KCE Electronics CEO Pitharn Ongkosit Is All Ears
Born and raised in Bangkok and possessing international degrees in business administration, computer engineering and electrical engineering, 39-year-old entrepreneur Pitharn Ongkosit certainly walks the walk when it comes to doing the deal. In addition to directorships in The Face Shop and MOS Burger, he is the chief executive officer of family-owned KCE Electronics—originally founded as the Krung Charoen Electronics Company in 1982 to manufacture custom-printed circuit boards and now the world’s fifth largest producer.
“I follow what I learned from my dad Bancha and mum Voraluksana,” he smiles. “They are very different individuals and taught me different things but what they both have in common is that they are very good listeners. I use their lessons in the way I work and in life too.” For Pitharn listening has become an art form, especially when it comes to managing his staff at KCE Electronics. “The best bosses try to see things from the employees’ perspective. Everyone has a different take on things and the only real way to understand their perspective is to hear what they have to say about it. So listen. If you understand them properly they in turn will understand you. It makes for a much better and more efficient working relationship.”
Aware of the cultural dynamics at play between managers and lower level staff, he has implemented several initiatives to strengthen the relationship with his workforce, including a comment box. “It’s low-tech, sure, but anyone can post a comment or question there—anonymously if they wish—and I will read it,” the entrepreneur says, adding, “It circumvents the whole pee-nong thing, which often gets in the way of juniors really speaking their minds. This way they can express themselves—and they do—knowing that their suggestion will reach the right person and be treated with respectful consideration.” The pay-off for Pitharn is a more unified team that is invested in the better running of the business.
Describing himself as open-minded, the deal-maker also says key attributes in business are to be incisive and committed. “To the idea, the product, the service. You have to believe in what you do and ensure those around you believe in it too. The company is successful when everyone moves in the same direction and sings from the same hymn sheet. That’s why having short-term and long-term goals with all are on board are crucial.”
An example of his own resolve can be seen in his acquisition of beauty and lifestyle products distributor The Face Shop. “I wanted it because it complements our other lifestyle businesses. My mother was incredulous at first. “Thankfully the deal worked out but if you don’t make the call nothing will happen.” It is a lesson he passes on to all budding entrepreneurs—have a good idea, trouble-shoot the problems and then have the conviction to pursue your goals relentlessly. “You might succeed, but if you fail it should never be from want of trying.”
He is also not afraid to move with the times. “New technologies are constantly enabling growth and I have a duty to our stakeholders to push the businesses forward. This is why two years ago we implemented robotic manufacturing at KCE Electronics.” Something of a dynamo himself at work, the seasoned executive values his downtime but is no less energetic when he takes it. “I like to do all sorts of things—play video games with my nephews, watch movies, join pick-up games of football with friends. I also like attending business dinners,” he laughs, sometimes in the company of girlfriend Sushar Manaying. “Seriously, you keep your ears open and you learn things.”