour). Mr. Thavisin explained the real estate crisis to us as well – at the time when the crisis hit its peak, the debt to equity ratio of many real estate firms was 15 to 1. The firms that survived went through major debt restructuring; banks bought debt in exchange for equity, and companies’ debt to equity ratios began to normalize. Now, Sansiri’s D:E is 1.5 to 1.

Our final day in Bangkok was spent touring Bumrungrad International Hospital, followed by a free afternoon of packing, shopping, and Thai massages. As a healthcare junkie, I was highly anticipating this final company visit. Bumrungrad International Hospital is a Joint Commission International accredited, multi-specialty hospital located in the heart of Bangkok. Founded in 1980, it is one of the largest private hospitals in Southeast Asia, with 580 beds and 30 specialty centers. The state-of the-art facility offers top-notch diagnostic, therapeutic, and intensive care services. When we walked into the hospital it felt more like a hotel than a medical center – the lounges and lobby areas are lush, and the staff are extremely friendly and warm.

We met with David Thomas Boucher, who is currently consulting within the business development team of the hospital. Mr. Boucher is from the U.S. and has worked in healthcare for over 35 years. His presentation focused on the hospital’s competitive advantages compared to U.S. and other developed countries’ medical centers. Bumrungrad specializes in medical tourism and concierge medicine, two big buzzwords in the healthcare industry. Most of Bumrungrad’s patients are middle-to-high income and are required to provide proof of payment before a service is conducted. The hospital technically accepts insurance, but many of its patients just pay out of pocket and don’t file. In terms of price, the hospital lauds that it is extremely affordable. Overall, it serves 1.1 million patients annually, including over 520,000 international patients. People fly from near and far to receive treatment here from world-renowned doctors and surgeons. Our group was especially impressed with the operations of the hospital – everything from checking in, gathering vitals, seeing a doctor, checking out, and paying the bill appeared streamlined and efficient.

Stay tuned for my final wrap-up post!