The media tycoon explains how a 'Passion to Win' drove him into a whole new field
SURACHAI CHETCHOTISAK, the chief executive at media-and-entertainment firm RS, has famously gone into the skincare business with LifeStar, and plans to list his new affiliate on the stock exchange next year.
LifeStar has done extremely well through “call-sell”, which means “teleshopping”, which means buying your stuff by phoning in orders to a TV show. Last year alone it made Bt200 million this way, and the revenue target this year is Bt600 million.
The products – also sold at beauty shops, trade fairs and online – include beauty and personal care items such as the anti-ageing skincare formula Magique from Switzerland. You can get the firming treatment Gravitas with its innovative Starfish V-Activating complex, the Japanese skin-brightening lotion Noble White, the American-made acne cream Clear Expert, and Revive, another Swiss export, which prevents hair loss.
It’s obvious that Surachai is being quite purposeful in his undertakings, and LifeStar is no exception. In a wide-ranging chat with The Nation, he says he’s always open-minded about people and opportunities and has a sharp eye for both – along with a passion to win.
TELL US HOW YOUR MOVE INTO |PERSONAL-CARE PRODUCTS CAME ABOUT.
It started almost four years ago, when I noticed that most of the advertisements on our flagship digital-TV station Channel 8 and our satellite-based free-to-air Channel 2 involved beauty and personal care products.
It’s a tremendous market and it’s growing continuously every year, even despite the overall economic slump. Locally it’s worth almost Bt80 billion, in fact. The industry appeals to modern consumers’ lifestyles, and that’s where we began with our marketing strategy. I really enjoy being involved in the business!
In 2014 we contacted skincare laboratories overseas to make sure we had the right and most effective formulas, and then we found the top factory in Thailand to create our line. And finally we got into the market in 2015, initially only through call-sell.
DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT PRODUCTS MADE IN THAILAND RATHER THAN THE MORE ESTABLISHED SOURCES IN FRANCE, SWITZERLAND, JAPAN OR EVEN SOUTH KOREA?
Not at all – the formula and the effectiveness of the product are what matter. And we fully trust in our quality control.
THE BEAUTY BUSINESS IS A LONG WAY |FROM WHAT YOU’VE BEEN DOING |FOR THE PAST 30 YEARS.
Building brands is our strength. LifeStar has its own teams providing management and expertise. What RS and I do is input our marketing experience, using our media channels to promote the brand.
The challenge of running a successful business these days isn’t in competing with the other businesses, but rather in how you develop customer loyalty and adapt quickly to their changing preferences. Shoppers are very well informed and, due to modern technology, they’re apt to change their minds quickly. Many businesses die because they’re unable to adapt or adjust fast enough and the customers just leave. You can be comfortable in your market position, but if you don’t keep developing, you’ll lose.
WHICH BUSINESS HAS THE BETTER |FUTURE – ENTERTAINMENT OR |HEALTH AND BEAUTY?
RS is still doing fine and is profitable with the media and entertainment sector, but we have to change often. LifeStar is just beginning, so it needs more attention.
Whatever business I’ve done, my passion is always to win. Some people say, “Do what you love doing”, but for me that’s secondary. My passion to win is stronger than my interest in loving what I do. When I want to win, my focus will be on the goal – I live with it and finally I’ll love it. If you have that passion, whatever obstacles you encounter along the way, you’ll get over them because in the end you want to win.
I’m 54 years old. My dreams have already come true. I’ve had everything I want since I was in my early 40s. You might think, “Okay, enough, I’m done”, but I’m not that kind of person. I still enjoy my work a lot and certainly, when I see an opportunity, I can’t help but grab it.
And I notice things, so when I see how significant the growth in the health and beauty business is, even among young people just selling products on Instragram, I ask, “Why can’t I do that?”
At the moment I have no goal in life because I enjoy every moment I’m working. In the next three or four months you’ll be surprised with the new business directions at RS.
HOW MANY PEOPLE DOES RS EMPLOY |AND HOW DO YOU KEEP THE STAFF |FEELING UNITED IN THEIR EFFORTS?
We have about 1,000 employees, and I believe they’re all capable of doing many things well.
My management structure at RS is very flat. The staff is evaluated based on the outcome of their work. There’s no politics. I want them to be able to change and act fast and to be confident in me. Every change we make is for the better. There’s always job security – the purpose of the changes is never about laying-off employees. I don’t expect anyone to work all day and all night, but to work happily and to be efficient.
The perception of RS is that it has the capability to create businesses through marketing. We don’t want to be stamped as a media-and-music entertainment company or a beauty company, but rather as a company can be a diverse as well as successful. That’s my vision.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU |ENCOUNTER AN OBSTACLE?
I fix it! For example, I see in my head the way LifeStar will be successful, so I just have to get it there.
DO YOU RELY ON ADVISERS?
Everyone on my team is my adviser. How else would a 54-year-old know what 23-year-olds are thinking if he doesn’t listen to them? I’m very open-minded.
LIFESTAR HAS SINGER MARSHA WATTANAPANICH AS A BRAND AMBASSADOR, AND YET SHE USED TO BE ATTACHED TO AN RS COMPETITOR, GMM GRAMMY.
LifeStar and I choose Marsha |and Ruangsak “James” Loychusak [formerly signed to RS] as our brand ambassadors simply because |they’re the most suitable people to present the products. There’s nothing else to it.