Despite the well-worn aphorism that empires fall with the third generation, the digital youth at the heart of one of Thailand’s leading conglomerates is determined to break the mould
- By Pitsinee Jitpleecheep -
“There are constant challenges, especially with technological changes and advancements, but this is nothing new to us and we have always seen Central at the forefront of embracing change in Thailand.”
Many families fail to pass their prosperity on to the next generation, faced with a highly competitive market, mismanagement, disruptive technology and a rapidly changing business landscape.
But Central Group breaks the mold, with its business expanding from one generation to the next, having achieved success beyond expectations.
Starting from a small shop selling imported fashion and other wares on Si Phraya Road, Central has become a retail empire with different formats in Thailand and abroad, from East to West.
Yuwadee Chirathivat, executive director of retail, says that each successive generation has seen continual, sustainable growth.
Their business ideology was originally instilled by founder Tiang Chirathivat, and then honed by Samrit Chirathivat, Mr Tiang’s eldest son, and Wanchai Chirathivat, Mr Tiang’s second son.
“We had our family foundations ingrained in us through education. Living and working as a family, we’ve created close ties that give us a sense of togetherness as we move forward, having a clear strategy and focus on what we do, always looking to the future,” said Mrs Yuwadee, one of the pillars of the third generation.
Each generation brings innovative ideas and experiences that allow the group to develop into previously unknown areas, both holding onto what initially made the company relevant while breaking new ground in an ever-changing world.
The generation before laid the foundations, developing a solid customer base and a network of partners to expand with. This generation is continuing to grow its base throughout Thailand and beyond.
“We’ve been looking toward business diversification, offering more security in regards to our financial structure and a broader scope for future development. We are able to look further afield with overseas acquisitions and developments, especially in Europe, with the procurement of Rinascente in Italy, Illum in Denmark and KaDeWe, Alsterhaus and Oberpollinger in Germany,” said Mrs Yuwadee.
The company is now in the hands of the “truly digital generation”, employing the ideas and developments needed for an omni-channel world to best serve its customers, keeping on the annual sales growth momentum of 15%.
While the retail industry is in constant flux, Central is likewise in a continual state of evolution. From a single department store, Central has branched out into shopping plazas, supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, wholesale and beyond.
But the market paradigm has shifted once again, and customers are expecting a more inclusive and seamless shopping experience through all channels and categories.
This reality has pushed Central toward its latest concept — “Centrality” — whereby all of the groups facets have been consolidated into key business units offering myriad services.
The group is committed to using its experiences to improve operations and tackle any challenges that may lie ahead.
Mrs Yuwadee said with the group’s accumulated experiences, it is in a strong position to stay flexible and adapt to the changing business environment, while remaining open to input from customers to improve its service.
Viewing the future through a digital lens, Central has developed a “Digi-Lifestyle” platform, which promises better security and adaptive, tailored-experiences through the use of customer data.
To reach that end, Central formed a joint venture with the Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com to establish JD Central, offering a new marketplace at jd.co.th for its customers to access the digi-lifestyle platform.
Because of the long-standing efforts of the Chirathivat family, Mrs Yuwadee said Central has become “a second home” among Thais, with the youth looking back to honour and upgrade the house their ancestors built.