Property firm a family affair
Husband and wife Wallapa and Tor return from Hong Kong to lend expertise to
TCC Land and TCC Capital Land in beverage tycoon Charoen's large empire
Balancing a working life with family togetherness is the main philosophy of Wallapa and Tor Traisorat, who manage TCC Land and TCC Capital Land, two companies owned by beverage tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi.
Wallapa, who is Charoen's daughter, returned to Thailand to join her father's business empire with her husband, Tor, in 2001 after they had both been working for the financial-management and advisory group Merrill Lynch (Asia-Pacific) in Hong Kong.
Earlier, Wallapa earned her master's degree in land economy from Cambridge University in England in 1998 and Tor a master's degree in economics in regional and urban planning from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1997.
"We worked so hard, until the family asked why we didn't join the family business, especially in the property sector, because there was nobody in our family to do that," Wallapa says. However, before returning, the pair did their first family business by negotiating the takeover of a whisky-manufacturing plant in Scotland.
"We were working in investment banking at Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong, so we started to help the family business by using our experience from Hong Kong," Wallapa says.
After that takeover deal, Wallapa and Tor began to operate the family's property business, which they soon discovered had assets worth as much as Bt65 billion.
Tor recalls that more than 80 per cent of the group's land was undeveloped property. They didn't have a database big enough to be able to assess their property assets.
"Our group had a lot of experience in the beverage business but no experience in property development. We had plenty of land on our hands, but we didn't have a database to tell us how much of it had development potential, or for which property segments that land was best suited," says Tor, adding that he and his wife began setting up the property database before doing anything else.
They took more than a year to complete the data system and to set up TCC Land to manage all of the TCC Group's property businesses, which had total assets of Bt65 billion at the end of 2005.
After the group's property business found its feet, TCC Land surprised the property market by setting up a joint venture with Singaporean-based Capitaland, called TCC Capital Land, and announcing up to Bt20 billion worth of new property projects since 2005.
Tor, who is deputy CEO and executive director of TCC Capital Land, said the Singaporean partner negotiated directly with patriarch Charoen, because the group had no experience in the property sector and needed a knowledgeable strategic partner.
"I think that was the best decision, because we got technology for developing property projects from Capitaland, helping us know how to operate with our biggest assets to meet customer demand," Tor says.
Wallapa, who is CEO of TCC Land, says the group's strategy for its property business is finding strategic partners with more experience, because the group's property interests range from residential projects to office buildings, hotels and resorts, retail businesses, convention centres and golf and sports clubs.
The strategic partners will drive the group's property interests towards a goal of becoming an integrated property developer with the motto "Believe in Building the Best", she says.
Up to now, TCC Land has divided its property business into several sections. The advisory business and property-development section is operated by TCC Capital Land; the leisure and hospitality business, including hotels and resorts, serviced apartments, sporting clubs, spas and other property services, is run by TCC Land Leisure; and commercial operation, such as retail and office space, shopping centres, marketplaces, carparks, industrial estates and warehouses, is run by TCC Land Commercial. They have combined property assets around the country worth nearly Bt100 billion.
For Wallapa, 33, and Tor, 36, the past six years have been tough, setting up the property businesses and giving them direction in becoming the leading property firms in the region, but they've also had to learn to balance hard work with a family of three small children.
Wallapa says that each morning of every working day, she personally delivers two of the children to school and drops off the third at a day-care centre on her way to work.
Then, she returns home before 4pm to take care of the children, helping them with their homework and playing with them. Tor returns home before 7pm to put the children to bed.
"All of our children are under 7 years of age, so they need their father and mother to take care of them," Wallapa says. "Although we have to work very hard, we have to manage our time to take care of our children. We talk to them inside the car when we pick them up from school and we play with them when we arrive home. That is the best time for us and the children."
But when the children are asleep, its work again for Tor and Wallapa, and they seldom finish before midnight. However, weekends are set aside for family activities.
"Sometimes we may lose a chance to be with the children on working days, because of meetings to approve new projects, but we try to compensate by spending more time with them, perhaps on the following day. We believe having the happiest family will inspire us to create our best work." Wallapa and Tor Traisorat smile and nod in agreement.