James Richard Amatavivadhana greets us with a smile that sparkles in his eyes and a vibrant, cheerful demeanour. Appointed CEO of Minor Lifestyle in April 2015, the 55-year-old has been a force in leading the business in a new direction. Prior to joining the Minor family, the global marketing veteran was a big player in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry, having previously worked with multinational companies including Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson.
The former managing director of Johnson & Johnson North Asia has worked all over the region in countries such as Korea, China and Singapore. He also had a stint in Hong Kong but explains how moving back to Thailand has been a breath of fresh air.
“At the time the Minor position became available I was getting pretty tired of all the travel I had to do. I decided to come back to Thailand and when Bill Heinecke asked if I wanted to try doing something different, I thought it would be a good challenge. The difference between the FMCG business and Minor is in the structure. FMCG is very matrix-oriented. There are many layers within companies with multiple bosses and decision makers. However, with Minor there’s much more flexibility. We are encouraged to experiment and take smart risks that will move the business forward.”
Focusing on driving profitable and sustainable growth, James took to restructuring the company’s portfolio, removing what was necessary and bringing in new names that answer more to the demands of the market. “When I first joined, we re-assessed our existing portfolios. We looked at the brands under the company, removing those that were not playing to our strengths, or were no longer relevant, and bringing in new brands such Anello, Bodum and OVS, to name a few.”
Most recently, Minor Lifestyle has also expanded into the automotive industry and acquired the British scooter brand, Scomadi. “We took the brand on in October 2018, not as a distributor but as the owner worldwide. Strategically, it makes sense for us to move in that direction as scooters also fall under lifestyle.”
Over and above a desire to travel less, another major contributing factor to his decision to move back to Thailand was his state of health. Something of a survivor, a few years ago James developed lymphoma and had to undergo bouts of chemotherapy. He also needed to have an operation to remove a brain tumour. The trauma of all that helps to explain his optimism.
“If I get into a bad mood, it lasts for no more than a minute. I am acutely aware that life is short and there are so many things to do. Do it while you can. If you have something that you want to do, don’t wait, do it now. Don’t spend time worrying about things. Live in the now. That doesn’t mean you have to spend every dime that you have. Balance is important. I see people who work all the time. If that’s what makes them happy, then fine. But for me, I like to do other things.”
The weekends are precious to James who enjoys spending time at his riverside house near Ayutthaya, watching English Premier League football or café hopping in one of his vintage cars with his significant other, Supasita. A classic car collector, James compares himself to his vintage navy blue 1964 Porsche 911. “I love old-school stuff. I used to ride big bikes—I still do—but recently I’ve developed a passion for building model trains—perhaps it’s me heading towards old age,” he laughs.
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