From left: Naphaporn Bodiratnangkura, Sanhapit Bodiratanagkura and Bilaibhan Sampatisiri. Thanpuying Lursakdi Sampatisiri, sitting. The three generations who manage Nai Lert.
When there is a tough call to take, the women of Sampatisiri family, the executive management of Nai Lert Park Bangkok, a Raffles International Hotel, are ready to show their bias for action.
The hotel's hideaway garden, a rare glimpse of greenery on Wireless Road, is as famous as the three generations of executives led by Thanpuying Lursakdi Sampatisiri, honorary chairperson for 25 years and the only daughter of the founder, Nai Lert.
At 89, Thanpuying still walks in her garden every day and, surprisingly, in Chatuchak market, too, on Wednesday mornings to buy some saplings and flowers to plant in her tropical garden. "You don't feel old or a loss of energy with these trees [around] and when you are in such natural environs. That's why I get so excited every time the annual flower festival is to take place," Thanpuying is all smiles as she says this.
Nevertheless, Thanpuying thinks it is a pity the downtown area was not developed well.
She says, nowadays, many people seem to be all right living without trees. "I remember how my father used to plant trees in the hotel and on Chidlom, Ploenchit and Wireless Roads before all of it became this big city," she says.
The hotel business managed by four women of three generations - mother, daughters and a niece - provides a bond that completes their lives and extends to the business.
"We are thought to live a down-to-earth life. We also have strong ties with the land and are proud to help improve it. Such awareness and taking care of the environment seems to be in our blood," the second-generation managing director and Thanpuying's oldest daughter, Bilaibhan Sampatisiri, 57, says.
Sanhapit Bodiratanagkura, 51, Thanpuying's another daughter, is in the hotel's committee. The third-generation participant is Thanpuying's niece, Naphaporn Bodiratnangkura, 27, the assistant managing director.
There are no special methods to pass on the family's values and run the hotel business, as none of them, except Naphaporn, studied the subject. Like with many family businesses, learning happens on the job.
"Grandma never taught us directly, but we always learnt from her actions and behaviour," Naphaporn says. Bilaibhan echoes the thought when she says, "Think about osmosis. Mother frequently talks about her father [Nai Lert], how he started businesses - such as the first bus service in Thai history. Our principles are to do the best we can, which may not be good enough in the eyes of others but to us it is. Also, to be honest, loyal, frank and responsible."
In comparison with the hotel's earlier operations, Bilaibhan says things have changed dramatically.
The staff, today, is more professional and speak better English, but smile less and seem to lack a heart, unlike those in the past. Earlier, the staff might not have been speaking good English, but they always smiled.
For the youngest executive of the family, who graduated from Surrey University, UK, in hotel management, Naphaporn says the competition in the business is fierce, but is confident she can manage it. And then adds, "With our different characters and age gaps, sometimes, we might not agree with each other. The final decision often is that which is the best for the guest."
Bilaibhan says, "We should give credit to another important lady, Khunying Xin Sampatisiri, Thanpuying's mother. She was the one who carried on this business after Nai Lert passed away, and this when she couldn't read or write. She only knew how to write her name and the numbers to put in a cheque."
Finally, when Thanpuying Lursakdi was asked whether she was satisfied with the way her heirs managed matters, she says, "My daughters and my grandchildren are doing very well, not just in my presence, but all the time. Like in the flower festival, we are all holding hands ... And, I'm not stressed. I don't understand the meaning of that word. I only worry whether I have done enough good. I only ask everyone to do the best they can and with good intentions."