Completed her bachelor’s degree at the age of 18, two master’s degrees in 3 years, two scholarship grants and one PhD, education is obviously Kessara’s cup of tea. A teacher by heart, she has been a lecturer at the Faculty of Commerce and Accounting, Chulalongkorn University since 2000 until now, even after taking the helm at SENA Development, a family business founded by her father, Khun Theerawat Thanyalakpark, who resigned from top managing position in 2005 due very much to health reasons. As the eldest daughter, the responsibilities fell on her naturally, which Kessara fully embraced. Although teaching was her passion, she’s well familiar with the business as has been walking behind her father in and out of housing projects, watching first-hand how Theerawat has turned an investment on one small townhouse project into a sizeable mid-range real estate company, and how servicing their clients has always been at the core of the company’s missions.
Her first task was something she knew best to do – getting the organization financially ready, and then successfully listed SENA Development as a public company in 2009. From then on, there was no stopping. The SENA group has expanded into 4 affiliating companies, 42 housing projects and 23 condominiums including a golf course, a retail shopping mall, a charity foundation and 3 non-profit housing projects, and latest, the investment in solar energy development. The company asset size ‘s total worth today is at 7,000 billion baht, with a workforce of 500, and up to 20,000 families living under SENA roofs today.
“It almost feels as good as teaching my students in front of the class!” Kessara likes to modestly answer when people congratulate her on the achievements.
But if you ask what it is that she’s most proud of, “Our ‘Baan Ruam Tang Fun’ project, definitely!” The unique, arguably Thailand’s, if not the world’s, first property project which was created with the sole purpose of raising every baht to donate to charities, specifically hospitals and medical researches which help improve the lives of many in the past 10 years. So far, the fund being raised has reached 120 million baht from the past 3 projects, with three state hospitals as the beneficiary, and the fourth project in the planning stage as of now. Being a company listed in the stock market with a business not creating any profit to shareholders, it was not an easy charity model to justify and took a lot of perseverance to sustain. But she’s adamant. “It is my father’s legacy, which I intend to keep flourishing.” The idea of this project sprang from her father’s bedside when she was visiting him every day for 10 months while receiving medical treatments at Siriraj State Hospital, and experiencing the needs of both the medical caretakers and the patients. The couple discussed and formulated the sole-charity business model that would allow the company to always be able to do charities, whatever the economic situation. “We only donate our executive man-hours to work on this project, the rest came from all the good people we have as our partners, from banks to suppliers to our valued customers who buy our houses.” Kessara said in her usual modest tone. “If you sit with the mother of a girl with a life-threatening heart condition who received a life-changing operation, you would understand what I feel.” ‘Join in My Dream’ is the name of the housing project. How appropriate!
Real estate developers in Thailand have faced some trying times with a series of economic crises and natural disasters, especially the Major Flood in 2011. “Getting on the boat with our staff to help house owners in our old desolate projects, who might have been stuck and starving in their flooded houses, got me thinking, how we could prevent similar anomalies in the future. That’s where I started looking further into alternative and clean energy developments. And thus came the investment this year in solar power.”
After earlier tapping into the Green Energy, for which she has funded and co-developed with the Faculty of Architecture, Kasetsart University to maximize energy preservation and applying new ‘Green Smart Design’ methods of single detached house construction on some recent SENA projects, she decided to go pro in the solar power developments. This involves partnerships with world-class organizations who are experts in large-scale solar farms and solar rooftops for households and office buildings, as well as an acquisition of a solar cell installer company. The commitment is complete and long-term, “I want to see Thailand maximizing on this underutilized natural resource and want to show everyone that investments in this clean alternative energy can be commercially viable. We need to seriously instill the importance of sustainable and clean energy in our next generation, and start doing what we can, from a single house to the whole cities. Solar power should be a top agenda in our national energy policy, as many other countries have been. The future is bright. The future is solar!”
With her love of teaching, knowledge is at the core of her life. Who else would schedule every Sunday morning as a private time for self-education, to learn new things? However busy, ask her to give lectures, she would gladly accommodate. However busy, you could expect to read her weekly financial commentary in a business newspaper and a new book every year (one coming out soon to focus on solar power for homes). True to form, being asked about her dream, she gives her trademark big grin, “Give me a ten thousand audience, and I’m on heavenly stage!”
To wrap it up, with the diverse parts which blend together to embody this second-generation, family-public businesswoman, scholar-writer, teacher-CEO, visionair-philanthropist, Dr. Kessara Thanyalakpark is probably best described as a hybrid entrepreneur.
Writing her profile could be quite different 5 years from now. Who knows what she would transpire next. Whatever may be, we can probably be certain of this – more great things.