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Like father, like son

April 25, 2001

IT was certainly beyond Tiraphot Vajrabhaya's wildest dreams that one day he would rise to head the Shell Company of Thailand Ltd, to which he had developed both an emotional and professional attachment.

But for the Vajrabhaya family, Tiraphot's destiny has been with the Shell organisation from the outset. His younger years revolved around the company because his father, Prapoj Vajrabhaya, was a Shell man. In the old days, the social and professional atmosphere at Shell was cosy, and everybody knew each other. Prapoj was probably the first Thai to rise to a top position at Shell when he retired as deputy managing director 22 years ago at the age of 63.

It was natural that Prapoj, now 85, would want his son to follow in his footsteps. Tiraphot did just that. After completing his degree in economics and commerce at the University of Melbourne, Australia, he worked at Shell Australia for two years. In 1978 he returned to Bangkok to start at Shell Thailand.

Since then he had climbed Shell's corporate ladder until a month ago he was named chairman of Shell Thailand, only the second Thai after MR Sarisdiguna Kittiyakara to have risen to the top post in the 109 years of Shell Thailand's history.

Prapoj could not have felt prouder. For at 48 Tiraphot looks young and energetic, eager to take up the challenge to reshape the organisation into a more competitive animal.

His background in the retail oil business is likely to help him turn Shell Thailand into "the preferred choice of private motorists", as the company slogan says.

Tiraphot had a stint at Shell UK in 1995 when he was assigned to launch a lubricant there, having successfully marketed the product in Thailand.

He was appointed to the position of retail director in 1998, rising to general manager for retail operations Thailand and since January general manager for retail operations Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

Shell has its own screening process for promoting its people. Given Tiraphot's career path, it is not a big surprise that he has been picked by headquarters to become its chief representative in Thailand.

Meanwhile Tiraphot's predecessor, Eli Santiago, will be required to leave for Singapore to take up a bigger responsibility, that of overseeing Shell's retail operations in the East Zone - Australia, New Zealand, Asia (including Asean) and the Middle East.

As chairman, Tiraphot will represent the company in legal and government matters and will be trying to create harmony within the organisation.

At the heart of Shell Thailand lies its retail business, which will undergo a shake-up in a fiercely competitive business environment. Since profit margins are small, oil companies will have to achieve extraordinary efficiency and will need to cut costs if they are to make profits.

Tiraphot looks set to drive the organisation ahead with the Shell Formula.





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