After working in management consulting at Anderson Consulting and as an investment banker for 10 years at Phatra-Merrill Lynch, Kaveepan Eiamsakulrat decided to enter the real estate business after the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis with the land his father accumulated over time. In 2001-2002, Kaveepan led his firm, K.E. Group, as they began their first housing project. The company succeeded as a newcomer in the real estate sector by building and focusing on the luxury niche.
Today, K.E. Group is a real estate company focused on luxury housing, retail, and currently developing its Real Estate Invest Trust or REIT business. K.E. Group has completed multiple luxury projects in Thailand and developed an outdoor shopping center in Bangkok.
Company DNA: K.E. Group
The focus of this interview was to try to understand the company’s DNA. Now that we had a little bit of a background on the company, we want to drill down to find the unique essence of what differentiates K.E. Group.
Kaveepan and his wife started K.E. Group
My wife and I started K.E. Group in the early 2000s with one mission: To build a business centered on families and the next generation. This focus on family and community stems from the fact that my wife and I are very family-oriented. As parents, we have often prioritized time and involvement with our children’s activities on the weekends. Now, our kids have increasingly become more involved in the business.
The group focused on building luxury houses
K.E. Group focused on building luxury houses in areas closest to the city so that residents could enjoy access to transportation and the key areas of Bangkok. The company developed its niche by prioritizing community engagement, client relationships, and customized housing. Our houses are not only located in prime areas but are also done with a creative, luxury, and functional design. Our designs are more family-oriented, unlike others that focus on the traditional Thai detached housing design. We had to find our own niche by introducing something new to the market.
Competitive advantage through internal sales
By using our internal sales teams instead of third-party sales agents, we built a tight-knit housing community by promoting community engagement in our luxury housing compounds. Finding our niche proved to be successful early on. After finishing our first housing project in 2001-2002, we saw that our housing development style allowed us to compete with the big players. Although we didn’t and still don’t advertise much, we were able to build and close all 60 houses within one year. We sold out very, very fast. Clearly, we emphasized on our customers’ needs and fulfillment.
The K.E. Group has grown into other businesses
The K.E. Group has now grown to include three businesses: Luxury housing, shopping centers, and REITs (asset management). My sons are actively running the asset management business in line with our goal to turn K.E. Group into the next-generation business.
For each of the business divisions, we are differentiating ourselves from the rest. In luxury housing projects, our focus is on family-oriented designs and personalized service. With the shopping centers, we get the tenant involved from the planning stage, and with the REITs, we fund, manage, and grow it.
Leader DNA: Kaveepan Eiamsakulrat
Can you share with us what motivates you? What is your source of inspiration during difficult times? Think about a time that you had to dig deep and rely on this inspiration.
KAVEEPAN: What helps me get through difficult times is my belief that there is always a way to find a solution to any problem. When you can truly believe this, you can always find a solution to all the problems. In terms of my inspiration, it is the vision to build a business empire for the next generation. I can trace this back to when my dad started accumulating more land while partnering in the liquor business. Even though he played an advisory role at K.E. Group, he never interfered with what we’re doing. Instead, he provided support, let us make our own decisions, and sometimes challenged us. But again, that gave me the independence to think about new business ideas. Similarly, I want to do that for my children by building a strong foundation for them to manage.
Differentiation has been a constant challenge
KAVEEPAN: One of my biggest challenges has been to keep dynamic to make the three businesses run their operations differently. Many times people look at our houses, malls, and even the REITs and think we’re passionate about running them the way we do. My motivation, though, is that we want to be different and we want to continue to foster a community and not just make money.
Another challenge has been to remove myself from all the decision making and give my sons the independence to make major decisions just in the same way my dad did for me. Sometimes I don’t totally understand what they are doing, but I trust that I passed on good business DNA to them.
What was the most difficult situation you’ve faced or possibly the biggest mistake that made?
KAVEEPAN: The biggest challenge for me, right now, is transforming the company culture. We built K.E. Group as a family business, but now we want to develop a more professional culture in the office. We believe this cultural shift would help our people feel a stronger sense of ownership over their work and in the business.
Cultural shift on the way
KAVEEPAN: We’re in the process right now, and I believe that we cannot grow much if you keep it as a family business. If you want to grow, we must transform internally. My son is starting to come in, and he also envisions the company growing more if we further develop professionalism in the workplace. However, the difficult part is the decision-making process because sometimes people like things the way they are.
- Differentiate yourself and find your niche – K.E. Group had to find their niche by introducing something new to the market and also add to the technology innovation to improve revenue and cost management.
- Always build your client relationships – It’s easy to use a third-party agent for sales. However, building strong client relationships requires an internal sales team and meeting with clients yourself. Your future self will thank you for developing your inhouse sales team.
- Your path to success is a team game – Kaveepan’s success stems from his ideas and experiences and from his collaboration with his wife and the influences that his father and sons have had on his business, life, and career.
- An evolving investment arm to support growth – K.E. Group is building an asset management division, similar to what has been done at Blackstone, and is not only concentrate on community malls in Thailand and overseas but also moving into new asset classes, like hotels and offices.
- Professionalism is necessary for growth – At a certain stage, a business needs professionalism and robust internal processes to continue to grow. This cultural transformation is the number one constraint to growth for the K.E. Group.
Learn more about Kaveepan and K.E. Group in the full interview.
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