Born in Bangkok to a Thai-Indian family, Maynica Sachdev had lived and studied in many places around the world by the time she would enter university as a teen. At six years old, she was accompanying her father to Jersey Island between England and France for his work as an architect. At ll, she attended Asia’s oldest international school, Woodstock, in the Himalayas and at 18, before moving back to Thailand to attend Chulalongkorn University, she spent some time in Washington in the United States.
The thirst for worldly experience didn’t stop in university either. While pursuing her BA in Language and Culture (BALAC) in Chula, "Mae" managed a one-year exchange to England, summer school in Barcelona and also lived in Madrid before returning to Thailand to graduate.
Clearly ambitious, upon the launch of high-end Nordic audio brand, Vifa, in Thailand last year, we couldn’t pass up an invitation for afternoon tea with its fascinating 25-year-old brand manager at her family home in Sukhumvit. We talk to Mae about her work with Vifa, candid views on the family business and an interminable passion for helping those in need.
Vifa has just launched in Thailand. Tell us about your role in the company.
As brand manager, I have been fortunate to work with Vifa from the very beginning, to interpret the brand vision into a local strategy for the Thai market. This includes working with every aspect of the brand, from supply chain to sales, marketing and public relations. I think it’s a strength of ASH to find people who are able to vocalise the brand essence. As distributors, ASH isn’t a box-mover. We’re storytellers, and out of all the brands we carry, I do identify most with Vifa. So now I am looking after the brand in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.
We hear Nordic brands and Nordic design being pushed more and more in the Thai market lately. Representing one, what’s your take on the reception of Nordic brands in Thailand right now?
I think the concept of luxury and luxury design is evolving in the Thai landscape. For instance, in the past, ‘luxury furniture’ was elaborate, classical furniture, like Casa Mia—my family’s high-end Italian business. However, we’re now at an era where luxury is no longer defined by the big, gold and grand. To draw a parallel, brands like Fritz Hansen have only gained significant popularity recently. I think people now relate to minimalism and focus on a product’s materials, history and identity, and I think Vifa fits into this category. Our customers are people who value the design, history and material. We are not just an audio brand; we’re a lifestyle brand that aims to be the thought-leader of the Nordic design and lifestyle movement in Thailand.
Speaking of family business, how involved are you in the family business?
I am involved, but I try not to make it a priority. We have the furniture store, a design business, hotels, a real estate and a management company, and we’re thinking of launching a new Italian design solutions firm, which I would run should I choose to accept the responsibility... But right now I’m invested in the brand building of Vifa. That’s my priority.
Is there pressure though to takeover the family business eventually?
Yes and no. My parents have always been supportive of my decisions, but when my dad asked me to join the family business after I finished university, I told him I would do it—but not yet. Selfishly, I think that we can learn at the expense of other people. At ASH, Vifa is my business unit, which allows me to be the "intrapreneur". This is preparing me for my future “takeover” or greater involvement in the family business. And in reverse, growing up in the family business has given me natural know-how and instincts to carry a brand like Vifa, despite having never been a brand manager before.
I’ve heard that you’re a wearer of several hats. What are some other projects you’re involved in?
When I was young, I really saw myself pursuing a career in the NGO world and ending up at the UN. Right before I went England during university, I spent a couple of months working for the Deaf Foundation under the Queen’s Patronage and GNE Health. It was through that opportunity that I met Dr Kris Chatamra and Khunying Finola, who of course are the founders of the Queen Sirikit Center for Breast Cancer Foundation.
I went on to do the Slum and Community Outreach project with them, and I loved it! When I asked if I could continue volunteering, Dr Kris told me about his vision for Pink Park, a convalescent home and hospice for underprivileged breast cancer patients. In total, I worked with the foundation for about three years, seeing Pink Park from farmland until the building was finished.
My passion still remains in this area. A few years ago, my friend and I launched a mentorship programme for underprivileged kids. We saw a problem of organisations supplying scholarships to children but the kids not having the incentive to go to school even after receiving the funds. So we matched kids in the slums with mentors in universities to enable them to discover their passion and find good role models. The commitment for mentorship is at least six months because that’s another problem in this field—people come in to do some charity experience and it’s a one-off thing.
What are you looking forward to in the near future?
I am looking forward to quite a few things this year, especially traveling because it’s a big part of my life. I think we can choose to store money in the bank or invest in experiences, and I choose the latter. With the brand, we have three exciting collaborations with leaders of the art, design and travel segment. This is going to be a big year for Vifa in Thailand.
Last question—What is your personal favourite speaker?
The Helsinki. It’s tiny but so powerful, and it’s portable like a handbag.
(Read more: This 23-Year-Old Is The CEO Of A College Prep Empire)