As the 26-year-old heiress to S&P – Thailand’s leading restaurant and bakery chain – and the sister of Name, rock band Getsunova’s beloved lead singer, Parama “Nam” Raiva is certainly a force to be reckoned with. All eyes notice when she enters the room, as besides her stunning looks, long jet-black hair and elegant physique – enhanced, on this particular work day, by a very chic and business-like Alexander Wang black number – her presence seems somewhat celestial.
With millions of Thai fans likening her brother to a rock “god” over the years, one can’t help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, Nam is even more heaven-sent. She is also, in her own way, every bit the creator.
“I knew from a very young age what I wanted to do,” she admits, as the distinctive scent of Stella McCartney graces the air. “I wanted to carry on my family business. I always, without even thinking about it, took an interest in what they did. I enjoyed spending time in their restaurants and shadowing their day-to-day lives. I remember once watching my mum (Kessuda Raiva) doing business over the phone and thinking how I wanted to be like her one day.”
Even though she looks like she has it all, she doesn’t flaunt it, as the ever so humble Nam is quick to acknowledge when she gets it wrong too, swallowing what she sees as her own perceived shortcomings with a sense of humour. The great irony is that although she may be passionate about food, she can’t bake or cook to save her life. “I certainly tried my hand at baking growing up. But my parents never seemed to want to try anything I made… so that kind of made me realise that baking wasn’t my forte”.
She still does, however, manage to add her own flavour to the food-and-beverage empire her parents founded, through her official role as business development manager. She is also now in charge of the business’ new brand and most recent venture, SNP HQ, a trendy space located directly underneath the actual headquarters of her parents’ company.
“My father (Pravesvudhi Raiva) thought it was only natural to have a restaurant underneath the S&P office. And SNP HQ is more than just a restaurant – it’s a research and development operation; we get direct feedback from the customers on what works and what doesn’t.”
Here, customers can actually experience the art of cooking. The altogether new dining concept that features five areas – cake studio, comfort food café, espresso bar, baking lab and workshop – has just opened its third branch in Mega Bangna. At the moment, Nam’s time is spent running between the three venues, making sure everything is in order.
But how did she get to where she is today?
The importance of family stands at the very core of Nam’s being, so much so that she was “heartbroken” the day her parents sent her away to boarding school in England. After a two-week trial period at Godstowe Preparatory School in High Wycombe, she agreed, with hesitation to carry on her studies in England.
“During my trial period at Godstowe, even though I was so sad, everyone had been so nice and accommodating and I felt like I had already made friends in just those two weeks. In the end, I decided to give Godstowe a go.”
That, however, was only the beginning of a few chapters of heartbreak as the young Nam could not stomach being away from her parents. Aged 10, she spent many moments wondering why her parents had sent her away. “I vividly remember sitting next to the window at my boarding house one time staring out into the distance and asking for my father: ‘he promised he’d come back to get me.’” For a girl who had spent every waking – and almost every sleeping – moment with her parents, she was desperately homesick.
“The worst came during one exeat. I’d spent a lovely weekend in London with my parents and I remember on the Sunday I had to go back. We were driving out of our front drive and all of a sudden I decided to jump out of the slowly moving car and run back to the house to lock myself in my room. My dad is never an angry person; he’s one of the calmest and patient men you could ever meet. But at that point I remember him being furious.” Safe to say, she did make it back to school very late that Sunday evening.
“And I’d do things like that often to get out of going back. Eventually my dad sat me down and said: ‘You know in your heart that going back is the right thing for you.’ So I accepted that sometimes in life you have to do things you don’t want to do to get to where you want to be. From that point onwards, I became less resistant as I knew my parents had my best interests at heart. And they were right. After I got over being homesick, I ended up truly loving it.”
Nam admits that the most valuable experience she had growing up was learning how to survive without her beloved parents, despite how much she enjoyed their company. “I still spoke to them on the phone every night though,” she laughs.
She recalls how being at an all-girls school was quite a comforting experience as it meant she didn’t have to spend too much time worrying about her appearance. “I know this sounds slightly mad but there were days I would turn up to lessons wearing pajamas underneath my uniform, partly to keep warm but also because I was just plain lazy! Then when we had a break I’d return back to the room, take my uniform off and have a quick nap before returning back to lessons.
“Oh, and there were some days I’d hide in in my cupboard during games. I didn’t really like lacrosse, and I wasn’t particularly good at it either,” she admits, chuckling and twirling her hair at the same time. On her index finger sits a quaint and coiled silver ring by fine jewellery brand Patcharavipa, given to her by a close friend and founder of the brand, Patcharavipa Bodiratnangkura.
In her final year at Benenden School, Nam was awarded the school’s prestigious Design & Techonology Cup for her outstanding abilities in the subject she had developed a huge passion for. On the back of her good grades in Design Technology, she managed to get herself enrolled into a foundation course in Art and Design at London’s reputable Central Saint Martin’s. She was determined to carry on with a course in Product Design and applied to several universities which all accepted her, par one, Central Saint Martin’s, the one she wanted most.
Her teacher convinced her that her creativity and love for doing things her way would not resonate well with a course like Product Design where accuracy, conformity and by-the-book thinking were key. With pessimism, but as her teacher had suggested, she started a course in Ceramics Design at her desired university. Within a week, she decided she loved it.
