PHUKET: It’s been a stellar year – and then some – for Natthakanya ‘Apple’ Saengpho, CEO of the Paradise Group.
Andara Signature – the latest project from Andamandara Development, the company she runs with Dr Allan Zeman – won best Phuket villa development, best Thailand villa development, best residential architectural design and best landscape architectural design at the Thailand Property Awards in September.
Then, in October, she was honored by the United States Agency for International Development as one of the Outstanding Women Business Leaders of Thailand for Green Growth – an award designed to encourage environmental development.
The awards come as Apple and her team reach the zenith of a learning curve Dr Zeman set them on seven years ago, first with the development of Surin Plaza, then the Andara resort and villa developments – each new project expanding their skills and knowledge of how best to accommodate the ultra-high-end international market.
The latest iteration of this is Andara Signature. Spread across 30 rai of Kamala hillside, the new project features just eight luxury villas.
Beyond the input of Dr Zeman and his international partners, all of these projects have been designed and built by Apple’s team of Thai specialists – all of whom can now justifiably take those skills to the international market without any doubt that they can compete with the best the world has to offer.
“I have the development team, architects, engineers, surveyors – a full team – and I’m looking for projects for that team,” Apple says. “I’m looking for investors. I really hope that they are coming. I have a very strong team and we can do much more.”
What Apple’s team has that their international counterparts cannot claim, is inside knowledge of how to create these mighty projects within Thailand’s legal and social framework – the latter having been the downfall of many international developers who tried their hand in the Thai market.
Beyond her development team, Apple commands a 400-plus-strong staff, running the resort and taking care of guests.
“Most of our staff are local – more than 50 per cent are from Kamala, so the community is very important to me,” Apple explains.
“We manage the resort as a family. Everyone here works as if they are at home: they try to save; they try to get things done properly; they try to make sure the guests are happy and love to come back.”
With half of her staff quite literally working on their own doorsteps, Apple places particular emphasis on developing community relations.
“If there are any difficulties, they will be the people that can make me take action to solve problems quickly. These people are very important to me. And, of course, whatever I can return or help them back with, I will do it,” she says.
“I’m in a position where I have better opportunities, as well as the ability to do more. So, before I do anything, I always think: how will my people support this?”
Apple sees improving Kamala, keeping the beach clean and working to improve the community as a benefit to her business – after all, who would want to stay at a five-star resort if they have to stumble through piles of trash to get to it?
As such, her team is active in the Kamala Green Club helping with beach cleanups and joining the Friday afternoon town cleanups that are organized by local teens. “[This is] not just to help with the cleanup, but to get to know the teenagers in the community,” she explains.
Apple is also pushing to get all of the Kamala hotels and other local businesses involved in the cleanups.
“That will be a very lovely community gathering,” she smiles.
— Simon J Hand
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