Central CEO Yuwadee makes Forbes Asia's Top 50
Yuwadee Chirathivat, 59, has become the only Thai on Forbes Asia's 50 Top Businesswoman list by steering her family's Central Department Store to Thailand's pole position and manoeuvring the 65-year-old firm into a growing role region-wide.
Shopping has become an ever-escalating pursuit across Asia,
but no country outclasses Thailand for the consummate mega-mall experience.
Despite this, most local companies have shied from moving out of their comfort zones.
"But Yuwadee opened Central's first China stores in 2010 and last year embarked on an ambitious Southeast Asian strategy that will start with the opening of a store in Indonesia in 2014," Forbes Asia said yesterday.
"Thailand remains the Central focus, with new stores slated to open this year in southern Hat Yai and northern Chiang Mai."
Despite a global economic downturn that has buffeted the retail industry, Central under president and chief executive Yuwadee increased its sales by 19 per cent last year to US$1.8 billion (Bt53.6 billion) and its profit by 13 per cent. She looks over a brood of 13 Central Department Stores and one Zen department store.
Forbes Asia said the 50 women were chosen for being particularly active in their areas of business in spite of challenging economic headwinds. Amid a slowdown in China, a weak US recovery and concerns over Europe's currency union, most of these women produced higher profits, and those who didn't were repositioning for a business pick-up.
The women on the list were also selected based on their accomplishments in the latest year. The full list, which is available on www.forbes.com/asia-women and in the latest issue of Forbes Asia, includes Zhou Xiaoguang, a costume-jewellery maker who started out lugging a bag of accessories around China at age 16 and now commands a company with yearly sales of half a billion dollars.
Priya Paul is an Indian hotelier who took over after her father was assassinated and introduced a new line of hip boutique inns.
Sabrina Chao is a Hong Kong shipping heiress who became one of the youngest chairwomen in the industry at 38, and is the youngest woman on the list. The oldest listee is Japan's Yoshiko Shinohara, 77, who now has an online comic book based on her life - a testament to how executives can adapt, embracing new media.
Several of the women have significant Twitter - or in the case of China, weibo - audiences. Chinese media mogul Yang Lan outdoes Oprah in the number of people hanging on her tweets.
Women from mainland China dominate the list with 16 honourees, followed by Hong Kong and India with eight each and Singapore with four. Six countries have two women on the list - Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, South Korea and Vietnam. Malaysia is the other country with one woman listed.