Property Developer Sornsak Somwattana Is Carving A Niche In the Market
Sornsak Somwattana has always been in a hurry to get things done. The 45-year-old, who thought to combine his experience in the world of finance with an affinity for functional yet sophisticated residential property, is comfortable in the plush surroundings of a living room atop the Banyan Tree Residences Riverside Bangkok, Nirvana Daii’s first high-rise luxury condominium project in affiliation with the Banyan Tree Group. Notwithstanding the distraction of the panoramic views out over the Chao Phraya and beyond, the affable investment executive turned property magnate is keen to tell Thailand Tatler about how he got to where he is today.
When Sornsak started his development company he was a fresh-faced 28-year-old who decided to take a risk. “Many thought I was too young to be starting a real estate business but I had been working since I was 19 in effect. I had a decade of experience in the financial world prior to Nirvana Daii. I worked for a year while I did my undergraduate degree at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce’s school of business. After that, I worked for two years in finance and investment for real estate projects before going to the University of Colorado at Denver where I did my master’s within a year. I was impatient to get on and the rising cost of living meant I wanted to get out and earn a wage as soon as possible. In my last semester I completed five modules. It was very intense, but it also taught me an important lesson. It is crucial not to lose focus under pressure. If you concentrate and don’t waver you get better end results.”
Despite the misgivings of family and friends, for Sornsak the transition from a desk-bound investment role to that of dynamic property developer wasn’t as difficult as some might think. On his return to Thailand in 1997 he received a professional baptism of fire in the wake of the Tomyum Kung economic crisis. “So many financial institutes shut down and there were very few openings in the industry. However, I persevered because I felt there were opportunities, especially for finance in real estate, and when I did start working I got to meet many clients who were in the process of trying to recover their businesses. In a way, I was lucky because it gave me really valuable hands-on experience solving their problems and I learnt that to do business in real estate you don’t necessarily have to be the best but you must be cautious and take care of details. You should never make the same mistake twice.”
What started off as Nirvana Development merged with Singha Estate in 2015 and then again in 2017 with Daii Group to officially become Nirvana Daii. For Sornsak piloting the company has been a labour of love. “From day one I poured myself into the business because I aspired to build residential spaces that reflected my own tastes and my requirements of a home. Back then I felt that existing real estate products weren’t really designed with the customer’s needs in mind,” he says candidly. “And much of the focus then seemed to be on selling space at any cost—never mind if the property actually suited the buyer. I felt that more emphasis should be placed on the living quality of the homeowner. I wanted to build houses that were comfortable but also functional, and in locations that suited the lifestyles of the residents.” When he started out, he says it was a time when housing developments tended to be located in far-removed areas of the suburbs. He explains, “House designs too were basic and came in simple, almost identical, styles. For the developers, it was all about cost-efficiency and ease-of-build, but houses that are cheap to construct tend to follow a very simple architectural design, which doesn’t always meet the demands of the customer. That’s why today I describe Nirvana Daii as a facilitator. We manage the entire process of purchasing a home, from the acquisition of the land to the appointment of an architect and the final build.”
The devil is in the detail as they say and Sornsak is passionate about details. “It is what distinguishes us. By detail I mean the small things like choosing the right materials and quality fixtures and fittings that will make our customers feel most at home. I try to work closely with the design team so that we can offer a beautiful house with good functionality. Aesthetics vary depending on personal taste, but good function makes everyone feel comfortable the moment they move in. Whether it’s the distance between the bed and the television, the size of the bed against the room’s space, or providing a dedicated area where one can put on shoes before leaving the house, we try to cover the small details.” He further points out that everything has to be thought through from the beginning because once a house has been built, it is harder to make adjustments. “Homes become part of our lives, sometimes over many years. They are where we make intimate life memories, so it is important we build them right.”
While Nirvana Daii may be best known for its low-rise properties and housing, its latest venture into the high-rise bracket is not going unnoticed. The Banyan Tree Residences Riverside Bangkok is proof that, although new to the market, the company has the ability and potential to compete strongly in the luxury high-rise segment. “Because this is our first high-rise luxury condominium, we have treated it a bit like a small child,” Sornsak laughs. “We have wrapped it in cotton wool, given every detail great thought to ensure that everything is up to the highest standard. We consulted SCDA Architects from Singapore for the development because they specialise in high-rise residences, and I am very pleased with the end result. The design of the building allows every single room to face the river, meaning that all 133 units get an unobstructed view of it.” Impressive indeed and indicative of the executive’s own far sight.
Married to Juthamas, Sornsak is the father to two children, Prikthai and Baipad. Despite his busy schedule, he makes sure that he is there for them. “I love being at home,” he laughs. “I particularly look forward to getting back for dinner with the family when I can. We enjoy travelling together too, so I try to make time for two or three trips each year.” These excursions also allow him to indulge his fondness for photography. “It has grown on me over the years. Ironically, it started as a way to kill time when I had nothing to do during business trips. Now I really enjoy walking around a strange city taking snaps, especially of buildings old and new.” Cathartic? Sure, but also a good way of keeping a weathered eye on the construction trends that shape his industry.
More in this issue: Sombat And Suwimol Somboonterdtana Bought Their Gorgeous Bangkok Condo On A Whim
- Photography Chaiwat Kangsamrith
- Styling Sachon Kunajiramedt
- Hair Pichet Poobanthat
- Make-Up Jiranat Tangpaisalkij
- Location Banyan Tree Residences Riverside Bangkok