Bangkok Post, Outlook - Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Mostly without fanfare, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, vice-president of Toshiba Thailand Co Ltd, has been keeping her family heritage alive. She was recently honoured with the Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World Award by the Star Group, and will fly to Australia to join other leading businesswomen to receive the award on May 13.
Her mother, the late Thanpuying Niramol Suriyasat, also won the prestigious award in 1999.
Established in 1997, the Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World Award is intended to inspire women of all ages and nationalities to reach their entrepreneurial potential and to heighten public awareness of businesswomen's impact on the global economy.
Kobkarn has also been maintaining the firm's contribution to culture and the arts, an effort that has been ongoing since her mother's time at the helm, 15 years ago. The company started with the 'Toshiba Brings Good Things to Life' art competition in 1989. The contest, which encourages artistic creativity in youngsters from kindergarten to university level, has grown strongly as the years have gone by. The firm also sponsors charity concerts such as those by opera singer Jessye Norman and Japanese violin virtuoso Midori.
'We also bring exhibitions of the winning pieces to the provinces to generate public interest in art, and also organise talks and seminars on a wide variety of subjects related to art and culture,' said Kobkarn.
This year Toshiba has been a major force behind an upcoming concert by soprano Jessye Norman; her first performance in Bangkok, it will take place on May 2 at the Thailand Cultural Centre. 'This year Thai people will be joining together to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen's 72nd birthday and Toshiba is also marking its 35th anniversary. So we were looking for a major charity cultural event to mark both these occasions,' said Kobkarn.
'When we were approached by the International Peace Foundation and asked to support Jessye Norman's 'A Voice for Peace' concert, we were glad to do so.'
Regardless of where they are staged, Norman's performances are inevitably sold out, and Thai opera lovers will no doubt be scrambling for tickets for the May concert. Proceeds will go to the Support Foundation, which Toshiba has been supporting through the sale of its light bulbs for 14 years now.
'We believe the growth of a nation doesn't rely merely on the growth of GDP and how much profit one makes,' reasoned Kobkarn. 'We believe in the value of people; they are the essential force needed to build a society. Art and culture enhances creative thinking and recognises the essence of human beings. As a corporation, we thought we could contribute to this,' said Kobkarn.
'There needs to be consistency to realise some results, though.'
Sharing the Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World Award from Thailand is Sunee Sriorathaikul, president of the Beauty Gems Group.
Krissie na Klongtoey