By SOMLUCK SRIMALEE
THE NATION WEEKEND
“When I applied to be president and chief executive officer of Krungthai Card Plc, I did not know the company was still showing a net loss and nor did I know the extent of the loss, but I took this on as a challenge for me to overcome,” Rathian recalls in an interview with The Nation Weekend.
“In the first year that I took up the posts, I saw that the company’s net loss was Bt1.62 billion – that was in 2011. So the challenge for me was to improve the company’s financial results and find the ways to carry that out.”
The scale of the problem required a restructuring of the business in order to get the company back in the black. Rathian identified that the priority was to focus on the employees, as they were the key to driving a turnaround in the company’s fortunes.
“I announced my intentions and met with staff, which numbered around 1,800 at that time,” he says. “I told them that I did not have a policy to lay off staff and that would I would seek to work with them to improve the business.
“This task coincided with the period when the financial system was moving away from cash towards the cashless society. Thus, our business became based on the cashless society. This was the way that our business could move forward.”
Just one year into Rathian’s turnaround mission – built on running a credit card business that meets customers’ evolving demands - the company’s financial results improved from the net loss in 2011 to a net profit of Bt254.99 million in 2012. That achievement paved the way for the company to post double-digit growth a year over the subsequent years, including for the first nine months of 2018, when it booked net profits of Bt3.91 billion – soaring 65 per cent from the same period of 2017.
Aside from the effort to meet customers’ needs, the quest to rebuild the business also required collaborating with business partners.
“We embarked on three ways to solve the business problems over the past seven years and the first such one was to retain the staff and keep them informed about what we needed to do in order to survive,” Rathian says. “This was the key to our success because it is our human resources who can drive the business forward. And when the employees have confidence in the organisation they will do everything to achieve this goal.
“The second way entailed revising the business workflow by open up the opportunity of management roles for staff to rise up to and also to cut the levels of command. In this way, the staff were able to take on more responsibilities for themselves.
“The third approach saw us develop the company’s system to serve the goal of business growth. These were the ways that we used to improve the business and achieve a recovery within one year and then go on to drive the sustainable growth of the business that we see today.”
For the next stage in his career, Rathian, aged 59, says he wants to ensure that the company will continue to enjoy sustainable growth until the time comes for his retirement.
“The best thing we can do in our business careers is to create a system that can drive sustainable growth for the business, right up till the time we retire from the business,” Rathian says.
In line with this goal, the company will invest up to Bt30 million from 2019 to 2021 on the development of robotic process automation (RPA) to streamline the company’s operations.
This process will be implemented first in the accounting department, before it is rolled out to other areas of the company. The goal will be to speed up the overall business process by up to 70 per cent, as part of the company’s drive to entrench sustainable growth, Rathian says.
With the plans set for this year, the company expects a 15 per cent rise in card spending among its customers, partly through the launch of new marketing activities and credit card products, Rathian says.
The company also aims to expand the base for personal loans to more than one million customers and targets 10 per cent growth in new lending in 2019, he says.
In his efforts to strike a balance between his work and personal life, Rathian likes to devote his free time to travel, exercise and meditation. This helps him to relax and a spin-off benefit from the meditation is that, with a clear mind, he can create the business model required to drive the company’s business growth over the long term.
“I enjoy my work but I also value the periods in which I can relax, because this is the way to keep our lives in balance,” Rathian says.