You can eat here, shop here or get your nails done here,” says Khunnicha Phornprapha, otherwise known as Kwang, while getting comfortable in her little office space at the top of Maze Thonglor, the community mall she founded in 2015. The goal, she says, is to create a place where people will always have something to do.
This project proved a big challenge for the driven 34-year-old, not least because she was on unfamiliar terrain. “I had never done something like this before so everything was a challenge,” she says. The land on which Maze Thonglor now stands belongs to her father, Phornneth Phornprapha, who according to Kwang, did not wish to sell it. So, in order to better utilise it and start bringing in some profit, Kwang had to come up with a business plan. “I thought about it for a very long time,” she explains. “It took about two to three years to complete the research and carefully study the project before we embarked on the venture.”
Born into a business family who ran Siam Leasing, Kwang always wanted to be a tycoon just like her father, and her education set her on that course. After graduating from ABAC, she gained a master’s degree in international management from the University of Exeter, then another in analysis, design and management information systems from the London School of Economics. But while there was something inevitable about her chosen career path, she’s very much her own person with her own set of passions.
“The community mall aside, I also own and manage eight branches of a Japanese shabu restaurant called Kagonoya,” says the avid foodie and Japan regular. She travels a lot, up to 10 times a year, and “to places that are not too far away,” she says with a laugh. What she enjoys most about these trips is discovering new cultures and indulging in local dishes. “I like to find new restaurants and discover new cuisines.” As well as Thai and Japanese food, she is also a big fan of Indian food—a recent trip with friends to the subcontinent reaffirmed that. “I ate only Indian food for a week and loved it,” she smiles.
Another side to her character is her affection for animals. She likes dogs but also admits to being fond of a certain orange- and white-striped sea creature. “I love Nemo,” she says, referring to the popular Pixar animated clown fish. Despite her dainty demeanour, Kwang is tougher than she looks. She especially enjoys stepping outside her comfort zone. While the depths of the ocean scares many people, she has been passionate about scuba diving for the past 20 years. “Whenever I am in a place with a diving spot, whether its Bali, the Maldives or any other place, I will always go diving.”
Her latest adventure took place above sea level—involving trudging through the rice fields as a participant in the Thailand Tatler Heroes TV show. “I really have to thank Thailand Tatler for giving me the opportunity to become involved in such an enriching and fun experience,” she says. “It’s a profession that needs to be supported. This experience made me realise the extent to which rice farmers are the backbone of our country.”
Kwang is married to Piphon Puengboonpra and although he may not always share the same sense of adventure that she does, she is more than happy to travel with friends in search of exciting new experiences. “Before I often visited the same places,” she says. “Now I want to discover new places. I want to go to Africa. I want to go and stay in an igloo in Iceland and see the northern lights.”