Sarasas stays top of the class thanks to its visionary owner

national April 28, 2014 00:00


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THIRTY-SEVEN schools are operating in Thailand under the Sarasas brand, making it the biggest chain of private schools here. 
At its helm is Piboon Yongkamol, the 79-year-old founder and chairman of the Sarasas network. 
“He is still in charge. It’s he who has issued policies and laid down directions,” said Piboon’s fourth child, Pisut Yongkamol, in a recent exclusive interview. 
Today, the Sarasas chain’s schools include 24 bilingual ones. It has 5,279 Thai teachers and 1,281 foreign teachers for its 78,473 students. 
This high-flying educational-services chain first started in Bangkok in 1964. Over the following five decades, its |business has expanded at an impres-|sive scale with many of its branches |now operating in other big cities like Nakhon Ratchasima, Chon Buri and Chiang Mai. 
While the Sarasas chain is apparently a success, Pisut has chosen to be humble. 
“I won’t call this a success because I don’t want to get carried away by what the chain has achieved,” he said. 
Piboon and his team of retired teachers and school directors are now in charge of quality control and quality assurance. |Every month, they have a meeting to |discuss problems that they may come |across and also ideas on how to improve the chain. 
Pisut, meanwhile, has served as the director of the Sarasas Ektra School, Thailand’s first bilingual school. 
“My father is far-sighted. He recognised the importance of English a long time ago,” he said. “That’s why my brothers and I were sent to Australia to continue our study when we were young.”
He said Sarasas’ first bilingual school, which was also the first in Thailand, started in 1994 – the year other Sarasas schools also offered intensive English classes. 
“We gave parents more choices when it came to developing their children’s English skills,” Pisut said, adding that Sarasas Witaed had just launched an international programme too. 
According to him, the foreign-language classes at Sarasas schools now cover Japanese and Chinese as well. 
“We are always moving ahead,” Pisut said.
He has given all the credit to his father, who has never abandoned his aspiration to develop quality and profitable schools even when it seemed too hard to pursue in the very beginning. 
“Not long after he founded his first school, his partners sold all their |shares back to him,” Pisut said. “A few years after the establishment of his second school, my aunt sold all her shares in it back to him.” 
Two of Piboon’s first schools offer general education. Learning from the challenges in the general-education sector, Piboon opened a commerce school and it has been a success. 
“Profits from the commerce school have allowed him to improve his first two schools. From there, we have entered the path of growth,” Pisut said. 
At present, the Sarasas chain has no problems attracting shareholders. 
The Sarasas recently offered a progamme in which teachers and staff are welcome to invest in Sarasas’ newest school in Nakhon Ratchasima. 
“We hope to create a sense of ownership. We hope to engage our staff and maintain their loyalty,” Pisut said. 
He said Sarasas schools were his family’s only business and all his siblings had worked in this chain. 
“We have fun seeing our chain expanding, our students blossoming,” he said. 
“My father decided to open Sarasas schools in many provinces partly because he believes it is a way to encourage development and prosperity there.”

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