Making Thailand better is what drives Kalin Sarasin, the current chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade of Thailand—roles which have him overseeing 76 local chambers of commerce throughout the country, over 150 trade associations and around 40 foreign chambers of commerce. “I attend a lot of meetings,” he laughs. “I have to listen to our members’ needs and concerns while voicing them to the government as spokesperson for the private sector. At the same time, I am a member of numerous government committees that formulate policies that impact both the public and private sectors.”
Holding directorships at SCG and Kasikorn Bank, Kalin is also chairman of the board of directors of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. “This is a very important job for me,” he says. “Tourism is one of the key drivers of our economy and constitutes about 20 per cent of GDP.” As if that wasn’t enough he is deeply involved in countless other quangos, including the Thai-Japanese Association, the National Innovation Board and the National Research Council of Thailand.
Kalin finished his secondary education in the US, after which he earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Lehigh University and an MBA from the University of Notre Dame. He then pursued an advanced management programme at Harvard University. “I must have spent 10 years living in the States,” he says. “Every summer, I was involved in some form of job training.”
Then again, a history of public service runs in the family. His grandfather, Pote Sarasin, a former prime minister and founder of the SEATO Graduate School of Engineering, was very much involved in helping the community. Pol Gen Pow Sarasin, Kalin’s late father, was a former secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board and established the Pol Gen Pow Sarasin Foundation to run Baan Ta Wan Mai, a shelter for underprivileged children at risk of drug addiction. Growing up with such role models, it is no wonder Kalin’s aspirations in life have gravitated in a similar direction. Behind a stern yet friendly businessman exterior, he is quite the philanthropist—someone who is keenly aware of the poverty and lack of equal opportunities that persist in Thailand. In an effort to do his part for society, he now heads his father’s foundation and also sits on the board of the Council of the Thai Red Cross overseeing several initiatives including plasma and organ donation projects. “Each year in Thailand around 5,000 people are in need of a new organ,” he says.
Being simultaneously involved in so many organisations and committees, Kalin, who is married to Petchpring with three children, admits that one of his biggest challenges is time-management. “The issue for me is how to make more time for my family but also for work. And of course I need time for myself because it is important for one’s own health to be able to relax occasionally.”
As overwhelming as things may sometimes seem, the one thing that inspires him to get out of bed every day is the idea of a better Thailand. Looking to the future, he hopes to see faster development of rural areas, education and self-sufficiency and more active participation from the private sector. “We were always taught to give back to society,” he says. “This is a lesson that has been passed down through generations of my family and now it is my turn to instill it in my children.” With that in mind, Kalin reminds us that big or small, everyone can contribute to a better society. “Life is short. Whatever you can do, do it, and do it now,” he says. It is a typical Kalin response and an indication that he has no plans to slow down any time soon. “I enjoy working, particularly helping others. I don’t think I can retire from that.”