Weekly Local Biography

  Grit Sripaurya (The man with TITS)

by Dr. Iain Corness

Grit Sripaurya is a man with TITS, but he is definitely no katoey. He is the owner and producer of the Chiang Mai Tourist Information and Travel Service community radio, giving it that wonderfully controversial acronym TITS. However, these days Grit also says that it can stand for This Is Thai Style! He also has a more than passing resemblance to Thailand’s tennis star Paradorn, but although his radio station is next to a tennis court, that is as close as Grit gets to that racket!
Grit is a real Chiang Mai citizen, having been born here and educated for much of his young life at the Prince Royal’s College. His father, who came from Southern Thailand, was a contractor who worked in Saudi Arabia when Grit was a very young boy, whilst his mother comes from a well established northern family.
He showed independent thoughts quite early in his life and harboured the dream of joining the military, even going so far as to complete the aptitude testing for entry. However, both his parents vetoed that idea, as they wanted their younger son to be a businessman, and follow his heritage.
Perhaps to ensure that Grit did not continue to pursue this dream, he was packed off to New Zealand to continue his schooling and finish his education. This was a unilateral decision, with Grit saying, “This is very typical of Thai parents, who do not discuss these decisions with the children.” However, it was not a decision that Grit would disagree with today, even if he would have liked some input at the time.
From NZ, he moved across the Tasman Sea to Perth in Western Australia to study Commercial Law. This career path was one he chose for himself, but it was not to hold his interest too long, and he dropped out. “I wanted to study something I could use, but maybe I’ll go back to do the last year,” he mused. However, looking at the way Grit is carving a niche for himself in the Chiang Mai media, I doubt if that will ever happen.
He returned to Thailand and set his mind on something he could use, and that was farm management. “Thailand is a farming country,” he said, and with the family owning some agricultural land, it looked like a practical decision. He went to Israel to study farm management and returned after the year’s course to work with his father in managing their orchards and vineyards. Unfortunately, this did not work out, as many young men have found over the centuries. “I’m just too much like my father for us to be able to work together,” he said simply.
Now was the time he had to strike out on his own. He had a passion for music, and jazz in particular. He had been playing the saxophone since his student days in NZ, and was in a small band here in Chiang Mai, when a chance meeting with a radio station owner saw him being offered the job of hosting a jazz show. He thought would be a good idea, both for himself and for jazz in the North, so he began as a DJ.
After one month he received a very rude shock, when he was presented with bills for renting air-time! This was not how he imagined the ‘job’ offer had been made, so his fledgling DJ career ceased at that point. However, he did enjoy the experience, and had observed how the station was run, “So I decided to set up my own radio station. I have found that managing it was very tough. I’m doing everything from marketing to even being the janitor!”
This individual thinking young man had already decided that his radio station should be different from all the others, even beginning with the TITS acronym. “I looked for something controversial.”
To make his station different, he divides the music styles played into clear-cut divisions, be that jazz, chart toppers, rock or even hip-hop. He also is in the business of actively supporting and promoting local talent. “If a group comes with a tape, we will play it straight away. We will also find what the listeners think. Even the foreigners want to hear local music.”
It was at this point that Grit the philosopher became apparent. “I am trying to open the eyes and ears of the Chiang Mai people.” But it does not stop there with just programming on his radio station. Grit Sripaurya is an ‘agent of change’. He has a very deep love of his province and its people, and is appalled at the lack of foresight that is often shown here. “My father’s from the South and overseas educated. He has taught me to look ahead and have a contingency plan for everything. That’s why I have two identical mobile phones, and even keep a spare drum of gasoline at home.”
Along with running his radio station, he has plans to branch out into local TV, and even the print media, but assured me that whatever, “We will be different and outrageous, just like TITS radio!”
To keep his head ‘together’, he rides a single seat sports motorcycle, “When you ride you don’t have to talk to anybody.” However, he does make sure that he wears the full safety gear. He does think ahead and put the thoughts into reality.
Grit Sripaurya is still very young, but even at 26 years of age, he has a very clear-cut direction that he has set for himself. His vision for the future is one that encompasses not just personal advancement, but also advancement and improvement for Chiang Mai itself. I sincerely hope that he can keep this vision bright and alive as he goes through life. So many young idealists lose that fire as they slip into a more ‘accepted’ mode as they become successful. Somehow, I believe that Grit has the ‘grit’ and tenacity to keep this vision. It will be good for Chiang Mai if he can.