SEA (Thailand) CEO Maneerut Anulomsombut Is Switched On In Work And At Home
You may not have heard of Singaporean-based Internet company SEA, but its influence is such that you have probably played an online game, transferred money or purchased a garment using one of its platforms, which include Garena games, digital payment platform Airpay and leading e-commerce player Shopee.
In Thailand SEA is headed by 40-year-old CEO Maneerut Anulomsombut, who as a student earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Chulalongkorn University and followed it with a master’s from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Prior to joining SEA eight years ago she worked at Boston Consulting Group in Thailand. “Actually, Forreste Li, the founder of SEA was a classmate at Stanford,” she says. “He approached me to help establish, run and grow the business in Thailand, which initially only had Garena. We eventually expanded our services to include the Airpay financial business in 2014 and Shopee in 2015.”
While she has always had a keen interest in technology, Maneerut admits her knowledge was limited to begin with, particularly with regard to the world of online gaming. “My journey with SEA has been a roller coaster ride,” she says. “At the beginning, there was a steep learning curve but one I really enjoyed. It wasn’t easy to build a team and expand our services to meet changing consumer needs at the same time. Today, the challenge is how to continue to adapt in an industry that is forever evolving to stay at the top of the game.”
Another key factor, Maneerut explains, is finding talent and nurturing it. The fact that the average age of the staff is 27 means the CEO also has to effectively bridge a generational gap when it comes to communication within the organisation. “Managing my team is my favourite part of the job,” she says. “I want them to be happy working with us and above all feel that they can always come to me for anything. I see my role as being a bit like an elder sister. I’ll listen and give the best advice I can.” Which is why she insists on being reachable 24/7, regardless of where she is in the world.
Plugged in she may be but life can’t be all about work, although Maneerut says there’s no reason why one cannot be a successful entrepreneur, wife and mum all at once. Happily married for the past 11 years, she is a mother of two sons, a 10-year-old and newborn baby. Juggling a work-life balance is a struggle but Maneerut says she is grateful for a great support system at home and understanding colleagues. Time is certainly a luxury in her situation. “When I am not working I’m snatching an hour or two with my family and my children, particularly my youngest. Time for myself is rare though,” she laughs. “I am lucky if I can get 15 minutes to clear my head and relax before heading to bed… and then another long day at work.”
Looking ahead, there is still much to be done, with more platforms and technological innovations to tap into. At the same time the aspiring leader is keen to dedicate more energy to giving back to society. She has always been keen to help the elderly and the COVID-19 crisis has underlined the need for better care of this vulnerable group. “I would like to have a positive influence among society’s most in need, perhaps one day even open a health centre for the elderly. Who knows? It is a daunting challenge. But then I’m a working mother with two children. Nothing is insurmountable,” she laughs.