Canadian Honorary Consul is Khun Nit Wangviwat, one of Chiang
Mai’s most capable businessmen. He is a man who literally came
from less than nothing, to build up a portfolio across the
entire spectrum of businesses in this region, and despite his
age and avowed intention to slow down, still has an eye for
further business opportunities.
Nit was born in Bangkok, the middle child
born to a Chinese electrical engineer and a Thai mother from
Nakhon Sawan. Unlike his siblings who went on to join the
medical profession, Nit had more of a scientific bent and went
to Chulalongkorn University. “I had decided to be an engineer.
I was a scientific thinker and looked at the logical side of
things.” So he followed his father into electrical
After graduation in the four year course, he
won an exchange scholarship to go to the University of Texas in
America and spent the next two years doing his Master’s degree
in electrical engineering there.
Returning to Thailand, his first job was with
the oil giant Caltex, with whom he stayed for seven years in
their general engineering department, becoming involved in many
differing projects. This included constructing service centers,
tank farms, safety engineering, the whole gamut of engineering
services. “It was just using my basic knowledge of
engineering,” said Nit.
However, by the end of his time with Caltex,
he had met and married a Chiang Mai girl, whose family were
involved in growing tobacco, and he was asked to help the family
business. With that in mind, but not knowing the full extent of
this commitment, the young couple came to Chiang Mai 36 years
This was a complete change, going from
engineering to agriculture, and it was also beginning at zero,
as the tobacco industry was not looking too healthy. After four
years, as part of his plan to turn family fortunes around, he
changed from tobacco to growing tea. This was the start of what
you can only describe as the ‘empire’. “We were doing
OK,” said Nit. “China was closing its borders and we were
even exporting to Hong Kong, but making money out of agriculture
is difficult. I needed to diversify.”
Using his contacts within Caltex he took on a
service station, which he then began building up. As soon as
that was pumping along healthily, he built up a Celadon ceramics
factory in San Kamphaeng. With the kilns fired (probably with
Nit’s enthusiasm), he continued his diversification, this time
into real estate. He built a housing project and followed that
with a condominium. This was more than 12 years ago, and on
paper, he was doing well. He was established.
Businessmen who become established become
invited to take on positions in organizations as the Federation
of Thai Industries and various Chambers of Commerce. Nit did all
this, saying, “I enjoy social work, and have been president of
such organizations. They give you a chance to contact other
business people, and some opportunities can come from them.”
Yes, the opportunities are there, if your
eyes are open, and Nit’s certainly were. He met a Frenchman
involved in making costume jewellery, who was looking for an
alternative country of manufacture. “I knew Thai women are
very skilled with their hands, so I opened a factory in Lamphun.
Today we have 450 workers and we export mainly to France.”
Contact with other business people also
brought the Yakult yoghurt people to the area, and he became the
local representative. He now has 100 local sales girls
distributing the product range!
Nine years ago, it was time to diversify
again, and he joined the auto industry, becoming a Nissan
dealer. He now has four showrooms all over Chiang Mai. It seems
as though he is unstoppable!
But it does not end there. “I’ve jumped
into the education side with the Lanna Vocational School.” By
this stage my mind was reeling. How can one man run all these
The answer was straightforward. “I have a
good selective eye to find people who I can use to do the work.
They bring in the profits and give me my percentage, and I just
look after them.”
I asked Nit whether he relied on ‘gut
feelings’ when he moved into another area of business
possibilities, but he does not. “I do my own feasibility
studies. I don’t hire corporations to investigate, but I look
There are other factors, however, when you
look at his success. “I am a descendant from a Chinese family.
This is inside your mind all the time - you have to work
hard.” So he was born with the Chinese work ethic, but Nit had
another stimulus. “My father was not rich, so I had to work
myself up. I have been poor with no money. I have been at zero
point.” He has been through hard times too. “I have passed
three difficult times in my life. All economic problems, but the
worst was the crash (1997). Anybody who can pass through all
three - that guy’s OK,” said Nit - someone who has done just
He also has been driven by ambition. “You
must have ambition, or otherwise you haven’t got the need to
build yourself up. Your ambition should not end. This is what
With his Chinese work ethic, the inner need
to make money, and an unending ambition, I asked what was next.
“What’s next? At my age I should slow down - unless an
opportunity with 95 percent return appears!” We both laughed
He plays golf three times a week to keep fit
and how does he stay abreast of things? “I never stop working.
I socialize with people younger than me.” In the spare time he
enjoys his Canadian Consul work, having been approached by the
Canadian Ambassador to take on the position. And just keeping
his eyes open!
I think you can expect Nit Wangviwat around
for a lot longer yet.