“During this course, I was able to create so many things, injecting my own creativity into the process and designing off-the-wall themes and concepts that really allowed me to find my space as a creator.” Her final dissertation was a real tribute to her fascination with the culinary world she had been exposed to growing up, as her research question focused on the ways to enhance food through, not the ingredients used, but the senses.
Her course must have got her amped up as at the age of 22, upon receiving her degree, she returned to Thailand as she wanted to start working with S&P straight away. A year ago she moved up into her role as business development manager and confesses that it has been a steep learning curb ever since. Although her official role is business development manager, her real focus right now is building awareness around SNP HQ and its altogether new offerings for Bangkok’s foodie scene.
“It’s a truly versatile space; customers can do so many things here! They can learn about cake-making, they can have their own cake tailor-made for them, much like how one would personally pick the different flowers that make up a bouquet; visitors can listen to notable industry experts talk about food; they can attend workshops; they can eat home-cooked style comfort food or they can just use the space to work or chill.”
She admits she’s never done this before and has looked to key members of her family as role models, particularly her cousin, Visaka Raiva, founder of Vanilla Garden (Ekamai) and Vanilla Brasserie (Paragon), who is exceptionally brilliant at building the concepts that have made Bangkok’s much-loved eateries. “My father had me shadow her for a year so I could learn everything and I’ll admit even now I still call her up to ask her questions when I’m not sure about something.” Although she looks to others for help, Nam nonetheless is beginning to rely solely on her own judgement to execute decisions. “I’ll listen to others and see what they say, but if an idea doesn’t resonate with me, I’ll go with what I perceive to be right”.
The heiress cares deeply about her family’s business, so much so that she really takes it to heart when things don’t go according to plan. “It’s not like being at school or university where you learn things, take an exam and that’s it. This is real life. Things don’t always run smoothly. I’ve found that if I want tangible results, there are many steps I have to go through before I reach an outcome that works. Before, when I wasn’t getting the results I wanted, I took my perceived failures quite badly. But I’ve now learned that any ‘failure’ is just a stepping stone to success.”
Nam’s parents encouraged her to attend meditation retreats every year from a very young age, thus, the Buddhist precepts are fundamental to her decision-making and her modus operandi, in work and life. A deep commitment to the teachings of Buddha was something her father also instilled in her: “My father always said to do what you like, so long as it is in line with the precepts. And if you do right, the results and merits will come, slowly, but always surely. So I try to live by that every day.”
We were keen to find out how Nam was intending to celebrate Valentine’s Day. With a special someone perhaps? When asked, a little blush flushed her porcelain-white cheeks. “There is a special someone. We’ve been going steady for several years now. He’s not one to celebrate ‘occasions’ so I’ll be lucky if we do end up doing anything!”
In her spare time, when she manages to find any, she enjoys staying at home, relaxing and playing with her white poodle and pomeranian. “I love dogs so much and mine bring me such joy.” When asked if she likes to party, Nam reveals that she’d much rather stay in with a nice bottle of red, and have friends over, too. Her absolutely killer body suggests she has a very militant fitness regime, yet, to our great surprise, she only manages to make it to the gym once a month. “I’m pretty consistent with my ‘monthly’ routine,” she chuckles. “I go once a month, I guarantee, without fail. My trainer used to call me to convince me to come more but gave up quite quickly.”
Quite remarkably, Nam also proved to herself and others that she could also build something completely separate from her family’s business. Another venture she started with two friends (Anna Wongcha-um and Chandrasiree Pravitra Na Ayutthaya) in England before returning to Thailand was building the exotic skin cap brand, Triadic Affair (IG: @Triadic_affair )
which has slowly been gaining momentum. “No one was doing it at the time,” Nam explains, “and if this product had been available in the market, my friends and I would definitely have worn it. So we decided to just do it as we were simply producing something that we would wear ourselves.” Nam and her friends raised their own funds to do this project, selling their used clothes and belongings before gathering enough money to head on with the project as soon as they returned from London. “It started off very small. We didn’t think that so many people would take notice, but the response was definitely more than we expected.” Triadic affair is now selling online and in a few retail spaces, namely Siam Discover, Matter Makers and exhibit Space.
Her favourite trip of all time was the one she took to Ethiopia last November, where she managed to travel to tribes virtually untouched by the outside world. “What I remember most vividly was witnessing the Bull Jumping ceremony of the Hamer tribe, a day a boy celebrates his right of passage into adulthood. Before the ceremony his female relatives drink and dance around him to announce his adulthood and also beg to be whipped by the males in the village to show how proud they are of the him and how much love they have for him. Seeing this absolutely selfless kind of love was, to me, so powerful.” Her instagram posts show how enamoured she was by the Ethiopian tribes she met and equally how much they adored her.
“I’d like to visit Uganda and Rwanda next,” the adventurer reveals.
By this point, Nam looks down to her iPhone screen which is flooded with messages and calls. We wrap up with our final question, asking what luxury means to her.
“Luxury is something you appreciate. Because if you appreciate it, you cherish it with the trueness and richness of your heart, and that feeling… is everything. Luxury, as I’m learning more and more, is not always found in the material.”