Central Group's Dr Ton Chirathivat On Success Of The1
The son of Sudhitham Chirathivat, the former CEO of Central Group, and his wife Sanhajutha, Dr Ton Chirathivat is the president of the company’s customer loyalty platform, The1. What began 14 years ago as a modest membership card scheme, under his leadership has grown exponentially to number over 17 million members tapping into an integrated platform that boasts premium digital and real world loyalty solutions aimed at enhancing customer engagement and offering the best lifestyle experience.
“Back in the day the membership card allowed us to collect customer data but nothing had really been done with the vast information we had. So we transformed what initially was a support unit into a profit centre. I restructured the framework and team from 40 people to 120 staff working across a data, tech, marketing, business development and more,” says Ton.
Since becoming head of the team Ton has also helped The1 to successfully expand its eco-system to include new partnerships with world-leading tech, travel, health and finance companies. In addition, he initiated The1 Exclusive specifically to cater to Central’s top spenders and also drove the creation of The1 phone application, which boasts cutting-edge features. Overall, he has altered the entire framework to function through advanced consumer-centric data-driven marketing and analytics.
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“All businesses in Central Group, including our partners, are connected to The1,” Ton says. “To effectively manage the synergy and reach alignment for all, and to make sure customers and partners all move in the same direction is extremely hard because we are now such a big ecosystem. You have to be fast and agile. Fail fast and learn fast. Ultimately though we want everyone to win, hence when we want to do something it can take time.”
Since Ton took up his post two-and-a-half years ago, the company has enjoyed revenues of over 500 million baht. In addition to the growth of The1, he was a key figure who helped seal Central Group’s recent joint venture with China’s JD.com— an impactful move to bolster the company digital transformation and move to the digital economy. Prior to that he had worked in numerous positions across the group—from a young cashier to head of marketing at Robinson department store and many roles in between. In just two years he was able to change the budget structure for Robinson and cut costs by around 100 million baht.
Today The1 is Thailand and Southeast Asia’s leading digital lifestyle and loyalty platform but Ton still has aspirations to take things to the next level. “I really think we can achieve much more down the road,” he smiles. “Look at what we have done in only two years…we grew ten-fold.”
As a student, Ton graduated with a double bachelor’s degree in mathematics and psychology from the College of William and Mary in Virginia and later earned a doctorate in psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Joining the family business was inevitable. “Working with family definitely saves time when trying to initiate projects because you already know one another and the trust is already there.” Work life balance becomes tricky though and he adds that whenever the family does get together, discussions about work always rage around the table.
Driven and ambitious to succeed, Ton is busy but he makes sure to allocate at least one day a week to unwind with his wife and two daughters. Once every quarter a trip to the coast is in order. “Where I usually try to sleep,” laughs the 41-year-old, who has also developed a keen interest in street photography.
There is still much to do for The1 and looking ahead, Ton says its ecosystem could be even larger considering its unique infrastructure and he hopes to incorporate new business models and enhance the way in which monetisation works. However, he adds, “At the end of the day, I think in running any business—regardless of the industry—transparency, honesty and integrity are key.”
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