This is an excerpt of a story from March, 2017. To read the full version, pick up a copy of Prestige’s March edition, available at fine bookstores across Thailand or via subscription online.
There is a reason why classic rags-to-riches stories are a part of our literary canon. To watch a person go from something to nothing is to watch them triumph over adversity, build character and achieve their dreams against all odds.
For as long as she can remember, Proudputh “Prou” Liptapanlop has held a very personal rags-to-riches story close to her heart.
Almost seventy years ago, her grandmother Jaraspim and grandfather Witt had little to their name other than a small boat, some possessions and an intense determination to make something of themselves. With nothing to sell, they used their bare hands to dig up sand from the riverbank to sell off as construction material to make ends meet.
They foraged, dug, built and sold for over 20 years, until they had created one of Thailand’s most successful construction companies, Prayoonwitt Co. Ltd., with nothing but blood sweat and tears.
To this day, the company, now Prayoonwitt Group, remains one of the largest and oldest civil construction companies in the country – still entirely owned by the Liptapanlop family – and has expanded to include formidable real estate and residence subsidiaries.
If that’s not a rags-to-riches story then nothing is, and each generation of the family knows it well, using it, like everyone would, as inspiration to continue building on the foundation Prou’s grandparents laid long ago.
“They literally started from nothing,” she says. “They taught us that ‘you are what you make of yourself.’ When you think of that story, whatever accomplishments you’ve had yourself, pales in comparison. Whatever difficulties I’ve faced in life, it’s nothing compared to what they have been through.”
Throughout much of her life, Prou has drawn on that story for motivation to achieve great things. She holds a decorated academic resume, including a Bachelors of Arts with Honours in Economics and Management from the University of Oxford, and a Master’s of Science in Management with Distinction from the London Business School – the world’s best overall and third-best business schools respectively.
She then enjoyed a run as a management consultant for McKinsey & Company in Bangkok, one of the world’s preeminent management consulting firms, before taking the reins of recruitment and day-to-day operations for Proud Real Estate, the property development arm of Prayoonwitt, which has expanded rapidly under her watchful eye.
She was named as one of the “Most Promising” entrepreneurs at the Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards in 2016, and was included in the Prestige “40 Under 40” list of society influencers for the past two years running.
Prou is not excessively cerebral like you might expect an Oxford-educated executive to be, and would just as soon chat about her pastime practicing English calligraphy or her favourite series on Netflix instead of talking about business. She smiles a lot, and isn’t afraid to laugh at herself over the course of a conversation.
Her fashion sense is fairly modest, favouring simple, elegant attire over “loud” trendy designs. She’s not much for luxury brands, either. She doesn’t wear much jewellery and has “pretty much” given up on watches because they get in the way of her work – although she was wearing a Bulgari Serpenti Tubogas timepiece during our interview.
She admits to having a soft spot for silk scarfs from Hermès and Louis Vuitton, and has acquired so many at this point she considers it a “bad habit”.
Her humble and kind personality certainly wins a lot of people over, but not everyone. Just as people love rags-to-riches stories, they also love to boil with rage at the thought of someone achieving success without going through a little pain first.
People are eager to cut someone down when they get off to a head start, often because they think it’s not fair or not earned.
These are accusations 29-year-old Prou has dealt with for most of her life. She is surprisingly young for an executive director of a company the size of Proud Real Estate – and she started that job when she was only 24.
On top of that, she’s the daughter of former Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop, who is a successful entrepreneur in his own right, holds a long political career spanning several ministries and is one of Thailand’s most prominent patron of sports (tennis, in particular).
Most people don’t know the story of her family’s humble beginnings – the perseverance, work ethic and determination passed down through generations.
Most people do know, however, the Liptapanlop name for what it is now – an influential, successful and wealthy lineage with prominent ties to politics.
“When people know you as a politician’s daughter, it comes with certain prejudices,” says Prou, who added that she would never consider a political career herself because of the burden it levels on people and their families.
“People think you have been given everything. They think what you have accomplished is not significant. They question whether your accomplishments are really your own, or whether they are just the result of your family.
“It used to annoy me when I was younger. But my parents raised us to be very humble in that way. At the end of the day, it’s what you do that defines you, not what other people think about you.”
If there was ever a Liptapanlop family credo, that would probably be it – ‘it’s what you do that defines you’…
Read the full story in our March edition, available in fine bookstore across Thailand or through subscription online.