Thai tycoon on mission to help society
When we give, we receive the power to create everything possible to make both the business and society better than before" is the philosophy that drives millionaire Thongma Vijitphongpun, the president and CEO of listed property developer Pruksa Real Estate.
Thongma traces his way of thinking back to when he was awarded a scholarship from Chulalongkorn University to study for his bachelor's degree in engineering. Grateful for the opportunity that his gave them, he decided that if he ever had the chance to do anything to support students from low-income families, and other disadvantaged people, he would strive to do so.
"When our business started generating revenue of more than Bt10 billion a year, we were making enough to share some of the benefits with others, so that is what we have been doing [for some time]," he said.
Pruksa's first such CSR (corporate social responsibility) venture was to set up a student scholarship scheme back in 2001. The scholarships are for individuals related to the business, such as customers, staff and property specialists such as architects and engineers.
Now, aside from education, the company's CSR efforts are geared towards its own customers, who Thongma is convinced deserve to live in a good environment regardless of the age of a residential project.
Established in 1993, Pruksa has delivered more than 120,000 homes in over 100 projects to its customers.
Of the developer's mission to build a sustainable community, Thongma said: "The main objective is to support our customers to have a better community and better living."
Financial support cannot be available all the time, and the company therefore focuses on the way it can help customers support themselves, by taking community development into their own hands.
A "better living" centre was established recently, through which technicians are available for consultation on house repairs, which involve anything from water and electricity systems to the sanitary system.
Repair services are available at reasonable prices, to ensure that customers can comfortably maintain their houses - and the entire community- in the long term after the company's home guarantee period expires.
"Our business philosophy is that with me or without me, Pruksa Real Estate must be a sustainable enterprise. CSR is a mechanism to ensure sustainability," said the company chief.
Besides Pruksa's CSR endeavours, Thongma also has his own scholarship scheme funded by his own money.
Established in 2010, the scheme is focused on three categories: education, religion and social.
"We believe that when we give, we will receive more than we give. This also provides the power to drive things forward, and we will do anything we can in the hope of being part driving the country's strong economic and social growth," he said.
Under the Vijitphongpun scholarship scheme, money is provided to support foundations active in the educational, religious and social fields, because he believes these areas can open up opportunities for disadvantaged and low-income people to achieve the same as those who are more privileged.
Education is the crucial first step in terms of opening up opportunities for the less-advantaged members of society, giving them the chance to develop their skills and find a rewarding form of work that gives them a better quality of life.
Religion in all its forms helps people to do the best for both themselves and others in their lives, he said, while social foundations have the main aim of helping the disadvantaged get the best out of their lives - and reduce social problems in the process.
Thongma believes that giving people the chance to receive a good education, learn about religion and play a part in developing society all contributes to creating a stronger country for the future.
This year, the Vijitphongpun scheme is providing scholarships worth Bt22 million in total to 36 foundations in the educational, religious and social fields.
"The actual value of the money is not the main point, which is that we can be part of helping them and promote others with enough budget to support them all, too.
"This will encourage people to do everything they can for society," he said.