Apinara Srikarnchana has a smile that lights up the room, a petite frame that complements her feminine character and a vibrant personality that lifts a dull day. But she is not just a pretty face. The young society belle charms us with her ambitious nature—her brilliant energy reflecting a modern-day working woman, a versed multi-tasker, a doer who takes the initiative. “The one piece of advice I give to everyone is to never say later when you want to do something, because that can become never,” says the 28-year-old. She speaks with passion about everything—from personal interests and making a difference through innovation to embracing life’s challenges and family values.
While the younger Apinara once had her heart set on becoming a stage actress, her older self developed an enthusiasm for history and politics, which led to a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts majoring in political science at Waseda University in Japan. “I have always been fond of subjects that allow for open debate. Being able to study political theories and systems and development gaps around the world from a Japanese perspective was really insightful,” she says. “It also gave me a greater understanding of people, something I deem especially important to invest in.”
Why Japan? Apinara could have picked anywhere in the world to pursue her studies, but her fascination with Asian culture landed her in the island nation. “No, I am not Japanese!” she laughs after we point out the common misunderstanding that the three Srikarnchana siblings—daughters of Asia Insurance head Chula-payap and Pendulum CEO Yuki—are partially of Japanese heritage. But there is no doubt that the family has strong ties with the country. “My grandfather, Payap Srikarnchana, became very successful after World War II when the Japanese passed over their company to him here in Thailand. On the other hand on my mother’s side, my grandmother Suparb Ingavat lived in Japan for 10 years while accompanying my grandfather Phaibool while he was working there. My mother and all her siblings were born there,” she tells us.
Her time as a student in Japan was an eye-opening experience in many ways. “Although I’m now fluent in Japanese, it was the complete opposite in the beginning and I failed all my exams during the first semester,” she laughs. Eager to improve her language proficiency, she applied for a job as a waitress at a Thai restaurant near her campus. Now, can you imagine Apinara in a Thai costume wearing her hair in a bun and sharing make-up with another waitress? “I would get off at midnight and walk back to my dorm in the snow. Then I could only afford a bowl of ramen for lunch. That was when I realised the value of money and the challenges of working as a foreigner without legal support. I exposed myself to those experiences and I’m glad I did. Ever since then I have never complained when the service at a restaurant is slow,” she laughs.
(See also: Always A Safe Bet With Apinara Srikarnchana)
Her next step was a typically bold move to the UK to acquire a master’s degree in social science at the London School of Economics. On her return home, instead of jumping straight into the family’s insurance business, her first job was at Shiseido. However, after a one-year stint at the Japanese multinational cosmetics and skincare company she met Sirasom Borisutsuwan who invited her to be part of the U Drink I Drive (mobile application startup) team. “My passion has always been in the well- being of the people, but I knew that insurance was not the career for me,” she says. Our cover lady admits that she had no idea what an application startup was at the time. “But I was aware of the digital revolution gathering pace and I didn’t want to be just a girl who used an iPhone—I wanted to become a part of the movement.”
She joined U Drink I Drive as a partner during its 10th month, a time when the company was facing a rough financial situation. “We didn’t even have enough money to pay our drivers and we had to raise more investment capital. It was a huge risk for me as I had just left Shiseido and didn’t have much in the way of savings to begin with,” she tells us. Four years on and the company has racked up more than 200,000 trips. “For me, our success is the realisation that we are making a social impact. Every time we send a designated driver out to a customer who has had a few drinks and doesn’t want to get behind the wheel, we are potentially saving lives.” The service has now extended beyond the party crowd to include 24-hour on-demand trips out of town, hospital lifts and school pick-ups.
Apinara prides herself on being a family girl. “It is difficult to define what family means to me because it is almost like trying to explain how big the universe is. They are the greatest influences in my life,” she says. While her grandmother Suparb exemplifies her ideals of how a woman should be—feminine and caring—her mother Yuki represents all kinds of love to her. “She would do all the motherly tasks and at the end of the day she would listen to my worries, give advice and make sure nothing came between me and my dreams. From when I was 15 years old she encouraged me to do lots of internships, which allowed me to discover my strengths and weaknesses, as well as my passions.”
Her father, Chula-payap, is prominent in shaping her values and ideologies. “He is fond of saying that there is no success that is as meaningful as the success of one’s family. This is something I take to heart—that no matter how rich or well recognised you are, you will never be happy if your family fails,” Apinara says. She also tells us that it is a blessing to have 27-year-old Pimpayap (who shares the same birthday with her) and 24-year-old Ploypayap as her younger sisters. “Being a big sister is different—they make me naturally compassionate. When I do something, I first tend to think about how it will affect my family.”
If you follow her on social media you will see how this dainty ball of energy is always on the go, juggling her U Drink I Drive commitments with social events. Not to mention, she spares time to help out with public relations for her mother’s group of Thai restaurants, Nara, which numbers eight branches in Bangkok and eight overseas. How does she manage her time? “ I make sure I get enough sleep,” she laughs. “And you are never too busy—it is all about prioritising things.” Work aside, Apinara tells us that she loves singing, going to the gym and being in her mother’s kitchen. “I do cook, but my passion is more towards the eating.”
We ask her what keeps her motivated every day. “Challenges always excite me. I’m not sure where my ambitions will take me, but U Drink I Drive will certainly not be my last project,” she smiles. Still single, we wonder what traits this bright and beautiful young lady looks for in a partner. “It might be a bit of a cliché, but my father—who is one of the most caring and charming gentleman I know—has always been the measure of what I look for in a guy.”
Rewatch our Behind-The-Scenes Q&A video with Apinara: