Rarin “Tata” Thongma, owner of fashion-forward shoe brand O&B, is taking a bold new step with two new ventures: T Capital Technology, and home décor brand B Casa. Discover how this strong-willed woman is fast becoming one of Bangkok’s most sophisticated and business-savvy entrepreneurs through five fascinating facts about her.
Knowing what women want
O&B, which originally stood for ‘Other & Book’, is now meant to signify ‘Other Best Friends’, which naturally the best pairs of shoes always are. When the enterprise began – as just a business on Facebook, with no storefront – it specialised in ballerina flats, sold in a dizzying array of colours. At one point up to 50 colours were available, perhaps because 30 colours, enough for virtually every day of the month, still wasn’t extravagant enough for Tata.
“At that time, the novel 50 Shades of Grey was all the rage, so it was a buzzy catchphrase idea we latched onto,” quips the quick-witted brains behind the brand, as she explains her past creative marketing tactics. “Women are not like men because they care about things matching. I know how we love colours, and our bags and shoes need to be in the exact same shade. It might be a very particular green or red the customer wants, which is why we created so many colours.”
A life in art and fashion
Since her teen years, studying at Horwang School and Triam Udom Suksa School, she excelled in art and design – while confessing to finding math and chemistry to be “like alien languages” – and this artistic flair led her to eventually study Product Design at Silpakorn University.
Her first job was as the display and visual merchandiser for King Power, where she received training from the luxury brand representatives of Gucci, Burberry, and Armani, among many others. This experience shaped her tremendously, refining her ability and dexterity when it came to brand building and retail savvy. As an unwavering lover of art and design, she went on to pursue her Master’s degree in Italy. Those years spent studying Fashion Marketing at the Istituto Europeo di Design (IED).
“Back then, not everyone’s parents would have approved of their child going off to study fashion. I am very lucky and have to thank my parents for everything. At that time, no one understood online retail or what I was doing, but my mother always asked how I was, and without her money and support I wouldn’t be here today.”
The woman behind Thailand’s most-loved ballet flats
Tata is a poster girl for entrepreneurial success, making her a darling of the business media. Since co-founding O&B in 2012, Tata’s empire has risen steadily – to much fanfare – with over 600,000 pairs of her ballerina flats alone sold to date. And its popularity is showing no signs of waning.
Interestingly, it’s not just the general public that swears by her footwear. Her high heels have gone on to adorn not only some of the most beautiful women in the world – on the Miss Universe 2018 stage – but also top models strutting their stuff on the catwalks of Milan Fashion Week. For someone who now has the world at her feet, so to speak, Tata jokes about her somewhat humbler beginnings.
Reaching a milestone with O&B
Fans of her brand can surely expect some exciting surprises next month as O&B celebrates its 9th anniversary, and an even bigger party next year when it hits the 10-year mark. One recent addition to the product line-up is a selection of sophisticated small leather goods, such as wallets and card cases, but what’s been keeping this entrepreneur extra busy lately is a soon-to-be-launched online home décor brand called B Casa. This new enterprise will be under Tata’s fashion and lifestyle conglomerate Christina Grey Group, side-by-side with O&B.
Then there’s T Capital Technology, a company Tata co-founded at the beginning of the year. It’s essentially a software house conceived to serve upcoming brands under the Christina Grey Group, but also to help other SMEs and budding businesses looking to facilitate their online presence and transactions. “The online landscape today requires adapting every single day, so this new company helps our startup clients to be able to shift and change as quickly as possible,” she explains.
Being faithful to your goals
Reflecting on her journey and remaining resolute, she ponders. “Not letting other people’s opinions make you waver can be very difficult. I’ve heard a lot in nine years, and some things do sneak in to make your faith waver. I’ve learned that it’s not about whether you are clever or not, it’s about whether you are steely enough in your resolve, and who gets there first. I imagine big successes like Jack Ma or Jeff Bezos must have such a strong faith, because people are talking terribly about them every day!”
“The media writes about me as a strong businesswoman,” she continues, “but I do get weak and feel down too. I always remind myself to look at the big picture. It’s only natural that your problems will grow as your business grows larger. If you have small goals, you will just have small problems because they’ll be easy to deal with. If you want to create something truly humongous, you just have to do it and persevere.”
Photographer: Vatcharasith Wichyanrat
Photographer’s Assistants: Somboonkiat Wonghom & Kiattisak Janprai
Stylist: Chittawatr Buramyakorn
Stylist’s Assistant: Pawarisa Phunuch
Makeup Artist: Sathaporn Weerasuk
Hair Stylist: Kakanest Chanchariyakun
Editorial Coordinator: Kanyaphat Somwong
Location: Christina Grey Group Co, Ltd
Read the full interview in the August 2021 issue of Prestige Thailand.
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