The Mall Group Heiress, Ploychompu Umpujh, Is A Force To Watch Out For
You would be forgiven for thinking that being an heiress to Thailand’s second-largest luxury retail empire, which owns and operates The Mall outlets and the up-market Siam Paragon, Emporium and EmQuartier shopping centres, would mean having things handed to you on a silver platter. However, for Ploychompu Umpujh, niece of current group chairwoman Supaluck Umpujh and granddaughter of founders Supachai and Nongluck Umpujh, the onus to perpetuate the success of her forebears comes with great pressure and a very steep learning curve.
As a high school student the 26-year-old attended Harrow International in Bangkok. She officially joined the family business four years ago after graduating from Brighton University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management. Today she holds the position of business development manager for The Mall Group. “The company is a business that my family has been building for almost 40 years,” she says. “Given the success they have made of it, of course there will be pressure and high expectations on the younger generation coming into the business. The luxury retail industry has such a competitive landscape, with constantly shifting customer preference demographics so staying ahead of the game and remaining relevant is a constant challenge that we face collectively.” The key, she says, is to stay optimistic and find the opportunities that come with challenges.
Despite her illustrious connections, the family made sure Ploychompu began her career at the bottom, just like any other employee. Thus her journey with the company started with a regular job interview that earned her a junior position in the business development department. As a newbie she took it upon herself to experience as many facets of the group as she could. “I wanted then—and still do today—to acquire as much knowledge as possible. As time went on, and because I am a big foodie, I joined the Gourmet Market team,” she says. “I did that in parallel with learning about merchandising in general.”
Not one to shy away from a challenge, she has recently taken on a new project, the Escape Bangkok bar and restaurant venue atop EmQuartier spearheaded by her aunt Supaluck. While the move has forced her to step out of her comfort zone, she has thoroughly enjoyed the experience. “I didn’t think I would like working on this as much as I do,” she smiles. In fact, she says if she had to pick the proudest moment of her nascent career to date, it would be the official opening of Escape Bangkok and its subsequent success. “After all the hard work it almost brought tears to my eyes to hear all the great feedback,” she smiles. “The business is going great. It has become one of Bangkok’s upbeat new hangout spots with a fantastic laidback vibe. So much so that I’m often there as a regular patron with my friends.”
Still relatively young and with only a few years of experience behind her, Ploychompu admits she has to be switched on to keep up with the many facets of the retail sector. “Trends constantly change and one has to learn to adapt and keep moving forward, which is not always easy. Moreover, I find communication to be a challenge because I have to ensure our message and direction are on point so that the team are all on the same page and work together smoothly.”
Her favourite part of the job is being able to develop something new and accomplishing goals with her colleagues. "I am so lucky to be a part of an organisation that values everyone's opinion and hardwork," she says.
Central to her management ethos is the ability to share, to respect and to forgive and to forget. “To me, these are very important attributes that have been instilled in us by our family and ingrained in the company culture,” she explains. “Regardless of your position or level within the company, everyone must respect each other, have loyalty to the business, be able to make mistakes and learn from them.” That said, we all have our pet peeves and for Ploychompu tardiness and being interrupted while she is talking are irritants that are sure to push her buttons.
A versatile individual, she also runs her own fashion brand, Ploychompu Design. Interested in fashion from an early age, what started out as a hobby has become a profitable concern. “I did everything myself, from sourcing fabrics to packing and sending items to customers. I named the business after myself because the designs are based on what I like to wear and a reflection of my identity.” From stylish dresses to funky beachwear, her brand has caught the attention of an increasing number of young consumers and acted as a platform for a second venture called Seoulstyle, which imports clothing from Korea.
Having inherited the family capacity for hard work, Ploychompu goes to the office every day and never leaves early. Learning on the job and running her fashion line consumes much of her time but understanding the importance of family and work-life balance, the ambitious young executive makes sure to dedicate Friday evenings to fun and Sundays to quality family time. “I like to be organised and schedule everything ahead of time,” she says. “Although I do prioritise my work, I make sure to spend Sundays with family. After work on a Friday I enjoy catching up with my friends.” The self-confessed dog lover also says that one of her favourite parts of the day is coming home to her French bulldog, Pla-meuk (Squid). “It’s so nice to get home and have some me time snuggling with Pla-meuk,” she smiles.
While she speaks of her work with The Mall Group with much enthusiasm, everybody has good and bad days at the office. However, luckily for Ploychompu, her two older sisters also work for the company and together the trio have formed a sort of mutual support network. When the pressures of helping to run a large business get too much, she also turns to her biggest role models, her parents and her aunt who lead by example. “My dad Surat, who sits on the board of The Mall Group, is a visionary man who is extremely committed to whatever he sets his mind to, while my aunt has a great creative edge and the ambition to match. I admire them both.”
Work aside, she is also quite the globetrotter and loves to travel and learn about different cultures. With a preference for the beach and the sea, the Maldives is one of her favourite destinations, but she says she is currently considering a little adventure in southern Africa to take in the wildlife on the savanna.
Looking ahead, she hopes to continue growing in the company and above all become an expert in the field and a valuable asset that can make pivotal contributions to The Mall Group’s prosperity. “The ultimate goal for me is to be able to help lift the benchmarks of the organisation so that we become the leader in the luxury retail industry,” she says. “I hope to continue enjoying what I do here. I love working with my team and overcoming hardships together while sharing ideas and thoughts. And it’s always great to foster new friendships on the job and network,” she smiles.
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- Photography Jakrapong Chumneankul
- Styling Benj Benjasirirak
- Hair Pichet Poobanthat
- Make-Up Jiranat Tangpaisalkij
- Location Le Meridien Bangkok