SEAT BOAT: Hello Magazine – July 22, 2010

 

Ruangrut Bencharit: The Largest Thai-Built Yacht of a Thai Business Tycoon

For a yacht builder, the most important day is the day of the launch. And we witnessed this at the launch of ‘The Golden Boy’.

‘The Golden Boy’ is a 90-foot, ‘Glacier Blue Metallic’ color that costs 150 million Baht to build. This is the largest luxury motor yacht ever built by a Thai company. Seat Boat has broken its own record of the three 80-foot yachts previously launched.

“On the day of the launch, ‘The Golden Boy’ floated exactly at the level it was supposed to” said Ruangrut Bencharit, Managing Director of Seat Boat. “If we miscalculated the bouncy level, the yacht could tilt to the left or right. Tilting to the sides a little we could manage it but if the yacht tilted frontward it would mean problems in speeding. ‘The Golden Boy’, however, floated perfectly as calculated.”

“Test driving is another challenge for us because it will prove the efficiency of the yacht. From the beginning, the owner wanted a sport yacht with a speed of 30 +- 2 knots, if the result of the test drive came back at 20 knots then that means there is a serious problem with the design, the power of the engine or the weight of the boat. Fortunately, the top speed came out at 28.8 knots, max cruising at 24-25 knots, continuous cruising at 23-24 knots as expected. We are happy with the results of the test drive.”

“The Golden Boy’ still has to go through many other tests before it can be delivered to the owner. This yacht comes complete with the most advanced Navigation & Communication System that includes radars (long and short distance), satellite navigation, satellite-link compass and a satellite weather report. It also has a satellite TV that connects to the cable and a one-touch autopilot. Maneuvering the yacht can be done in 2 places, in the saloon or on the flybridge. This yacht is custom built to the maximum satisfaction of the owner. Whenever the owner had a comment about the boat Seat Boat would immediately adhere to the complaint or comment. Like the windows on the cockpit was not curved enough it was changed, the staircase did not look sporty enough it was re-designed or the teak-wood floor was too plain stainless-steel lines were added. Everything was done satisfy the customer’s needs.

The owner of this yacht is a well known, multi-billion Baht, Thai business man who loves to scuba-dive, fish and cruise boats. He has, in the past, ordered many custom-built boats and yachts from various countries.

“When he decided to have us built this yacht, he said many of his friends told him that with this budget why didn’t he order a yacht from overseas, it wouldn’t be worth the risk having it built locally. He told me ‘Do your best I will prove them wrong. Thais can also build a great yacht’. I thank him for the opportunity” said Ruangrut who calls herself Ta.

Actually, Seat Boat is no stranger to the business. It has been in the business of building fiber-glass boats for over 30 years. Building boats for the government sector, for 5-star resorts and private companies both locally and internationally. Currently Seat Boat has 46 models from 10 lines of boats for sale. They start from small speed boats that range from 700,000 – 2,000,000 Baht or Sport Cruises from 8-12 million Baht. Seat Boat also offers passenger boats for 5-star resorts and other types of boats for various uses. It has built over 100 yachts per year and is the only boat company that offer complete boat services including boat building, marine engines sales, boat and engine repair and maintenance service and boat rental service (complete with captain and boat boys).

Ta (Ruangrut’s nickname) is one of the very few women in this business. “Seat Boat was founded by my father (Paiboon Bencharit). He started from being a sales agent for boat engines then ventured into boat building.” Ta can still remember when she first joined the company fresh from college in the USA. Her father told her to move to Pattaya to work, it was like being thrown into another world.

“My father sent me to Pattaya, I asked him to do what, he said ‘Lots of things for you to do there, you just have to find for yourself’. I was lost didn’t know what to do for 2 months. Then I got worse mentally.”

She had “Panic Attack” felt claustrophobic as a result of stress that altered the chemical imbalance in her body.

“I felt something was really wrong, I told many people but none understood my condition because from outside I looked normal. Until one day I couldn’t stand it anymore, my best friend drove right down to Pattaya and fetched me”

She went to a psychiatrist for treatments and came back to work, slowly she learned the work and set up a system for the office. She became a liaison between the Bangkok office and Pattaya office.

“My father works in Bangkok taking care of sales and purchase. He only comes to Pattaya on weekends. When I moved here everything in the company improved because there was someone here to make a decision on the spot.

When I first started I had no position and I was afraid to give myself one until 5 years have passed. By then I was confident enough of my capabilities so I had my name card printed with my position as MD.

One day when I was in my 30’s I went to my father and told him ‘I am old enough, I am over 30, I don’t want to be asking you for money. Can I share the profit of the company at the end of the year?”

“Father said ‘If that is what you want you’ll have to take care all expenses of the house and your mother too’. I agreed but was quite worried because I was a salary person. My first salary was 8,000 Baht, I asked for 12,000 but my father told me I was not to receive a salary higher than other entry level employees in the company. Now I know that being a CEO is not easy, especially, the recent world economic crisis and the political turmoil in Thailand have affected our company. I told my parents and sister that we needed to cut the bonus of us (me and my sister) to control our expenses before the real crisis arrived. We need to think ahead on how to keep the company afloat. If the company is unable to operate because of loss, I am affected too”
Ta has learned the business and has learned to be strong to weather the storm. When the Thai government reduced the import tax on boats to 0%, she decided to be the distributor for Sea Ray boats which is the no. 1 brand in USA. Her father was skeptical of the idea.

“My father asked ‘Why would any one want to buy this brand. There’re hundred of boat brand internationally. Why don’t you sell our own brand. ‘I told him the import tax on boats has been reduced to 0%. Customers can buy imported boats 1st hand and 2nd hand at lower prices if we don’t import we will loose the market share of imported boats. Our advantage is that we can offer complete after sales service like no other companies can. We have branches in Bangkok and Phuket. I would never love any other brand than ours but we have to do it’. ‘I told my father to give me 10 million Baht, if within one year I can’t make it, I will listen to him after that’”.

The 10 million Baht her father gave her was enough to import only 2 Sea Ray boats but by the end of the year she had sold 10 Sea Ray boats. Two of them were 44-foot yachts sold at almost 30 million Baht each. The 10th boat was sold on her birthday, she called her father he said he was happy for her. That was one of her most memorable birthdays.

After test driving ‘The Golden Boy’ she sat and chatted with her father as they would every week. At 75, her father told her ‘I am old now, you must now be able to stand on your own’.

Ta told her father ‘I understand what you’re saying but you have always been there for me, whenever I look back you are there to help me. I don’t know how strong I will be if you’re not here’

“I can still remember when I first started, I didn’t know anything at all but I made it with his help. I was truly afraid if he was not here how wpuld I survive. Even when he wanted travel abroad I would tell him not to go. Then it dawned on me that I had to be strong and stand on my own.”

The success of launching ‘The Golden Boy’ proved Seat Boat is able to build quality boats bigger and better than before and that Thais can build international standard boats. She is thankful for the opportunity given by the owner.

“He is a creative person and never stops thinking” said Ta of the owner. “When I finished this yacht he said ‘Do you think you can build a 130 or 150 feet boat?’

Ta is studying the possibility of building such boats. However, hiring a professional project management team from abroad to design the yacht would cost over 80 million Baht, not including the cost of building the yacht itself. The other option is to use a Thai team of Naval Achitech and Marine Engineering. The customer is contemplating this option.

If the building of a 130-150 yacht really happens, it will be a great leap forward, much bigger than ‘The Golden Boy’.