Simon Landy talks real estate and doing business in Thailand

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Movers & Shakers is a monthly corporate networking event held at various prestige venues across the Thai capital.  Prior to the networking, key players from the business community are invited to be interviewed by Paul Strachan of Azure Studios.

At one of the recent networking events, Paul turned the spotlight on Simon Landy, Chairman of the British Chamber of Commerce Thailand and the Executive Chairman of property consultancy agency Colliers International (Thailand).

Simon Landy, right, talks with Paul Stachan at the Anantara Riverside Resort and Spa in Bangkok. (Photo courtesy Peter Kraemer) Simon Landy, right, talks with Paul Stachan at the Anantara Riverside Resort and Spa in Bangkok. (Photo courtesy Peter Kraemer)

PS:  How are you Simon?

Simon Landy:  I’m fine thanks and business is fine, it’s been a good year so far.

PS: That’s interesting to hear, I know down in Pattaya because of the predominance of the real estate market, which you are heavily involved in, we are getting into the sleepier part of the season, which is slightly more challenging I guess, yet there are still lots of developments going on, some may say too many.

SL: You mean in Pattaya in particular?

PS: Yes

SL: Pattaya is an interesting market, there are a lot of new developments going on, but if you look back over the last ten to fifteen years, there really hasn’t been that much, the boom has been in the last three to four and I would say the big change is now that you are getting Thai’s buying in Pattaya, on quite a big scale, which is a relatively new phenomenon.

PS: Sure, the whole mindset of Pattaya has changed in the eyes of the Bangkokian’s who rediscovered Pattaya on the back of the floods last year.  It’s good to hear that business is good for you, how long have you been in Thailand, Simon?

SL: I’ve been here thirty years

PS: You’re here attending Movers & Shakers, I guess networking is an important part of what you do, especially in regard to the British Chamber?

SL: Yes absolutely, networking is obviously good fun as well but it’s an important part of our business, especially in the service industries; you have to get out there and network.

PS: How would you say networking has changed over the years, or has it? , is it still getting out there, a firm handshake, eye contact and building confidence, which I guess you and your team at Colliers do anyway.

SL: Yes that’s right, well networking itself hasn’t changed, networking is interacting with customers, potential customers & suppliers.  But the environment has changed quite dramatically, certainly in my time here.  Thailand generally and Bangkok is a much more cosmopolitan international city than it was when I first arrived and even going back fifteen years there are visible changes in the makeup of the cities and the makeup of the people.

PS: What I’m acutely aware of, that when Thai’s and foreigners work together, which we do day to day, but when applied to networking with the prospect of doing business together, is this still one of the major challenges trying to break through that membrane, that perhaps comes from both sides.  Does that still exist?

SL: Absolutely and I think that if you look at the makeup of the community, it’s much more balanced than it used to be, but yes there are always cultural differences, but these difference are not just between the British Chamber, meaning British members and our Thai members, it is also between each nationality, there is always some cultural divide that has to be crossed.

PS: What advice would you give to people who are perhaps looking to set up business and have to think about work permits & visa’s and all the rather mundane things we have to do, to be able to work legally, as someone who has been here for a number of years, what advice would you give them?

SL: Someone who is coming here for the first time looking to do business, I suppose I could say a couple of things; one is, it’s a very welcoming place, it’s not just the Thai smile, it’s the whole ethic of the culture, it’s service orientated, it’s a good and pleasant place to do business.  On the other hand it’s not the easiest place in the world to do business, there are those cultural barriers, there are various obstacles, some put in place to protect businesses, some of a more cultural and social nature and I think to succeed here you really need to make the effort to break through.

PS: Regarding barriers, a lot of people are talking about the ASEAN community of 2015, where a lot of the geographical barriers, will come crashing down, do you think on the whole that this is a good thing?

SL: I think it’s a good thing definitely, I think the liberization of the economy generally would be a very good thing for Thailand as many of the problems that we come across is the slow pace of liberalization, but one of the issues for Thailand in comparison to some of the other countries in the region, especially those with better English language capabilities, there seems to be more concern here where as the Singaporeans and the Malaysians may be seeing AEC 2015 as an opportunity.  I think too many Thai’s see it as a threat, where is in fact it isn’t, I think it’s a great opportunity.

PS: Thank you Simon, final question: are you a mover or a shaker?

SL: Well I guess it depends on the time of day.

(Interview by Paul Stachan)