Managing Director of Italasia, Chakrit “Max” Benedetti, talks tailored Duly shirts, his go-to drink, and continuing a long-standing family legacy.
When we enter the Italiasa office on Asoke Road, the spaces are adorned with monuments that are stately, yet warm and approachable at the same time — a vibe rather befitting a business that holds a half-century long heritage. There’s a painting of the company’s Italian founder Othello Benedetti, and his Thai wife Chatra Donavanik Benedetti, while near the window sits the iron bust of their son Adolfo. It is here that we meet with Chakrit “Max” Benedetti, the third-generation heir to this impressive enterprise.
He believes in the Thai “lucky colour of the day”.
You wouldn’t quite expect it, but Max describes his fashion sense as rather conservative, though he admits he’s got a soft spot for colours, prints, and patterns. When we meet him, he’s wearing a crisp Duly shirt, with an eye-catching plaid combination of pink and orange. Though we met on a Tuesday, he jokingly tells us that his same shirt could be worn on a Thursday as well, as the orange colour fits with that particular day’s associated lucky hue in Thailand. “When I got these tailored, I had some of my plaid shirts made with three colours so I can wear them on three different days of the week — although that may be too repetitive,” he jokes.
He was born and raised to take the reins.
Having grown up in Bangkok with his younger sister Fa, Max attended Saint Dominic School, before moving to Triam Udom Suksa School, and later enrolling in Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Commerce and Accountancy. He explains that, for those looking to eventually run businesses like himself, that was the only trajectory there was back in the day. “The only path then for people in my line of work was to next get an MBA, and I did so at Thunderbird School of Global Management.”
While his academic journey itself was already enough to mould him into the leader he is today, this eldest son clearly recalls childhood of being made to dine with suppliers — clear signs that there was always an expectation for him to take the reins. “I would be forced to dress up and have dinner at home with our guests too. It was no fun at all for a young boy, but I must have absorbed something during that time. I saw my father as a role model and all I could think was I wanted to be a businessman just like him, wearing a tie and carrying a briefcase like he did. Luckily I love to drink coffee, wine, and single malt, so that does make my work more enjoyable!”
He’s a seasoned businessman, and it shows.
When Max’s grandfather founded Italasia in 1962, it started out with just Italian brand names, but today the products roster ranges from leading brands of electric appliances, to glassware, premium spirits, wines, mixers, mineral water, and coffee. Throughout the 57 years of its history, the well-established enterprise has garnered a repute for adapting in the face of crisis, as Max proves his prowess as a leader by steering his company through some of the roughest waves yet, from the Tom Yum Goong Crisis to our current pandemic. Responding to Covid-19, currently in the works is the import of ozone disinfecting air purifiers for hotel sanitation, as well as Virus Guard, a brand of alcohol-free, nano-tech wipes that kill bacteria without destroying surfaces.
While the new laws prohibiting online alcohol sales may seem like a large hit to the supplier, Italiasa has reacted with quick, fuss-free grace, with plans to open retail stores in Grand Hyatt Erawan, Piman 49, Petchburi, and On Nut to be closer to customers.
He’s got a strong love for the finer things.
While he’s definitely got responsibilities resting on his shoulders, his role as managing director hasn’t stopped Max from revelling in other aspects of his life. For one, he recently tied the knot with long-time sweetheart Varisa “Pye” Prathanrasnikorn, celebrating with a soiree that many coined as their last party before lockdown. He also expresses a keen interest in the anthropology of food, and is an avid lover of Italian and Japanese cuisine. He speaks fondly of his love for whiskey and cigar bars, and admits that his Ferrari 488 Spider has a very special place in his heart.
He grew up with a Ferrari poster plastered on his wall.
“I like cars even more than watches,” Max tells us, “so when I think of brands like Hublot, the first thing that comes to my mind is its reasonable price range, but also its longstanding partnership with Ferrari, and how it has been the team’s official timekeeper since 2011.” To Max, it isn’t just about the powerful performance of a Ferrari, but a combination of everything — the aesthetic, design, smell, and the intoxicating roaring sounds when he accelerates on open roads. He likens owning a Ferrari to a milestone in life. “Maybe it was because there was a poster of a Ferrari plastered on my bedroom wall when we moved houses during my childhood. My parents probably just picked it because they thought it was fitting for little boys, but with that aid, it is a very old and iconic brand, and I think all men dream of owning a Ferrari once in their lifetime.”
As for any advice he has for those looking to buy, he offers a piece of advice that’s rather applicable to life as a whole. “If you think you’re ready, you shouldn’t wait or put it off. If you like it just go for it, because life is short!”
Find out more about Chakrit “Max” Benedetti in our August 2020 issue, available in all leading bookstores nationwide.
Photographer: Apichart Chaichulla
Stylist: Chartawi Prajith
Stylist Assistant: Apirath Phromli
Makeup and Hair: Nattanun Nitiareeroj
Editorial Coordinator: Rattanachai Chaipornsantikul
Location: Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok